January 1, 1994, Frank Bauer called to inform that we will have to use our own UPLINK frequency to be known only two weeks prior the flight. This was to secure an uninterfered contact. Frequencies will vary between 144 and 146 MHz. Frank asked our possibilities in access to E-mail and Internet. This is under study.

January 3. Ms. Mervi Vesterlin from THK calls that one month licence is available for the space shuttle contact. This licence with a special pact will cost 360 FM, about 70 USD. The licence will be mailed two weeks prior the flight not to be expired for areas on in a delay in the take-off.

January 8, I visited SRAL, The Finnish Radio Amateur League in Helsinki and we made an agreement that the PR person, who really was interested about the story, can take care of news delivery and reports. I need only to send actual information.

January 10, Internet was available through Tele-Sampo and Freenet. E-mail from NASA and Spacelink in Huntsville, Alabama were daily received. All the shuttle info was combined to a full binder as educational purposes. January issue of the Opettaja Magazine had a nice story in its special educational communications casting.

About SAREX in Paltamo

In February it was turn for STS-60 to become active on packet radio. We heard them in Paltamo on 33 different orbit as W5RRR-1. There were a great number of OH-operators, at least 52 OH stations got a QSO. A lot of students came to visit my shack to follow the flight. Omboard was also Serge Krikalev, U5MIR, who had one contact to Moscow as part of SAREX. The event was well covered in local newspapers in Central Finland as well as in our ham radio magazine RADIOAMATÖÖRI 2/94.

Everything was getting ready for the project, except a rig. Incidentally, a number of scholarships were available to various scientific groups in Kainuu county. As a music teacher I had some time earlier accompanied community singing in that occasion. I noticed they handed out scholarships to handicrafts etc. What a great opportunity! At least we were part of a scientific project led by NASA. With hope rising I applied for a scholarship to buy some material for my teaching projects as well as a radio. I have used my old rigs for demonstrations at school and camps for many years. I had visions of a complete satellite station for our school.

I got some video tapes, software, books etc. from ARRL and NASA, and a new FT-736R from RF- Electronics , Jukka, OH8PF, when I told him about the situation. I had to order the material, even if we might not get the scholarship. We'll see...

There has been great interests by the leaders of those countries which have involved with the shuttle missions to speak to the shuttle. F.ex. American, German and Italian presidents and last time with STS-60 the vice president of Russia had seized the opportunity. So I sent a kind letter to the new president of Finland, Mr. Ahtisaari, to ask if he would be interested to speak with astronauts to the space. That should have been the first time in Finnish history and quite a lofty start of the new period... Mr. Ahtisaari started his first period as the president of Finland in the beginning of March 1994 and he surely had so busy time that we never got an answer, not even any message to tell to the astronauts. Well, that was a good endeavour, wasn't it ?

On March 3rd we got a Teacher's Book, SIR-C, CD-ROM, a video tape and a couple of stickers that were part of the STS-59. On March 4th Frank Bauer sent us a memo on various items that we should go through together with my students. It said that we were to get an uplink frequency about 4-5 days before the flight. An interesting item of news was that somebody from CSR would call us on the telephone about half an hour before radio contact and help us along the QSO. 24 hours before the contact we were to fax a check list to Johnson Center and to Frank Bauer at NASA. Everything essential about the QSO had to be in the fax in order to maintain the QSO on the flight schedule.

On March 8th we obtained a FAX from the local phone company, Kainuun Puhelinosuuskunta, KPO.

In mid-March we were surprised to hear that the PR person of the Finnish Radio Relay League had quit and I therefore had no valid agreement on the PR aspect with the League. So I had to take care of it myself, which involved a huge task of going thru phone catalogs... (That PR person was not a ham, he was just an "usual" worker. That makes sence...)

Info packets (33 packages, total 3.6 kg) to the Finnish Bureau of News, STT (I made an agreement with STT and they promised to deal with any major news media in Finland) were ready to go out to the general public in the nick of time after two weeks of sleepless nights by April Fool's Day... On the first page there was a sentence with big letters: This is not a joke! For international release I had to fax to REUTER of Finland direct.

On Thursday March 31st Ms Catherine Herndon of the American Embassy contacted us and was greatly worried about obtaining a third party agreement. They had contacted the Ministry of Communications as well. After I told her that we had already negotiated a couple of months about the issue with THK ( our equivalent of the FCC), she felt relieved. At any case, our sked resulted in high level correspondence between the USA, the U.S. Embassy and their Finnish counterparts. I sure felt nice to be taken care of by such brass. On the other hand, we had no time to play any games any more.

By early April we had sent a total of seven faxes to NASA and ARRL, including some orders of material. Some of our senior students had now held SAREX lectures to the younger students, along with some local media shows.

We had got some posters, leaflets and various info from our national League. We had some material for an eventual TV document by Veli-Matti Karppinen and Tapio Suvanne,local video gurus, and some photos by Kalle Pyykkönen. (Later we bought also two mission video footage from NASA.)

