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Local Radio Operator Answers Call From Astronaut On Station

Houston, I Have A Connection

By Ron Knox
Lawrence Journal - World

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

In 30-plus years operating a ham radio, Bruce Stucky has talked to people in some far-off places.

The Lawrence man has used the radios to chat with people from every corner of the Earth, he said. And now, he can include a place few can claim to have reached.

“You never expect to get a call from space,” Stucky said.

On Tuesday morning, Stucky received a radio transmission from astronaut Bill McArthur, who was searching for signals from his ham radio on board the International Space Station.

Down in the radio room of his basement, Stucky heard McArthur’s call from space searching for radio users in Kansas and Mississippi.

Stucky answered, sending the space station his call letters so McArthur could respond.

“We didn’t exchange a lot of details,” Stucky said. “I just told him where I was.”

And with that, the conversation ended. Minutes later, he heard McArthur chatting with another ham operator in Mississippi, apparently successful in finding the two states he was looking for as the station passed over the nation.

Ham radio operating isn’t McArthur’s only gig in space. Weekly NASA logs, posted on the NASA Web site, show the flight commander is responsible for plenty, including repairing equipment and researching the effects of weightlessness on the body.

For Stucky, the ham radio is just a hobby, too, something he’s been at since his high school days in the 1970s.

“Of course, when I got my license, nobody thought about talking to astronauts,” he said.

According to NASA, the first ham radio went to space in 1983 and first became part of the International Space Station’s payload in 2000 with the inaugural Expedition I crew.

The project, Amateur Radio on the International Space Station, now uses the station’s radio as both a promotional and educational tool, with McArthur and others giving lessons to schoolchildren and seeking out regular folks like Stucky.

NASA said people on the space station have more idle time than astronauts on shuttle missions. The ham radio gives them something to do.

And Stucky is convinced the ham radio does something else for the space station astronauts: It can summon a friendly voice.

“When you’re stuck in a space station for months, it’s nice to have someone to talk to,” he said.

Photo by Mike Yoder
Bruce Stucky, Lawrence, who is an amateur ham radio operator, made contact Tuesday with astronaut Bill McArthur, commander of the International Space Station. Stucky believes he was the first operator in Kansas to make contact with McArthur, who is trying to make contacts in all 50 states. Stucky made the contact on his equipment at his home in southeast Lawrence.

A satellite mapping program shows the position of the International Space Station, centered in the light blue area at left, about 3 p.m. Tuesday.