Tuesday, March 22, 2011
R.I.P MIR, De-Orbited 15 Years Ago Today
On 23 March 1996, at 05:59 UTC, the Soviet Space Station MIR reentered the atmosphere, and burned up.
Call it what you want, the MIR did yeoman's duty as mankind's first long-term outpost in space, and I was rather sad to see it go. There was a very active Amateur Radio station onboard, and I made numerous contacts, using both FM voice and packet radio, with the crew members. It was always a thrill talking to them, even if it was for only a few minutes, and I always wished them a safe journey. It was a double-thrill for me, as all of the equipment I used was either home-brewed, rescued from the junk pile, or considered "obsolete" by other Hams I knew.
My FM radio was an Alinco DM-590T a friend gave me that was in a zillion pieces, and missing a few at that, my antenna was a home-brewed 2 Meter Collinear. And my packet radio setup was a Commodore 64 running an A&A Engineering "soft modem" with Digicom>64 software. Since the C64 could not multitask, I'd run the satellite tracking program (I still have the disk somewhere) once a week, and print out the list of passes that I knew would be in reach of my little station. Then before the pass, I'd fire up the C64, load the packet software, tune the radio, and wait for them to come in range. When the packets started to decode, I'd connect to the bulletin board, and leave my best wishes for a safe journey to the crew.
One of the things I remember most was listening to the when Mike Foale was onboard, and they suffered a collision with an unmanned Progress cargo ship. It really knocked them for a loop, and Amateur Radio was one of their few remaining communications systems (scroll down to find the story in the link) until they got the MIR patched back up again.
The QSL card in the picture is one of the ones I received from them, and is one of the most treasured ones in my collection.