We got some eight megs of extra memory for our Macintosh in my music class, as well as a CD ROM, where we found a lot of interesting texts and pictures. We were given some help by Mac Connections in Kuopio/Jussi Ylimaa.

Then why are we using the good old C64 to satellite tracking? Well, no luck in finding sponsors. There are good sides to it, however: no QRM on two meters... Excellent Cosmos V2.7 satellite tracking program by Bandi,HG5BFL, works exactly. I think that software is one of the best ever made for C64! If I had got own PC by some sponsors I had already preparedness for beaming antenna and tuning frequency by PC-computer and tracking program. I thought it was better to trust own hands by that tracking and tuning. It proved correct...

We received some material from Santa Claus Land (which, as everyone knows, is in Finland) to pass on to various schools, which are involved with SAREX.

In the mid March there was bad snow storm and the antennas of nearest packet node made some bends. We had spent many days in the beginning of the year for make that packet net working. Before the storm the net was really in good shape. But after the storm and even after beaming antennas again to the right direction there was still some trouble. There was not good contact to the south. All the SAREX-info from us will then go via the western route. It is not so fast and that is not a good thing. Special thanks to Ari OH8MBU who is our sysop and has done so much for our packet net.

Ari OH8MBU and Risto OH8MOD sent shuttle info to the packet radio net. I downloaded that info from NASA Space Link via Freenet/Internet. That was a big help. Otherwise I have had to write those infos manually with my Commodore to packet net. There was still hundreds of messages to be sent manually...

During the snow storm I was fetching one elevation antenna from Sotkamo and suddenly in the dark backwoods my car broke down. There I was sitting with all the snow and a long VHF-beam on my car. After some minutes to wait I saw a police car coming and they stopped to help me. But they couldn't do anything. I told them that I've already contacted Jukka, OH8MSM with my ham radio and he was coming from Sotkamo to take my car in tow to Paltamo. Jukka had to drive over 120 kilometers on that night for helping me! My car was under the repair 3 days.

We were hit by a severe snow storm that caused terrible QRN (S9 plus 20dB ) on dry weather. After walking in 50 cm snow some kilometers below power wire with my transistor radio I contacted our local power company and next day Mr. Matti Maatta from Kainuun Sähkö Kainuun Sahko and adviser district technician Mr. Aarne Tarkkonen from YLE Finnish Broadcastinc Company came to my hamshack. They understood the serious problem of that QRN and started to solve the problem. (Afterwards I heard Mr Tarkkonen had said to Mr Maatta that this time there is such kind of case that they will not economize any money or efforts.)

Officials from the local firms concerned located the trouble on Tuesday April 5th, when there was a power failure. Tens of men were working with the power line f.ex they changed all insulators between 1 kilometer power electric wire. Unfortunately earlier in the night there was rain and that QRN was not on. Still they did everything they could to please us, and even told us that if they couldn't locate the spot, they would throw the big switch for the duration of the QSO. So half of the town would have no electricity about in 10 minutes! We would tend to call that good service, wouldn't you too?

Ham in Space -tape (NTSC) was borrowed from NASA on March 29th. We were allowed to make some PAL-copies of the tape, one went to SRAL. We also got an FT-736R from the company of OH8PF.

We were given newstime on the Radio 1 (local radio in Helsinki, capital area) on Tuesday March 29th, followed by a telephone interview on April 4th.

Because news release had taken all free time during last 2 weeks I had to do all antenna works during our Easter holiday. I spent 2 days in the rain up in the mast tower. That was really one of the extraordinariest Easter for me. When I was hanging down up in 20 meters I remembered the happenings about 2000 years ago. Well, the rain was no matter any more...

Our students Virva Tervonen (YL) and Janne Kemppainen (OM) did some practice at the station and we went through some of the questions that the students were to ask in the course of the QSO.

I got ready also special news material (partly in Finnish) that was released by SRAL on April 5th. It was also mentioned in Freenet as part of SAREX.

At the same time I was wondering if the media is not interested about SAREX, because there was not any telephone calls after sending info-packets to STT.

We are lucky to have a thing called text TV and Ham Radio pages on 2 national TV channels by SRAL and we got three down pages of info about our SAREX project on it, so most Finns were given a chance to get acquainted with it, starting on March 30th. (We have also DX-cluster page on that nation-wide text-TV!)

Paavo "Pate" Kotilainen, OH2SN, has shown true ham spirit by offering all kinds of help via phone, letters, disks and so on.

On Wednesday April 6th the media came to life. We had received numerous phone calls at our school. The same circus went on the next day, too. The project was mentioned in different media all over the country.

Ms Vesterlin of local FCC wanted to know our sked frequencies which we had not yet gotten. I telephoned to Frank Bauer (There was a secretary. I dropped a message.) and faxed that we needed the frequencies immediately to get a permit to operate. Later in the evening Frank called us and sent us a fax, thus we received the up- and downlink frequencies. When I got home from work I met with about 3 meters of fax sheets from the authorities.

