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Hamming from the ISS

Hamming from the ISS

The picture was taken on the International Space Station (ISS) and shows Doug Wheelock, KF5BOC, Expedition 24 flight engineer, operating the NA1SS ham radio station in the Zvezda Service Module of the International Space Station (courtesy Wikipedia).

My initial thought was Wow! A hobby aboard such an expensive science experiment – don’t they have more important things to do!

Until I gave it some thought. Ham radio (amateur radio) is not a hobby, but a service. The origins are vested in the original desire to get messages out when the public (or even governmental) services are under strain. The title of the American Radio Relay League (ARRL), which is the national association for amateur radio in the USA (SARL in my country South Africa) gives the secret away: It was a radio relay service that passed important messages around.

In just about all the major disasters around the globe, the ham radio operators were there first to establish an emergency communications network.

Now it makes sense. While the guys on the ISS are sometimes playing, it is serious playing. It is like keeping the skills sharp with a smile. And if all else fails … the ham radio will be there.

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