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SAREX School Group Contacts

Space Amateur Radio EXperiment (SAREX) school groups score 2 for 2 successes

It has been nearly a year since the last SAREX school group talked to an
astronaut on Mir.  Since that time, the amateur radio community have
witnessed (through the Mir ham radio link) the collision between the 12
year old Mir space station and the Progress resupply ship in June and
recovery operations by the various Mir crewmembers.  Until recently, the
Mir crew's full attention has been focused on recovery from the collision
and restarting the scientific investigations that were abruptly stopped
after the accident.

Monday, February 23 marked a new era for the Mir Space Station...the return
of SAREX school group contacts.  That morning, at about 7:30 AM PST  (15:30
UTC), six youngsters from the Shell Beach Elementary School in Pismo Beach,
CA, made a successful contact with Astronaut Andy Thomas on the Mir space
station.  The students were in grades 1 through 6 and were able to ask Andy
a total of 10 questions during the approximately ten minute contact.

The Shell Beach school has been on the contact list for some time and they
were originally scheduled to talk to astronaut Jerry Liniger last April.
But due to technical difficulties on Mir, the contact was postponed until
now.  The school had about a weeks notice of the impending contact.  During
the week, the
children scrambled and practiced several times, getting their performance
just right.  After the session with Andy, the kids were very excited and
appreciative of all the effort that the SAREX Work Group, their school and
their teachers put forth to make the contact possible.  A group "Thank You"
from the children echoed over the teleconference after contact with
astronaut Thomas was lost.

The contact was made using the Houston Telebridge station (W5RRR) with Matt
Bordelon, KC5BTL, at the controls.

About 150 people attended the SAREX contact including about 75 students.
When the contact was over, one of the students commented, "this was really
cool...a once in a lifetime experience". 

The following day, a second SAREX school also completed a successful
interview with astronaut Andy Thomas, KD5CHF.  The Prairie Hills Elementary
School in Colorado Springs, Colorado completed a successful direct contact
with Andy on Tuesday February 24.  Details of this contact will be provided
in a subsequent bulletin.

After hearing that the second school group contact was successful, Frank
Bauer, KA3HDO, AMSAT's Vice President for Manned Space Programs said, "It
gives me great pleasure to know that the school group logjam is finally
starting to clear.  It was exciting to hear the student's reactions to the
contacts and rewarding to know that we have provided an experience to the
communities of Shell Beach and to Prairie Hills that they will never

Submitted by Frank H. Bauer, KA3HDO, for the SAREX Working Group