Keeping in contact with family members is important to Mir crewmembers. U.S. Mir astronaut Shannon Lucid discusses how she communicated with her family.
Lucid's flight surgeon Gaylen Johnson worked with the Russians to figure out how to send email messages in "packets," via ham amateur radio. Lucid says that she received her family's emails, "maybe once a week, sometimes if it was a good week, maybe twice a day, and then sometimes there were weeks on end where the packet system didn't work for one reason or the other."
Lucid also discusses family telephone and video conferences. "About every other week, they tried to have it set up so you could have a phone conversation with the family, and those generally worked. Then they tried every other week to set up so you'd have a video conference with your family. ... Sometimes they worked better than other times. Sometimes we got sound. Sometimes we got picture. Once in a while we got both of them together. But those were the ways that I kept in contact with my family..."
Comparing the various means of communication, Lucid says, "I think the most important [aspect, psychologically] was having the e-mail connection, because in that way you had daily messages, so you felt like you were still plugged in on a daily basis to your family's life. After that, it was the telephone conversations, because they came through pretty good."
Lucid says she considers that, "actually, the best conversations were those that you were just one on one. When they tried to conference and had a lot of people, then all people [could say was], "Hello," and, "How are you?" and that was it. You never got any information passed." She adds that least satisfying were the video conferences, in terms of keeping in contact with one's family.
However, another communications option that worked very well, according to Lucid, was "the ham shack here at JSC [Johnson Space Center]. They have the ham radio club. My daughter and her husband both got their ham radio license so that they could use it. Then when passes were at the right time, they would go over there and they would have lunch. ... I mean, that worked out really nice, and that was a nice way of getting information back and forth..."
Life on Mir
Profile: Shannon Lucid
Shannon Lucid Oral History (PDF)
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