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Richard Garriott, W5KWQ, Back on Terra Firma

11/06/2008

After 10 days on the International Space Station (ISS), Richard Garriott, W5KWQ, returned to Earth October 23 on Soyuz TMA-12. Garriott is the son of Owen Garriott, W5LFL, who in 1983 was the first ham to make QSOs from space. While Richard was on board the ISS, he too made QSOs, furthering what has now become a family tradition. "This mission to the ISS fulfilled a lifelong dream to experience spaceflight, just as my father first did 25 years ago [on STS-9]," Richard said. "It's an honor to be the first American to follow a parent into space." Richard took off from Star City in Kazakhstan on October 12.

While on board the ISS, Richard conducted scientific experiments and environmental research -- he also had a chance to do quite a bit of Amateur Radio, including sending slow-scan TV (SSTV) images. Calling the chance to make QSOs from space a "great opportunity," he described speaking directly with hams and trading call signs to be an "unexpected joy" and said in his blog that he was pleased "to find so many enthusiastic hams who were so well informed and interested in my activities in orbit. When I began my transmissions with preplanned SSTV images, including 'pirate messages,' test patterns and family images, I did not know how they would be received. But it seemed that fellow hams really enjoyed seeing this beginning to my time on the International Space Station."

Through the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station program (ARISS), Richard made numerous contacts via Amateur Radio with schoolchildren. He said he found speaking to students "most rewarding…Growing up in an astronaut family, I firmly believed that every person could go to space, and now I have. I took this opportunity to inspire [the students] with my adventure and let them know they can achieve their wildest dreams as well with hard work and perseverance." To date, there have been 379 ARISS ISS-to-Earth QSOs.

Richard Glueck, N1MDZ, a teacher at Orono Middle School in Orono, Maine, said students in his classes were excited about making contact via Amateur Radio with Richard on the ISS. "Richard recorded our contact and wished us well," Glueck told the ARRL. "We returned the greeting. It made the afternoon for my Social Studies class. We made the contact using straight FM voice. Our contact was heavy on the static, and we were hearing Garriott respond to various hams in Iowa and Michigan, as well. We heard the data transmission of the SSTV during the early morning passes."

Saying he "clearly remembers" Sputnik in 1957, Glueck said the "growth of space technology and human inhabitation impacts my life in a huge way. I firmly believe that while modern kids take space flight and satellites for granted, that this is a good thing, Amateur Radio is the most significant manner in which teachers can get kids to interact with spaceflight in a personal manner."

The Liberal Arts and Science Academy at LBJ High School in his hometown of Austin, Texas was one of the many schools that Richard made contact with. "It takes a lot to excite kids these days with Internet and cell phones, but when you tell kids you're going to talk directly to the space station from our high school, with our own equipment, they're very excited," teacher Ronny Risinger, KC5EES, told an Austin television station. Student Jason Pan agreed: "Just come here and talk to an astronaut…it's just unbelievable. Like you can't even really think about it. It's just like something you can experience. I don't know, I don't really have any words for it."

ARISS International Chairman Frank Bauer, KA3HDO, had nothing but praise for Richard and his trip to the ISS. "We have all made history, starting with Richard, W5KWQ, and his father Owen, W5LFL, and continuing with all [who have] participated and/or volunteered in his ISS journey," Bauer told the amateur community. "Along the way, we have sparked the imaginations of thousands of students, and I understand [that Richard's journey has] excited some youths to the point where they are now licensed."

Calling Richard "prolific on the ARISS ham radio system," Bauer said Richard made "hundreds of voice contacts, operating the packet system during the crew sleep times and transmitting hundreds of SSTV images throughout the day. He put the newest ARISS hardware, the Kenwood VC-H1, to good use, performing the vast majority of contacts with this hardware system coupled with the Kenwood D700 Transceiver. The remaining SSTV downlinks were performed with the software-based SSTV system."

Bauer said that given the limited availability of ISS computer systems, "the ARISS team will continue to utilize the VC-H1 well after Richard's flight. So don't be surprised if you see some VC-H1 SSTV operations from Mike Fincke, KE5AIT, during his stay as the commander of Expedition 18." Fincke is expected to return to Earth in late March 2009. Gregory Chamitoff, KD5PKZ, and Yury Lonchakov RA3DT, are currently on board the ISS, as well.

Richard said that after his first QSOs with Earth, he understood how "well-networked" the global ham community really is: "I received specific reports back through Mission Control-Moscow about the technical aspects of my work and how the [amateur] community was enjoying the transmissions. This redoubled my enthusiasm to do quality work for the Amateur Radio legions around the world, as I realized how much it meant to those with whom I had the chance to talk. By late in my flight, I had contacted many hundreds of hams by voice and I have good records of these contacts."

While in space, Richard performed a series of experiments for NASA that examined the physical impact of spaceflight on astronauts. He observed the reaction of the eyes to low and high pressure in a microgravity environment, the effects of spaceflight on the human immune system and astronauts' sleep/wake patterns and sleep characteristics. He also photographed a number of ecologically significant places on Earth on behalf of The Nature Conservancy. The photographs will be compared to shots taken 25 years ago by Owen Garriott while he was in space and will be used to document how the Earth has changed in one generation. He also worked in cooperation with the European Space Agency (ESA) to perform a series of experiments that observed early detection of osteoporosis, vestibular adaptation to G-force transitions and the occurrence of lower back pain.

On his last day in space, Richard sent SSTV "goodbye" images down to Earth. "I also contacted many hams that had listened to or contacted my father from space 25 years ago," he said. "Some hams I contacted 2 to 4 times on my flight. On those last days, I was very moved, when [I was sent] sent many 'soft landing' messages from individuals and classrooms full of children as I passed by. The ham community has added greatly to my personal feelings of success on my flight. I can only hope that you enjoyed it as much as I did."

Richard Garriott has set up a Web site where visitors can view video of his stay on board the ISS.



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