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Default Sask. ham radio operator speaks with space station

Sask. ham radio operator speaks with space station

Published: Saturday, September 23, 2006

SASKATOON - Ned Carroll's amateur radio has connected him
with people all over the globe, but now it's given him an
experience that's out of this world.

Mr. Carroll spoke on Thursday with Anousheh Ansari,
an Iranian-American space tourist aboard the International
Space Station (ISS).

The small radio inside Mr. Carroll's farmhouse, west of
Davidson, Sask., was tuned to the space station's frequency
and picked up its signal at around noon. He heard a slightly
accented woman's voice coming through the speakers of his ham radio.

"I heard her say, 'C-Q, C-Q, C-Q,' and of course that means
she wants to talk to someone, anyone who is listening," Mr. Carroll said.
"And I thought: What the heck, you can't lose by trying."

He rushed over to his radio, grabbed the microphone and
said, "V-E-5-N-E-D," his call sign, and anxiously awaited
a response. He didn't have to wait long, as the voice responded
immediately, repeating, "This is R-S-0-I-S-F," which is the
Russian Space Station call sign, and then the voice revealed
her name, "Anousheh Ansari."

When Ms. Ansari, co-founder and chairwoman of Prodea System, Inc.,
lifted off on the Soyuz TMA-9 mission from the Baikonur
Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Sept. 18, she became the fourth,
and first female, space tourist. She reportedly paid US$20-million for an
eight-day visit aboard the ISS and was already trying to make contact with Earth.

"I was pretty excited," Mr. Carroll said. "And the next thing
I was so excited about was when she said, 'You are the first
amateur radio operator that I have contacted from the
International Space Station,' and I said, 'Wow!' "

There are thousands of ham radio operators worldwide,
but Mr. Carroll is one of a small number of people who
have made contact with the space station, said Bjarne Madsen,
midwest regional director of Radio Amateurs of Canada.

"It's quite rare," Mr. Madsen said. "There are a great
many people who want to [make contact with the ISS] and
only a few that succeed because there is, after all,
only one ISS and it's only there for a few minutes at
any given time and the opportunity to actually make contact
with it is very slim."

Mr. Madsen said the space station creates a line a few
hundred kilometres wide at best, moving across the Earth
as it orbits. A radio operator who happens to fall within
that line as it passes by, within an eight- to 10-minute
window of opportunity, can communicate with the ISS, he said.

"Not only is it possible to do, but it doesn't take any
sophisticated equipment particularly," Mr. Madsen said.
"It's really a question of knowing where to listen and when to listen."

Within the small window of time, Mr. Carroll said he
and Ms. Ansari were able to give only their locations,
comment on how well they could hear each other and then
exchange goodbyes. Afterwards, he said, many questions
came to his head that he wished he had had time to ask her.
But he said he is going to keep his radio turned on in
the hope of speaking with her again, even though he knows
his chances are slim.

"[Amateur radio] is a wonderful hobby, and every once in
a while something like this comes along and you really enjoy it,"
Mr. Carroll said.

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