On Thursday April 7th, first thing in the morning I contacted our FCC, letting them know about the frequencies and feed line losses. Mr Pekka Länsman, OH2NCS, was kind to send us our permit as early as the same afternoon. It was a fax copy and he promissed us to use it as an original until we got the original by mail with a stamp fee of 70 dollars. Everything was smooth and we were ready to go!

More and more reporters from all possible media had reported that they would follow this historic contact in site.

In the afternoon the launch was delayed 24 hours due to some inspections in the main engine fuel system of the craft. They had to check if the tolerance of a valve was enough in the range of 1/30,000 inches!

Because our sked was dependent on the lift off, we were also delayed in having the QSO, which we were to have on the Mission Elapsed Time 2nd day, 20 hours and 24 minutes.

On Friday, April 8th even more reporters contacted us, so we were busy answering the phone, and our principal seemed to double as an answering machine. That was not enough. Even I had to go to the phone between my lessons. The best lesson had 3 interrupts. Our SAREX exhibition was finished in time, and our students could see it in the lobby of our school building.

I had to fax again to the reportes about delays of the launch and what will be: The weather report gave us some bad news: it was a possibility of 60 per cent that the launch would be delayed due to high wind and rain. This was unfortunately the case, and there was also a minor problem with the computers.

On Saturday April 9th the launch window was moved one hour earlier, because it seemed that the conditions would be ideal by sunrise. I was busy at work at school with NASA Spacelink and making actual info for the reporters, when Pate, OH2SN called me on the phone at 1402 Finnish time. He was watching CNN (We had not any satellite TV channels on that time) and he relayed the launching of the shuttle live to me! This made me forget all about the troubles we had met with during the past months, plus the sleepless nights. It was lucky that Pate relayed several minutes that live program because I could hardly maintain a poker face. Long live Ham Spirit!

So we had to go through another round of faxes and minor tasks like making sure everybody would get something to eat and drink. Thank you for all who helped us.

On Sunday April 10th everything was getting ready in the ham shack. Virva, Janne and Risto, OH8MOD/NZ4J came to go through everything one last time. We started by working the shuttle on the packet radio with our old equipment: TX FT-225RD and RX IC-2E. I had to solder a couple of wires between the new rig and the linear amplifier.

Meanwhile, Virva and Janne were getting acquainted with a few NASA video tapes. Local top brass came to pay us a visit, and we showed them tapes with pictures that were taken on board the MIR station. Among the visitors were some representatives of the county of Pitkäranta, Russia. They said that they had never seen anything like that in their country, official news photos set aside. We started the rehearsal of the QSO with Risto OH8MOD/NZ4J playing the part of the astronauts. It was no big deal to him, and our students got themselves invaluable practice.

We checked that the relaying to 80 meters was okay, so the others would be able to follow the contact at school.

The leader of the Finnish Radio Relay League, SRAL, Jari Jussila OH2BU called us and made sure that everything was working alright. We agreed to have Paavo "Pate" Kotilainen, OH2SN, to join us in the shack team. When the sked was set on a week day, we were getting short of ham radio operators. So we decided that Pate would take care of talking to the people at NASA before the sked on the phone. He was eager to help, and would arrive by plane on Monday evening and he would also bring with him a back up rig from our league.

By Sunday evening almost all the major media had contacted us, excluding the leading national newspaper Helsingin Sanomat, and we contacted them, too.

On Monday April 11th we received news coverage in the form of a live interview for the local radio station. We could also see a front page article in the local newspaper Kainuun Sanomat: "Paltamo will work the shuttle on Tuesday".

When I went to the shack in the afternoon, a major QRN had become very audible on two meters, which the local electrical company took care of by disconnecting a transformer that had caused some arching. They came like rescue 911: it was only in 20 minutes when they had eliminated that interference after I had notised that QRN again.

Pate was ahead of his time schedule, so we visited our school to make an actual info for a press conference. Then we had a nap of some six hours, which was a luxury after so many nights with little or no sleep. Everything was ready. Nothing to worry, so I slept good and tidy. - We were ready to rock, so to say.

On early morning Tuesday April 12th we checked last minute news from NASA Spacelink: nothing new was to be expected.

  • At 0800 hours reporters set up TV and radio equipment.
  • At 0858 we monitored the Endeavour packet radio on orbit number 46. We noticed that the shuttle is about 1 minute late.
  • At 0904 final checks. The shack was crowded with reporters, cameras, coffee, pizza (it was lucky that my XYL Ulla could take some time off work), leading officials of our county and so on. The road was almost blocked by cars and a TV unit with a mast. It looked great against the blue sky.
  • At 0955 telephone QSO with Johnson Center, Markku OH8UV on the phone this time. We checked our watches. We noticed that the shuttle was where it was supposed to be, both on the monitors in Paltamo and the space center.
  • At 1010 we had one more telephone QSO from Johnson Center, and we maintained that contact throughout the Radio QSO. Pate OH2SN was on the phone.

    summary of the qso

    so then we...