Dreamflight Wausau
Dreamflight Wausau

Another project that I was happy to be involved with, as an Amateur Radio operator, was the inaugural flight of Dreamflight Wausau.

What started as an idea in the mind of Sharon Ryan, a 5th grade science teacher, 1992 Wisconsin Elementary School Teacher of the Year, and the recipient of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Teaching Science(in 1999), came to fruition in May of 1992, in Wausau, Wisconsin.  This was the inaugural "flight" of Dream Flight Wausau, a six-day simulated space shuttle mission, centered around a school bus that had been converted into a space shuttle named "Apollo Condor".  Hundreds of volunteers had helped the Wausau School District's sixth graders turn the old yellow bus into a sleek, high-tech shuttle replica, and the effort was more successful than anyone first imagined.

Then-President George Bush encouraged the kids, as did then-Wisconsin Covernor Tommy Thompson and other local dignitaries, and corporate America poured forth a veritable treasure in computers, ham radios and other hardware--just the stuff needed to build a backyard space shuttle...

And in the thick of things, from start to finish, were the members of the Wisconsin Valley Radio Association(WVRA), an organization of Amateur Radio operators based in Wausau, Wisconsin.  The WVRA members played a big part in making the May 11-18 Dream Flight mission a success.

The sixth-grade "astronauts" used Amateur Radio to simulate commications-voice, image and data-between Mission Control, the planets(schools) and the Condor.  Thanks to the WVRA members, Amateur Radio was inseparably woven into the fabric of the project, enriching the lives of the dozens of youngsters who earned their own Amateur Radio licenses.

In advance of the first Dream Flight project, the WVRA held Amateur Radio license exam preparation classes, and at the time of the first Dreamflight mission, eight students had received their licenses. 

The Wausau School District is comprised of 13 elementary schools.  Each received a unique "planetary designator" for that first mission.  "Mission Control" was located at one of those elementary schools.  According to FCC rules, each school("planet"), and the school bus("Apollo Condor") required a control operator(a licensed Amateur Radio operator) to oversee the operation of the equipment.  Thirty-six Amateu Radio operators, many of them members of the WVRA,  volunteered to oversee the operation of those Amateur Radio stations.  Many of them used their own vacation time from work to assist with this project.

I believe that, at that time, I was a member of the WVRA myself, and I served as one of those volunteers.  At the time, I was already experienced in using packet radio(a form of digital communications that involves interfacing a computer with a ham radio).

I was assigned to be the control operator for "Apollo Condor"(the "space shuttle" school bus) for the very first day of it's "inaugural flight" on May 11, 1992(see the Photo Gallery below).  I was subsequently assigned to one of the "planets"(i.e. elementary schools, "Mercury"), Lincoln Elementary School, on S. 6th Ave. in Wausau, on May 18, 1992.
Throughout the "mission", which ran from May 11th to the 18th, 1992, the "Apollo Condor" visited the "planets"(i.e. elementary schools) and science experiments were conducted aboard the "space shuttle" and at the schools, themselves.

NASA astronaut Colonel Mark Brown, who flew on space shuttle missions in 1989 and 1991, was present to oversee(and advise) for the first Dreamflight Wausau mission.

On Sunday, May 10th, 1992, I attended a celebration of the Dreamflight Wausau program, just prior to it's inaugural mission, at the Westwood Center Atrium in Wausau.  There, I had my picture taken with Mark Brown, and got his autograph(see Photo Gallery).

Related website link: http://www.dreamflightusa.com/

Photo Gallery

I'm meeting Colonel Mark Brown, NASA Astronaut, on May 10, 1992, at the Westwood Center, Wausau, WI

The "Apollo Condor" space shuttle(converted school bus).  Nice job on the conversion!  At Marathon Park, Wausau, WI, on May 11, 1992(the first day of the inaugural "flight" of the "shuttle".

They did a very life-like job on the "shuttle"!

The fully-loaded "shuttle"(bus), just prior to "lift-off".  The kids all had uniforms that they wore for the mission.

The bus("shuttle") was as close to "real life" as you can get.  It was equipped with 2 microwave ovens, so that the students could prepare and eat meals right on the "shuttle".  The bus was also equipped with dispensers for water.

Here is the location on the bus where I did most of my work from, supervising the young people who were acting as the "communicators".  Note the power equipment located on the floor, below the shelf.  On the shelf's bottom level is a radio transceiver used for voice communications.  Above that, is an AEA PK-232 terminal node controller(TNC), connected to another radio transceiver(above that).  The TNC was also connected to an IBM PC, which, in turn, was connected to a monitor and a keyboard.  This "packet radio" set-up could be used for digital(keyboard-to-keyboard) communications between Apollo Condor and Mission Control and the various planets that the shuttle was visiting(i.e. other elementary schools).

More equipment on board "Apollo Condor"...

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