CLERMONT, Fla. – Andrew Feldman has the energy of a teenager, a passion for electronics and the story of a ham radio conversation for the ages.
For 22 minutes back in the fall of 1983, the now 70-something ham radio operator received a shout out from space delivered by STS-9 mission specialist Dr. Owen Garriott.
Garriott was a ham radio buff and had NASA’s blessing to make radio calls on his down time from an oddly fashioned ham radio contraption that was able to transmit to earth.
“W5FL was the call sign of Owen Garriott aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia,” Feldman told News 6.
According to NASA, Dr. Garriott
operated the world's first Amateur Radio Station from space, W5LFL, “which has since expanded into an important activity on dozens of Shuttle flights, Space Station MIR and now the International Space Station with scores of astronauts and cosmonauts participating.”
Feldman, who lives in Clermont by way of Long Island, New York, is an avid ham radio operator and to this day serves as Lt. Colonel with the Civil Air Patrol.
During an interview in his home office, Feldman recalled the adrenaline rush when the call from Garriott came through loud and clear.
“This is WB2FXN Calling W5LFL Boom!” Feldman recalled the reply from space crackling over his speaker.
“Oh my gosh, I mean my heart sunk, it must have skipped four beats when that took place. You could not imagine the thoughts that were raging through me at that point.”
He said the dog was barking, his wife was screaming for joy and the baby was crying, adding to the pure
excitement of it all.
“He responds back, 'This is Owen Garriott aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia,'" Feldman recalled, “I gave him the weather report. "It was November, so it was kind of blah.”
Feldman told News 6 the conversation followed ham radio protocol which explains the formal discourse.
“He (Garriott) had transitioned from South of Cuba," Feldman recalled, “He was already coming up on South Carolina. I said, man he’s ripping, he’s ripping. It was 22 minutes that we were in contact he was over New Foundland and see ya.”
Feldman told News 6 he will never forget it.
He was awarded a special framed certificate and met Garriott face to face.
The memories and photos are packed away in boxes, a part of history few have known.
For more information on the ham radio story go to https://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2000/ast21aug_1