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ARRL Special Bulletin ARLX004 (2019)

ARLX004 Amateur Radio in Space Pioneer Astronaut Owen Garriott,

QST de W1AW  
Special Bulletin 4  ARLX004
From ARRL Headquarters  
Newington CT  April 17, 2019
To all radio amateurs 

ARLX004 Amateur Radio in Space Pioneer Astronaut Owen Garriott,

The US astronaut who pioneered the use of Amateur Radio to make
contacts from space - Owen K. Garriott, W5LFL - died April 15 at his
home in Huntsville, Alabama. He was 88. Garriott's ham radio
activity ushered in the formal establishment of Amateur Radio in
space, first as SAREX - the Shuttle Amateur Radio Experiment, and
later as ARISS - Amateur Radio on the International Space Station.

"Owen Garriott was a good friend and an incredible astronaut,"
fellow astronaut Buzz Aldrin tweeted. "I have a great sadness as I
learn of his passing today. Godspeed Owen."

An Oklahoma native, Garriott - an electrical engineer - spent 2
months aboard the Skylab space station in 1973 and 10 days aboard
Spacelab-1 during a 1983 Space Shuttle Columbia mission. It was
during the latter mission that Garriott thrilled radio amateurs
around the world by making the first contacts from space. Thousands
of hams listened on 2-meter FM, hoping to hear him or to make a
contact. Garriott ended up working stations around the globe, among
them such notables as the late King Hussein, JY1, of Jordan, and the
late US Senator Barry Goldwater, K7UGA. He also made the first CW
contact from space. Garriott called hamming from space "a pleasant

"I managed to do it in my off-duty hours, and it was a pleasure to
get involved in it and to talk with people who are as interested in
space as the 100,000 hams on the ground seemed to be," he said in an
interview published in the February 1984 edition of QST. "So, it was
just a pleasant experience, the hamming in particular, all the way

Although Garriott had planned to operate on ham radio during his 10
days in space, no special provisions were made on board the
spacecraft in terms of equipment - unlike the situation today on the
International Space Station. Garriott simply used a hand-held
transceiver with its antenna in the window of Spacelab-1. His first
pass was down the US West Coast.

"[A]s I approached the US, I began to hear stations that were trying
to reach me," he told QST. "On my very first CQ, there were plenty
of stations responding." His first contact was with Lance Collister,
WA1JXN, in Montana.

ARISS ARRL Representative Rosalie White, K1STO, met Garriott when he
attended Hamvention, "both times, sitting next to him at Hamvention
dinner banquets," she recounted. "Once when he was a Special
Achievement Award winner, and once with him and [his son] Richard
when Richard won the 2009 Special Achievement Award. Owen was
unassuming, very smart, kind, and up to date on the latest
technology." Garriott shared a Hamvention Special Achievement Award
in 2002 with fellow Amateur Radio astronaut Tony England, W0ORE.

Richard Garriott, W5KWQ, was a private space traveler to the ISS,
flown there by the Russian Federal Space Agency, and he also carried
ham radio into space.


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