Last night I got home from a day spent with new-baby-relatives, and decided to power up the ham radio setup and see if I could snag any good QSOs via JT65. The bands weren't really all that good for me, but heck: it's JT65, and it always seems to present something. A few minutes later, I saw the callsign K3IO pop up: I answered the call, and then tried to hit QRZ to find his details, but QRZ appeared (appears?) to be down, so I just googled.
And then I realized that it was Doctor Tom Clark (formerly W3IWI). Many hams know who he is, but in case you don't, here's a list of some of his accomplishments taken from his retirement announcement in 2001:
Tom received his B.S. in Engineering Physics and his Ph.D. in Astro-Geophysics from the University of Colorado in 1961 and 1967 respectively. From 1966 to 1968, he served as Chief of the Astronomy Branch at NASA Marshall Space Flight Center and as ProjectScientist on the Spacelab Coronagraph. Since arriving at GSFC in 1968, Tom has received numerous NASA awards for his pioneering work on Radio Astronomy Explorer 1 and 2 and several generations of Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI) systems. Since the beginning of the NASA Crustal Dynamics Project in 1979, a global network of approximately 30 VLBI stations have been used to define the Celestial reference Frame and to measure global plate tectonics, Earth orientation parameters, and Universal Time. In recent years, he developed the Totally Accurate Clock (TAC), an inexpensive GPS timing receiver that has found widespread use in a number of global networks. Tom was named a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in 1991 and a Fellow of the International Association of Geodesy (IAG) in 1999. Tom was also a pioneer in amateur and digital radio; he designed and flew several low cost satellites for relaying amateur radio messages around the globe and is a past president of AMSAT. Earlier this month, he was one of only 50 initial inductees into the CQ Amateur Radio Hall of Fame, a list which included such engineering luminaries and inventors as Guglielmo Marconi (radio), Samuel Morse (telegraph), Nikola Tesla (HF generators and radio), and John Bardeen and William Schockley (transistor).
The same announcement refers to him as NASA Goddard Space Flight Center's "resident curmudgeon". I can't think of a cooler description.
I mangled the final 73, and sent Tom a quick email after our QSO apologizing and (in addition to telling him the details of my dining room table shack) gushing a bit about what a pleasure it was to exchange a QSO with him. He kindly responded similarly, thanking me for recognizing his "new" callsign. It's too bad JT65 isn't good for conversations, but it's still a nice QSO.