ARRL

ARRL General Bulletin ARLB034 (1997)

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ARLB034 Ham radio serving as extra link during Mir crisis

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ARRL Bulletin 34  ARLB034
From ARRL Headquarters
Newington CT  June 26, 1997
To all radio amateurs

SB QST ARL ARLB034
ARLB034 Ham radio serving as extra link during Mir crisis

For US ham-astronaut Mike Foale, KB5UAC, aboard the crippled Mir
space station, ham radio is providing a valuable supplement to
conventional Russian and NASA communication systems.  Foale has
already used the ham gear aboard Mir to talk to NASA managers and
fellow astronauts and exchange health and welfare news as the crew
struggles to stabilize the ship after Wednesday's collision with an
unmanned cargo rocket.  Routine ham radio operation and school
contacts have been canceled during the current Mir crisis, however.

Astronaut friends of Foale's gathered late Wednesday morning--just
hours after the mishap--at W5RRR at Johnson Space Center in Houston
for the scheduled Mir pass and QSO.  ''When we got there, it was a
packed room. Ninety percent of the room was licensed astronauts,''
said Matt Bordelon, KC5BTL, the SAREX principal investigator.

As Bordelon related: ''A hush fell over the room as Mir started its
trek above the horizon.  We didn't know if they would be on--power
was down to 50 available and all nonessential equipment was turned
off.  Before we even had a chance to call up, Mike called down for
us.''

Following a collective sigh of relief, Bordelon said astronaut Dave
Leestma, N5WQC, took the mike and started talking.  ''Mike was in
good spirits.'' Several others in the room also chatted with Foale
during the 10-minute contact.  An earlier report that the Mir's
SAFEX ham radio equipment was in the damaged compartment was not
correct.

Foale asked for some personal items to be sent up when the next
Progress supply ship flies.  And he had good news.  Two of his major
experiments are okay.  They are in the Priroda module where he and
the cosmonauts are living until repairs can be made to the damaged
Spektr compartment.  At that time the Mir station should be able to
resume normal ham radio contacts.  ''Amateur Radio has a very low
priority when survival is the key, and power is critical on Mir,''
SAREX Working Group Chairman Roy Neal, K6DUE, said in assessing the
situation.  A supply ship is being readied and could carry a
replacement solar panel and other supplies to Mir within two or
three weeks.  NASA Shuttle-Mir Project Manager Frank Culbertson said
repairs likely would require a space walk or two by the Mir crew.

''It was a very successful pass,'' Bordelon said of Wednesday's
contact with Foale.  ''All were very thankful for the ham radio and
the excellent link it provided.''  Bordelon said he does not expect
Foale to have the ham radio on at all times during the current
crisis, ''but I think he'll do more passes with us,'' he added.

Bordelon said that astronaut Ken Bowersox was so impressed, ''he
wants to get his license next week.''  As Neal put it: ''It's proving
that ham radio, as always, is an invaluable aid to health and
welfare during critical times.''  Neal said that as repairs progress,
''it's safe to say that disaster has been avoided.  Repairs probably
can and will be made, and ham radio will continue providing a
personal link to help Mike Foale stay in touch with his home base.''

Ham-astronaut and former Mir crew member Jerry Linenger, KC5HBR,
told reporters Wednesday that the Mir crew had to power down
everything possible, including some life-support systems, in the
wake of the collision.  The crash initially resulted in a loss of as
much as 50 of the Mir's electrical power.  By Thursday, the Mir had
70 of its power back.

For news updates, see
http://www.hq.nasa.gov/office/pao/NewsRoom/today.html.
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