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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  
Kenwood setup.

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

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