(Source: ABC News via Michael Bird)
To NASA personnel, he is VK5ZAI. To his neighbours at Pinks Beach, a small coastal town in South Australia, he goes by Tony.
In his 30-year association with the US space agency, Tony Hutchison has been called upon to help in times of crisis, moderate calls between astronauts and their families, and run a worldwide schools program.
He’s shared a beer with first commanders, had barbecues with mission specialists, and watched the space shuttle launch from the bleachers at Kennedy Space Centre.
Looking back, it’s a life he never expected.
Mr Hutchison, 80, fell in love with radio at age 10, had his amateur radio licence by 21, and became involved with satellite communication a few years later.
In October 1992 he made his first contact in space — cosmonaut Anatoly Solovyev onboard the Mir space station.
“You could talk up to them as they passed over and they’d talk back to you.”
He became good friends with one of them, Aleksandr Serebrov.
“He would call me probably a couple times a week as he passed over. Of course they keep to Russian time, which is almost the opposite time to us, so it would be in the middle of the night and Alex would call.”
NASA eventually caught on and had Mr Hutchison doing communications for Andy Thomas while he was onboard Mir.[…]