[sarex] The ISS and you.

Tony, VK5ZAI hutch at electric-web.org
Mon Aug 17 20:03:55 PDT 2009

I think everyone should remember that it is the "International Space 
Station" and NOT the "International AMATEUR (HAM) Space Station". As it 
was on Mir it's a privilege that we have ham radio gear on board the 
ISS. The majority of crews that have flown have been very active with  
the ARISS  educational  linkups that we've had, encouraging  students  
to  explore the fields of ham radio, science, and  similar activities. 
Perhaps there are some that should think about the education of our 
future generation rather than just themselves.

Unfortunately some folk never seem to be happy unless they get exactly 
what they want when they want it. The crews on the ISS are not under any 
obligation to use the ham gear if they choose not to. They are employed 
like most of us and are expected to do their days work, and are not paid 
for playing ham radio. Since year 2000 we have had random voice 
contacts, Packet, SSTV, X-band repeater, over 450 school contacts and 
Suit-Sat with another launch expected next year. That's not a bad effort.

A lot may not know, to get ham or any other equipment approved for 
flight on the ISS it must be type tested. This is a lengthy and tedious  
process that can't be achieved  overnight. Lou and the engineering team 
with ARISS have done a great job and knowing what I do, I fail to see 
how they can be criticized.

I first became involved with manned space flight in 1992 and have been 
involved ever since so I feel I have a right to comment. I have done 
many more "scheduled" telebridge linkups with Mir and the ISS than I've 
had personal QSO's with the crews over the years.

ARISS is a great team to work with, but it's many hours of hard work 
scheduling school contacts, it means many hours of paper work, 
scheduling one's own social life around ARISS commitments and being 
called up in the middle of the night to handle a telebridge contact for 
a school on the other side of the world. Above all it means 100% 
reliability. I can assure all, there is very little personal ham radio 
involved. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining, if I didn't have the 
time (retired now) or enjoy the work I'm doing I wouldn't do it.

I see a big difference between Mir and the ISS , Mir had a crew of 
generally 2 sometimes 3 and construction was completed by the time I 
became involved. The ISS is still being built meaning a lot of extra 
work for the crews.

The way I see it is that with only one other person to talk with in 6 
months (as on Mir) it would be nice to have ham radio to make other 
contacts, but with 5 or 6 people on board, as on the ISS now to share 
your conversation with the desire to use  ham radio wouldn't be as 
great. To add to this the ISS now has an IP phone on board that can link 
the crew back to earth any time or place so they can have a personal 
chat to their friends. I don't believe this facility was available on 
Mir and was not available on the ISS for the first couple of years.

Because of this changing situation I would think that only those with an 
interest in radio would feel compelled to make random QSO's now they 
have more on board to socialize with during their leisure time. I hope 
I'm wrong, but put yourself in the same situation!

(1) Not everyone likes ham radio, most astronauts obtain their ham 
license shortly before they fly as a backup means of communications.
(2) They don't get paid for ham radio activities so surely they have the 
right choice for themselves when and where they wish to use it.
(3) Despite all crew members being highly trained in their field of 
work, they are not necessarily  conversant with  the ham radio on board  
and not be  capable  of changing to the various modes that we would like 
at times.
(4) Be thankful that we have radio on board at all.

Finally I would like to congratulate Frank on his past leadership, and 
all the hours  many others  put into ARISS to make it the success it is. 
I don't feel anyone can justify knocking the work that ARISS has done.

Regards Tony.  VK5ZAI

P.O.Box 470 Kingston SE 
South Australia  5275

National ARISS Co-ordinator
and Satellite Earth Station.

Web Site :- 
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