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At the Dayton, Ohio Hamvention, the largest of its kind for Ham radio enthusiast Richard Garriott shared his experience on the ISS and his time using the Ham radio while on board. His father, Owen, also in attendance was the first to use a Ham radio on his STS-9 space shuttle mission.
Amateur Radio has become a family affair. Richard used his grandfathers call sign while using a ham radio which he brought with him on his trip and subsequently left on the ISS for others to use. He would realize quickly the organization and breadth of the radio community while in space. Trying to conserve on the batteries needed to run his Radio he tried to stretch them past their 4 hour useful life. While on board everything seemed to be running smoothly in his efforts with the radio, he would quickly learn the next day that the batteries only were lasting for the 4 hours. During his daily ground communications with his father, whom ran his ground control team, called up that everyone appreciates his efforts but that he needed to change his batteries more often.
Richard would not only use his fathers experience in space by having him run the ground control team staying in the Russian mission control and as part of the helicopter team that would eventually retrieve him once he landed. His dad also became a source of competition. During his first day Richard would write his radio contacts on the back of the pages of his flight plan in a single column. As time went on and he becoming more successful he started to make double columns then triple columns. He would think of his dads experience using the radio and wondered about how many contacts he might have had during his shuttle mission and vowed to try to beat him. Richard would eventually pass the 500 mark in two way communications. He suspects his dad only had one or two hundred.
Richard Garriott was suppose to be the first so called space tourist in space. Having accumulated the finances needed through investments in the internet. As the time approached the dot com bubble burst sending his needed wealth sliding and being forced to sell his seat to Denis Tito. In October 2008, his dream finally came true.
Growing up with neighbors like Joe Engle on the right and Hoot Gibson on the left while having Owen for a father, Richard thought everyone went into space. But later a NASA doctor would tell him your "poor eyesight means you will never be selected to be a NASA astronaut." Once in space he would find it ironic that the one science query NASA was most interested in were his eyes. He was the first person to fly in space to have corrective eye surgery.
He was amazed to see, 48 hours before his launch, the rocket he was to fly into space with was still lying in pieces. The day before his launch it would all come together and roll out to the launch pad by train. During his entire mission he felt space travel to be "quiet, smooth, and non threatening." Once in space he would look out the window of his Soyuz capsule and see an odd mixture of high tech gizmo's and hand stitched fabric that would protect him on his journey to and from his trip to the ISS. During the re-entry he would notice heat shield fragments flying off past his window before a "ka whomp" as he landed on the ground with the use of a parachute before bouncing and rolling to a stop.
Once on board the ISS his first activity was to set up his radio station. His first impressions of the ISS was that it was very "cluttered." He spent a great deal of his spare time making connections to those on the ground using his radio. He considers it "the most challenging, the most rewarding activity I had on orbit."
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