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OSCARs Help Dedicate New Air and Space Museum
September 1976 QST Article

September 1976 QST

September 1976 QST Cover - RF CafeTable of Contents

Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics. See articles from QST, published December 1915 - present (visit ARRL for info). All copyrights hereby acknowledged.

That would be President Ford in the background atop the platform, behind where the OSCAR ground station was set up. He was there as part of the dedication of the new National Air & Space Museum in Washington, D.C., in 1976. The event was part of the nationwide series of bicentennial celebrations marking America's founding with the signing of the The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America. Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins directed the event. The Space Race was in its heyday and most people were still in awe of anything related to spacecraft - both manned and unmanned. Just about anyone other than a Ham radio operator believed communicating with a satellite was the exclusive domain of governments, so the presence of AMSAT (amateur radio satellite) with a portable ground station set up for reception of a pre-recorded broadcast from President Ford constituted a real eye-opening. As this 1976 QST article points out, OSCAR 7 proved to be tough competition for the Oval Office's attention.

The Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia, opened in 2003 as a secondary location. I have visited both museums. A couple full days would be required to really take in all that is on display.

OSCARs Help Dedicate New Air and Space Museum

The first OSCAR - RF Cafe

The first OSCAR: On Dec. 12, 1961,just four years after the first Sputnik, radio amateurs had their own satellite - a 10-pound package that transmitted HI HI HI in Morse code for three weeks. It was the world's first non-government satellite.

OSCAR 1 inside, OSCAR 7 outside, help dedicate Smithsonian's awe-inspiring National Air and Space Museum.

By Joel p. Kleinman*

Sitting unpretentiously alongside its larger cousins, the backup of the OSCAR 1 satellite was an impressive part of the spanking new National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC. It was thus fitting that OSCARs 6 and 7 transmitted parts of President Ford's remarks at the Museum's dedication July 1.

A portable ground station designed and operated by AMSAT Executive Vice President Tom Clark, WA3LND, was used to transmit a tape of the President's speech just 15 minutes after he delivered it.

While AMSAT President Perry Klein, K3JTE, assisted with the transmission, Project OSCAR's Paul Schuch, WA6UAM, aimed the antenna and simultaneously shooed curious spectators away from the cables.

WA3LND (transmitting) and K3JTE QSO via OSCAR 7 - RF Cafe

WA3LND (transmitting) and K3JTE QSO via OSCAR 7. (WA40GU photo)

WA3LND mirrors the intensity of attempting a contact with a satellite - RF Cafe

WA3LND mirrors the intensity of attempting a contact with a satellite speeding overhead. (WA4DGU photo)

The battery-operated portable OSCAR gear - RF Cafe

The battery-operated portable OSCAR gear. Part of the several thousand spectators who lined up across the street to watch the President are visible in the background. (K2KHR/WB4UOX photo)

Loud and Clear

Interference marred the initial attempt, via OSCAR 6, but OSCAR 7 followed just 20 minutes later. As it rose up over the trees lining Constitution Avenue, the tape of the President's speech came back loud and clear. Traveling at 15,000 mph over the western Great Plains, the satellite soon passed behind the Washington Monument and out of range, but several QSOs were made, ranging from VE3SAT in Ontario and a station in Illinois to NN3SI, the new station at the Smithsonian's Museum of History and Technology barely a half mile away.

Although competing for attention with the President and the Viking space-craft circling Mars (which beamed back the radio signal that cut the ceremonial ribbon), OSCAR 7's signals attracted a great deal of interest from journalists and tourists alike. Two ARRL representatives, Club and Training Manager Charles Harris, WB2CHO and this writer, who works with the Oscar Educational Program, briefed members of the national and local media on the OSCAR satellites and the mechanics of the transmission that had sent the President's words across the U.S. and Canada. Some had heard of OSCAR, most hadn't; but all who stopped by the station came away with a new perspective on amateur radio.

WA6UAM adjusts the OSCAR station antenna - RF Cafe

As WA6UAM adjusts the antenna, members of the press gather around the OSCAR station, hidden behind him. (K2KHR/WB4UOX photo)

The ground station, set up just 100 feet from the speaker's platform, was built with financial assistance from the Northern California DX Foundation, which hopes to use similar terminals to expand OSCAR communications links with foreign countries.

Following the outdoor dedication ceremony, the first of the estimated seven-million persons who will visit the three-block-long, 40-million dollar museum in its first year poured through its doors. Those who make their way to the OSCAR display, in the section reserved for communications satellites, will be able to hear a tape recording describing the OSCAR program and the space-age hobby that spawned it - amateur radio.

Portable OSCAR station competes with the President - RF Cafe

The portable OSCAR station competes with the President for spectator attention - fairly successfully. (WA4DGU photo)

* OSCAR Educational Program Assistant, ARRL



Posted October 16, 2020

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