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
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
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
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
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
Related website link: http://www.dreamflightusa.com/
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
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"...
To Muzikman's Home Page