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ARRL Satellite Bulletin ARLS001 (1997)

ARLS001 MIREX QSOs made with four schools

Space Bulletin 001  ARLS001
From ARRL Headquarters
Newington, CT  January 3, 1997
To all radio amateurs

ARLS001 MIREX QSOs made with four schools

Space success: MIREX QSOs made with four schools

''Yes, Yes, Yes.''  That was the reaction of Bruce Burke, WB4YUC, in
late December as he helped students at Silver Lakes Middle School in
North Lauderdale, Florida, talk with US astronaut John Blaha,
KC5TZQ, aboard the Russian space station Mir.  The contact--the
first scheduled school QSO between unlicensed students and a NASA
astronaut-ham living on board Mir--marked a new page in the history
of ham radio in space.  On Friday December 27, Blaha spoke with 17
students at the Silver Lakes Middle School.  Halfway through the
contact, Mir Commander Valery Korzun extended his greetings to the
students and congratulated them for being the first Americans to
take part in this kind of contact.  At the end of the QSO, the
students wished Blaha a happy new year.  School group contact
coordinators for the Motorola ARC Kai Siwiak, KE4PT, and Burke said
signal strength was outstanding throughout the pass.

The FCC only recently approved third-party contacts with Blaha from
the Russian Mir space station.  However, the FCC's permission only
extends through Blaha's mission.  Over the past year, the SAREX team
has worked closely with the Mir International Radio EXperiment
(MIREX) team in the United States, the Space Amateur Funk EXperiment
(SAFEX) team in Germany and the Mir Amateur Radio EXperiment (MAREX)
team in Russia to allow unlicensed school students in the US to talk
to the astronauts on Mir.

Three other MIREX QSOs also went off on schedule.  On Saturday,
December 28, students at Granby High and Mary Calcutt Elementary
schools in Hampton, Virginia, successfully contacted Blaha aboard
Mir and got to put a dozen questions to the astronaut.  Blaha
attended Mary Calcutt and graduated from Granby High School in the
1960s.  The 10-minute contact was conducted from the Amateur Radio
satellite station exhibit, KE4ZXW, at the Virginia Air and Space
Center.  Blaha told the students he had some Granby/Calcutt
memorabilia on board Mir that he expects to return to the schools.

Monday, December 30, students at The Johnson School in Warrenville,
Illinois, got to ask Blaha how the Mir crew emptied the trash.  In
all, the students got to ask 15 questions as an audience of some 900
people (including approximately 450 youngsters) looked on.
Enthusiasm at all three schools was high despite the fact that the
students were on Christmas break, and volunteers, parents and
teachers had to take time away from their holiday activities to
arrange for equipment and operators.

Friday, January 3, students at Ririe Elementary School, Ririe,
Idaho, enjoyed a successful 10-minute QSO with Blaha.  Seventeen
excited third graders and their teacher, Tina Anderson, got to ask
questions of the astronaut.

As a result of the QSOs, all four schools got a lot of media
attention.  ''These Mir QSOs are so very important since competition
is accelerating against SAREX being selected as a payload on the
last few orbiting shuttle missions of 1997 and 1998 prior to
International Space Station activities,'' said Rosalie White, WA1STO,
ARRL Educational Activities Department manager.

Four more schools have been scheduled for contacts before the end of
Blaha's mission in mid-January.  Jerry Linenger, KC5HBR, will take
Blaha's place on Mir.

Schools wishing to arrange contacts with astronauts aboard a US
space shuttle carrying the SAREX payload should submit a SAREX
application to the ARRL Educational Activities Department (EAD),
e-mail ead (at)  More information about the MIREX and
SAREX programs is available at or check the Mir
Web page at


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