Johnson Space Center, Houston
Hamming It Up With Space Station Earns Ransom Top Astronaut Award
In the world of ham radio, just making contact with someone from each of the 50 states is an award-worthy feat.
But NASA engineer Kenneth G. Ransom helped the International Space Station crew take the distinction a little farther – about 220 miles straight up, to be exact. And it earned him a somewhat more unusual award: NASA’s prestigious Silver Snoopy.
Ransom is the International Space Station program’s Ham Radio Project Engineer. One of the program’s main goals is to provide schoolchildren a chance to talk with astronauts via ham radios. In coordinating this for the station’s Expedition 12 commander, Bill McArthur, Ransom realized that McArthur had already talked to people in 25 states.
His next thought was, ‘Why stop there?’ Pretty soon, he was lining up contacts for McArthur in the other 25.
“It was an, ‘I know a friend who knows a friend who knows a friend’ sort of thing,” Ransom explained. “There are a lot of folks eager to talk to an astronaut.”
And the feeling was mutual.
“Different crews do different things as pastimes,” Ransom said. “Bill enjoyed talking on the radio. It gave him someone else to talk to besides CAPCOM, the voice of mission control.”
By the end of the mission, McArthur had talked with people in Somalia, the Vatican and even Antarctica. He made more than 1,800 contacts in more than 90 countries on all seven continents, and at least one in all 50 states. He was the first person to reach all 50 states from space, and he contacted a record-breaking 37 schools in the process.
But he couldn’t have done it without Ransom’s help – and to show his gratitude, McArthur recently presented Ransom with a Silver Snoopy Award. The Silver Snoopy, a silver lapel pin featuring the Peanuts comic strip character Snoopy in a spacesuit, is given by NASA's Astronaut Office to those who have significantly enhanced the space agency's goals for the human exploration and development of space. Less than one percent of the space program workforce receives it annually.
“None of that would have been possible without the work Kenneth did,” McArthur said. “He alerted radio operators in some pretty obscure places – places that rarely have contact with the space program.”
Of course, Ransom never expected to have contact with the space program, either. After graduating from Denison High School in 1980, Ransom went on to Baylor University, where he earned journalism and master of environmental studies degrees in 1987 and 2003, respectively. But when he moved to Houston with his wife, Beth, he happened upon an advertisement for what he now calls his dream job. He gave up plans to work with computers, and instead pursued a career in what had been a hobby – ham radios.
“I think it’s the greatest job in the world,” he said. “I’m sure the astronauts would disagree, but to each his own.”
For more information about NASA and agency programs on the Web, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/home
To learn more about the ham radio on the International Space Station, visit: http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/station/reference/radio/
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