[amsat-bb] Re: ISS crew ham contacts?
Ransom, Kenneth G. (JSC-OC)[BAR]
kenneth.g.ransom at nasa.gov
Wed Dec 19 07:49:17 PST 2007
The Kenwood on ISS is very simple to use with the preset PMs and
channels (two button pushes to start talking). The Ericsson (GE MP/A) is
still onboard the ISS with its simple knobs and channels so it too is
available for use by any crewmember. I do not think complexity is a
reason for them not being active.
The Shuttle missions were very short duration so they were crammed
packed with activities and the crews were geared to get as much done as
possible in short periods of time. The first few SAREX missions were
initiated by ham radio operators that were astronauts. The later were
astronauts who got licensed to support the educational contacts and
sometimes made random contacts during periods of off duty time. Back
then, the Shuttle crews didn't have email, DVDs or the IP Phone so the
ham radio was a way to have contact with folks on the ground.
The ISS missions are long duration and the crews work at a bit more
relaxed pace and have a reasonable amount of free time. They also have a
lot more choices of what they can do during that free time than their
Shuttle counterparts had. Many enjoy taking photos, reading and sending
emails, reading electronic books, watching DVDs and talking to friends
on the IP Phone in addition to video teleconferences with their family.
With all those choices, they don't use the ham radio unless they are
making educational contacts, actually interested in talking to people on
the ground or nearing the end of their mission and become curious.
We will have other interested crew members in the future so you may have
a shot at an astronaut on orbit QSO but I agree that they are few and
far between. Think of them as rare DX, patience and preparedness usually
will get you the contact.
Kenneth - N5VHO
From: amsat-bb-bounces at amsat.org [mailto:amsat-bb-bounces at amsat.org] On
Behalf Of Nate Duehr
Sent: Wednesday, December 19, 2007 2:40 AM
Subject: [amsat-bb] Re: ISS crew ham contacts?
On Dec 18, 2007, at 5:25 AM, Ransom, Kenneth G. (JSC-OC)[BAR] wrote:
> It depends on the crew how active the ISS is. The current crew is not
> very active. When they are, you can find them on 2 meters.
It seems that during SAREX, more crews were active. ISS crews seem
either a lot busier (less personal time for ham radio?) or are
generally a lot less interested -- other than the few "superstars" who
usually were already hams or had always wanted to be before going to
ISS. I would hazard a guess that those few astronauts who enjoyed
working the station on ISS have probably worked far more contacts than
the rest of the crews combined.
I understand and am not complaining in any way -- just an observation
of how it seems to work out these days.
There are quite a few more school contacts too, and those are
certainly a great way to get involved and help a school out at the
same time. Engineering a good setup for a school contact seems like
it would be a neat challenge for many here on the list.
Additionally, I often wonder if the switch to using the Kenwood had a
negative effect by accident. Reading up on the ISS station details, I
think it's been excellent for having more options for pre-configured
modes, but I think that reading between the lines on some of the posts/
updates from folks who are "in the know" on the ARISS team, I am led
to believe that some of the Astronauts are wary of the more complex
It was REALLY hard to screw up the GE MP/A's that flew during SAREX...
all they had was a rotary channel selector on top, a PTT on the
headset cord, and a power switch. There's always something to be said
for a simple user interface and the KISS principle. They were pre-
programmed and virtually nothing could "go wrong". They were very
simple compared to the Kenwood, which is a typical "ham" rig. Lots of
buttons, modes and "stuff" that most astronauts simply don't have time
Sitting here looking at my VHF MP/A, and I find myself still using it
quite often -- radios originally built for Public Safety/Commercial
applications just have a lot less "stuff" to mess with and or to worry
about "messing up". (And it was great to see the venerable old MP/A
in the IMAX footage quite some time ago.)
I've often wondered if the current crop of astronauts feels a little
"intimidated' by the Kenwood station?
Of course, other (sad) options might be that with MS Outlook (and
crappy .pst files being transferred up/down) handling the e-mail
chores these days, (complete with constant crashes and reboots of
laptops... seems like it's about time someone put a real mail server
on-board... Postfix would do nicely along with a ton of other options)
they don't feel as much need for a way to "reconnect" with folks down
here on Terra.
It could also be that the current generation of astronauts grew up in
the post-radio-awe era (without a better name for it) where they just
don't have that same feeling about the "magic of radio" that we do.
Just thoughts... nothing negative meant by any of the above.
The only long-term question/thought would be that it might be a good
idea if radio station changes are ever planned in the future --
perhaps space-qualifying something a little less "complex" than a
typical ham-grade Kenwood... which I hear is an expensive process (and
generally a pain to do anyway)... might help. Numbered channels pre-
programmed is the typical astronaut's level of understanding of the
radio gear... other than their flight training... but even when flying
aircraft, the button to set the radio frequency does ONE thing at a
time... the Kenwood dual-bander probably "looks" complex to someone
who's never used one before.
The cross-band repeat mode of the Kenwood certainly has been
indispensable when it's been active, though -- and that's not going to
be found in anything commercial really. Not without going to two rigs
and associated cabling mess.)
Just thinking out loud. I have no association or input to anyone on
the ARISS team, nor do I have any clue just how hard it is to get a
ham rig through NASA's qualification programs and safety programs.
ARISS does a GREAT job even just having us "on board". Thanks guys.
It's one of the only ways us astronaut "wanna-bees" can say we've ever
interacted in a personal way with ISS... otherwise it's just something
we know is up there and can see during certain passes when the sun
angles are right. Watching the construction on NASA TV just isn't the
same as having talked to someone "up there".
Nate Duehr, WY0X
nate at natetech.com
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