Former astronaut Owen Garriott, W5LFL, the first person to operate an amateur radio station from space, has become a Silent Key at age 88. He died April 15 at his home in Huntsville, Alabama.
Garriott held a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Stanford University, where he also taught before joining NASA in 1965 as a scientist-astronaut. According to NASA, he authored or co-authored more than 40 scientific papers and one book on ionospheric physics.
Garriott's first trip to space was aboard Skylab 3 in 1973, where he and crewmates Alan Bean and Jack Lousma spent nearly two months, at that point the longest single-mission spaceflight on record. He returned to space in 1983 aboard the shuttle Columbia, a 10-day science mission known as STS-9/Spacelab-1. During this flight, Garriott thrilled hams around the world by operating a 2-meter handheld and making contacts during his free time. (This writer recalls hearing him calling "CQ North America, this is W5LFL on the Space Shuttle Columbia calling CQ and listening.")
Garriott's operation paved the way for ongoing amateur operations from orbit, including the long-running Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) program. He was inducted into the inaugural class of the CQ Amateur Radio Hall of Fame in 2001.