ARRL Satellite Bulletin ARLS024 (1997)

ARLS024 KB5UAC grateful for ham radio on Mir

Space Bulletin 024  ARLS024
From ARRL Headquarters
Newington, CT  July 11, 1997
To all radio amateurs

ARLS024 KB5UAC grateful for ham radio on Mir

In a packet message to Dave Larsen, N6CO, of the MIREX support team,
US astronaut Mike Foale, KB5UAC, expressed the gratitude of the Mir
crew ''for all the good wishes and interest over the world, in our
troubles and tribulations.'' The MIREX support team--Miles Mann,
WF1F, and Larsen--has been handling family traffic for Foale via ham
radio and attempting to help him with his radio problems (the Mir's
transceiver was cutting out on high power because of a circuit
overload). Foale singled out for special mention ''the few hams who
work tirelessly on our behalf'' to pass personal messages. Foale said
that he and his wife were ''extremely grateful to those hams who pass
our messages for us.'' After the Mir*s collision with a Progress
cargo rocket, Foale said, ''it was impossible to get any personal
news of our well-being to our families'' via the official
communication channels. ''Ham radio allowed us to fill the gap.''

''We are particularly interested in longer contacts, than simple QSO
exchanges,'' Foale said. ''It is good to tell people about our life
here on Mir, and our problems, but the lives of hams on Earth are
also interesting to us, and I hope more hams will take the time to
tell us about their QTH and surroundings also,'' he concluded.

Ham radio has served as a convenient ''chat'' medium between the US
space shuttle Columbia and the troubled Russian Mir space station in
recent days. Last weekend, shuttle Commander Jim Halsell, KC5RNI,
had two short, direct 2-meter contacts with Foale aboard Mir. The
first ship-to-ship SAREX/MIREX contact happened Saturday, July 5,
during a Mir/Columbia ''conjunction'' over the Indian Ocean. The
contact lasted less than a minute. A little while later, with both
spacecraft over the Pacific Ocean, another 30-45 second contact took
place, according to Will Marchant, KC6ROL, of AMSAT. ''The shuttle
crew was pretty excited about their contact,'' he said. But the best
QSO was yet to come. On Tuesday, July 8, 1900 UTC, Foale contacted
W5RRR, which patched him through NASA's communications circuits to
the space shuttle, enabling Foale to speak at length with the
Columbia crew.  During the ten-minute contact, Foale filled in his
fellow astronauts about the situation aboard Mir, where a Progress
supply rocket had just successfully been docked.

''We'd like to invite you to visit Mir,'' Foale said to the shuttle
crew, which respectfully declined. Foale said the arrival of the
Progress was ''almost like Christmas.'' He said his personal items
still in the damaged Spektr module had been replaced, along with a
videocassette player. Foale told Halsell the Mir crew enjoys
watching American movies when they have the time. He also told his
fellow astronauts aboard the Columbia that he had not had a chance
to see any of the pictures from the Mars Pathfinder mission as yet.
Foale said the Progress carried tea, coffee, chocolate and even
fresh food.

Other Columbia-Mir conjunctions will be possible through the mission
but whether another contact is attempted depends on the Columbia and
Mir work schedules.

On July 10, Foale told N6CO in another packet message that the crew
was ''extremely busy, trying to crawl through all the bags unloaded
from Progress.'' Foale said the crew will do a training run on July
15 prior to the space walk to attempt to repair the damage and
restore power to the space station. Foale will sit out the space
walk in the Soyuz vehicle.

Thanks to Philip Chien, KC4YER, Pat Kilroy, WD8LAQ, Frank H. Bauer,
KA3HDO, Dave Larsen, N6CO, Matt Bordelon, KC5BTL, and Rosalie White,
WA1STO, for their contributions to this bulletin.