“He just called, ‘CQ, this is Richard Garriott, NA1SS aboard the International Space Station,’ and then I just answered him with my own call sign,” Murray Crandon said.
“We didn’t have a lot of time and I wanted to respect everybody else’s opportunity to make a contact as well so we just exchanged our call signs … and we just moved on from there.”
Crandon is an 18-year ham radio veteran, so contacting Garriott was no new thing. He’d also been able to make contact with Charles Simonyi, another US space tourist on board the station, in April last year. He also had the opportunity to contact South Korea’s Antarctic base in the South Shetland Islands in March 2003. Whilst these amateur radio feats are impressive, Crandon wants to receive signals from even farther afield. “I suppose if they ever put a human on Mars, I’ll be listening,” he said.
Whilst ham radio might be considered rather “old fashioned” in the era of email, digital communication and satellite networks, listening out for other radio operators when scouring the radio frequencies remains a very popular hobby. It is also a powerful means for communities to support each other and for reliable emergency/disaster communications should the need arise. It also looks like it may be an efficient means to keep tabs on the space station crew.
It is estimated that six million people around the globe (and occasionally in orbit) are active ham radio operators.
On October 12th, Garriott was launched on board Soyuz TMA-13 with Expedition 18; he returned to Earth on October 24th after 10 days on board the station. During his stay Garriott performed a variety of science, education and commercial tasks including a series of ham radio communication events with students and the public.