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Astronaut's Answer Was Out of This World Space: Group at Rancho Santiago College talks by ham radio with commander of orbiting space shuttle Columbia.
The Los Angeles Times (Pre-1997 Fulltext); Los Angeles, Calif.; Jun 29, 1992; IRIS YOKOI;

Abstract:
[Richard N. Richards], the shuttle mission commander and an amateur radio operator, spent about a minute answering a philosophical question from Rancho Santiago student Sashya Sharone Amee before the transmission faded.

Using [Douglas Borcoman]'s own ham radio equipment and the college's computer and telephone equipment, the two instructors set up an elaborate communication system. A 14-element satellite antenna was placed on the roof of Hammond Hall. A software program allowed students to use a computer map to follow the shuttle's progress on its 224 orbits of the earth.

Since the shuttle passes over Southern California several times a day, the students will try contacting the astronauts as the mission continues. Borcoman also plans to beam up a digitized photograph of the students and to drive with the students to Edwards Air Force Base to meet the astronauts when they land.
Full Text:
(Copyright, The Times Mirror Company; Los Angeles Times 1992all Rights reserved)
From a distant post some 200 miles above California, the clear voice of space shuttle Columbia astronaut Richard N. Richards came into a Rancho Santiago College classroom Sunday morning.
"WB6NUD, you're loud and clear," said Richards over a ham-radio link, thrilling the couple dozen high school and college students and teachers who had been planning this contact with the space shuttle for weeks.
Richards, the shuttle mission commander and an amateur radio operator, spent about a minute answering a philosophical question from Rancho Santiago student Sashya Sharone Amee before the transmission faded.
The astronauts spoke to the Orange County students as part of the Shuttle Amateur Radio Experiment program, designed to show the feasibility of ham radio communication with spacecraft. Ten schools worldwide are participating in the experiment during the 13-day mission, which began Thursday, and Rancho Santiago was the only Orange County site.
Instructors Douglas Borcoman and Patrick Francois, who together teach a class in logic and artificial intelligence, got approvals from various federal agencies, including NASA and the Federal Communications Commission, for their students to speak to the shuttle.
Using Borcoman's own ham radio equipment and the college's computer and telephone equipment, the two instructors set up an elaborate communication system. A 14-element satellite antenna was placed on the roof of Hammond Hall. A software program allowed students to use a computer map to follow the shuttle's progress on its 224 orbits of the earth.
Based on the questions they proposed, three students from Rancho Santiago and Yale High School in Santa Ana were chosen to speak directly to the astronauts.
Verbal contact with Richard was established about 9:15 a.m. Sunday.
As students and observers huddled around the radio, the astronaut confirmed he could hear Borcoman and gave a friendly, "How you doin', Doug?"
"We had a bit of an earthquake here in California," Borcoman told him.
Sharone Amee then asked her question: "Because you have traveled to heights which have expanded beyond the range of normal human perception, has your consciousness also expanded into a sense of the `unity' of all things as you look upon the Earth?"
After a pause, Richards replied, "You can't help but travel 200 times around the Earth without coming back thinking a little bit differently about Earth, particularly the beauty that you see."
Richards mentioned the Sahara and Gobi deserts as some of the beautiful sights, and then added, "There's a tragic side of it-areas where people live too tightly. It's very obvious our presence there and the impact we have on our environment."
Sharone Amee, a 38-year-old Orange resident, described Richards' answer as "great. I can feel the crowding down here, and that he experienced it up there . . . wow."
Yale High School student Marsha Morgan's question about the possibility of housing and civilization in space went unanswered when the shuttle's reception died.
But the 17-year-old Orange resident said she wasn't disappointed.
"I'm just happy I got a chance to talk to them . . . to hear them," she said. "It was a really neat feeling. It was hard to imagine they were actually up there."
Borcoman deemed the day's contact a success.
"We got one full question and one full answer," he said. "And he gave a very nice, articulate and philosophical answer."
Since the shuttle passes over Southern California several times a day, the students will try contacting the astronauts as the mission continues. Borcoman also plans to beam up a digitized photograph of the students and to drive with the students to Edwards Air Force Base to meet the astronauts when they land.
"I would like to sit down with the astronauts and ask them what the feeling of outer space would be like in comparison to intraspace," said Sharone Amee, who plans to become a college philosophy instructor. "Outer space travels are physical; intraspace travels are spiritual. . . . I'd like to compare notes."