STERLING (AP) - Scratchy marks on Troy Fehring's toolbox aren't from rough handling. They are his reminder of the day he talked to the shuttle astronauts from his tractor.
Fehring is a federally licensed amateur radio operator whose handle is John Deere Mobile.
Last week as he took a break from baling hay, he was hopping among four frequencies when he caught his call sign from the space shuttle Columbia.
"I was ready," Fehring said. "I've been listening for them. " "N5VIN, you're 5.9," one of the astronauts said, telling Fehring his transmission was loud and clear. The astronaut - Fehring does not know who it was but his call sign was KC5ACR - ended the soil-to-space exchange by noting "QSL," meaning he was acknowledging contact.
The astronauts' use of any of five frequencies made it a challenge for amateur radio operators to try to make contact in the three to five minutes it took the shuttle to go from horizon to horizon.
The shuttle crew runs a tape so contacts can be confirmed by sending the time of the radio transmission and the frequency on which it was sent to the American Radio Relay League. Fehring had gotten through to the shuttle at 11:22 a.m. Oct. 28 at 144.990 on the two-meter band.
"I didn't have anything to write on, so I jumped out of my tractor, took my screwdriver and scratched it on my toolbox so I wouldn't forget," Fehring said.
Now he's wondering if it isn't one for the record books. "I'm going to send my QSL card to find out if that's not the first tractor-to-satellite transmission," he said. BIOG: NAME:Archive ID: 556179