Wednesday, April 17, 2019

W5LFL SK - Owen Garriot

The original "Ham Radio Operator in Space" - Owen Garriot W5LFL has passed away at the age of 88.

Owen's historic flight took place in 1983 on the Space Shuttle Columbia's STS-9 mission. I can still remember sitting in my car, tuned to the appropriate frequency as the Shuttle flew over NJ, several times during the mission.  As soon as Owen announced his call and mentioned that he would be listening for call signs, the frequency became maybe the worst pileup in history! Of course, I never made it through, but it was still a thrill to listen. When W5LFL came on the air with his uber line of sight signal, it was like he was sitting in a chair right next to me.  Some of the more famous Hams of the age DID make contact with W5LFL, notably King Hussein of Jordan JY1 and Barry Goldwater K7UGA.

Interestingly enough, years later, his son Richard W5KWQ, became a private space traveler. Launched to the ISS via a Russian launch vehicle, he also made contacts from space, following in his father's footsteps.

I think this mission whetted the appetites of many Hams for making satellite QSOs. I know it did for me; and some years later, I was very active on RS-10/11 and RS-12/13. Back then you could make contacts on satellites using your "everyday" shack HF equipment. It was a thrill to hear your own signal come back from space on the downlink - especially for this "kid" who cut his teeth on the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs.  I worked many states through those two LEOs - but alas, not all 50. I did, however, work across the pond into England on a rare mutually visible pass.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

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