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2008 News Releases




Tony Hutchison VK5ZAI Receives Johnson Space Centre Group Achievement Award.

Date : 05 / 03 / 2008
Author : Robert Broomhead - VK3KRB

Australian amateurs can be proud of Tony Hutchison VK5ZAI who has just received the Group Achievement Award from the Johnson Space Centre and signed by JSC Director Michael Coats.

Tony is the Australian coordinator for ARISS or Amateur Radio on the International Space Station. Through ARISS hundreds of schools around the world have been given the opportunity to speak with the astronauts aboard the International Space Station via amateur radio.

In writing to the WIA, Tony says he enjoys amateur radio and says he particularly likes "giving back a little of what others have given him over the years." Not really expecting the award he said that "the most rewarding part is to see the excitement on students face when they first hear the Crew on the ISS reply to an ARISS call."

The first school Tony assisted was Loxton High in South Australia back in 1992 when he asked Alex Serabrov on Mir if he would speak with the students and answer their questions. The first student to win the Andy Thomas Scholarship was a Loxton High student, who Tony believes may now be studying at Adelaide University.

In 1998 Tony handled most of the communications between Andy Thomas and his family during his flight on Mir and in the year 2000 Tony was asked to join the ARISS team as one of the 9 approved telebridge stations around the world. Soon after Tony was handling most of the private family contacts for the first 3 crews on the ISS along with the scheduled school contacts.

In 2001 Tony and his wife Jill received a personal invitation from NASA to meet the various crews soon to fly on the ISS and space Shuttle. They attended the launch of the second ISS crew on shuttle flight STS-102 at Cape Kennedy with the crews family, and meet the first ISS crew when they returned to Earth on the shuttle 12 days later. Shortly afterwards Tony was asked to become a School Mentor assisting students and teachers prepare for their scheduled ISS contacts.

As a telebridge station, over the years Tony has linked the ISS to schools in most countries around the world. When school linkups became more common he was asked to contribute ideas on linking Echolink and IRLP to the ARISS student contacts so it could cover a broader spectrum of amateurs throughout the world. The resulting implementation of IRLP and Echolink for ARISS contacts has become popular and very successful.

In 2006 Tony helped Bill McArthur on board the ISS check out the new Kenwood D-700 and back on the ground assisted with the design and construction of interface units and patches used for ARISS telebridge contacts in Australia and Europe.

During his 16 years associated with manned space flight, Tony has been called up several times by Mission Control to handle emergency situations that have occurred. Members may also be interested that at present Australia rates 3rd in the world to have had the most scheduled ARISS linkups with the ISS. Tony is very enthusiastic that through working together and with our schools that we can maintain this position.

Recently Tony has been appointed to the ARISS selection committee. ARISS work as a world wide team of licensed amateurs whose main ambition is introducing Amateur Radio and technology to students around the world by giving them the opportunity of using our hobby to speak with the Astronauts on the ISS as it circles the Earth

The WIA congratulates Tony Hutchison VK5ZAI on his receipt of this most prestigious award.

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