Nick Lance Jr, KC5KBO, of Houston, Texas, died May 24. He was 65. A retired NASA engineer and an ARRL member, Lance was a veteran member of the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) team, and one of his roles was to prepare the astronauts to pass their Amateur Radio license exams. Lance was named ARRL Professional Educator of the Year in 2003. ARISS International Chairman Frank Bauer, KA3HDO, called Lance “a smart, caring, considerate, and helpful person” who loved Amateur Radio. Bauer said he would miss Lance’s quick wit and sense of humor.
“As the primary amateur radio license trainer for the ISS astronauts, Nick played an integral role in encouraging and training countless astronauts — US, Canada, Japan and Europe — to pursue their Amateur Radio licenses and become active on ARISS,” said Bauer. “He inspired and trained dozens of NASA aerospace education specialists — who talk to schoolteachers nationwide — to get their ham tickets. He also taught a ‘Hamster’ course to middle schoolers, inspiring them to pursue careers in technology through Amateur Radio and ARISS activities.”
Lance grew up in New Jersey and held mechanical engineering degrees from the Georgia Institute of Technology and the University of Houston. He began his career as a co-op student at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in 1968. He went on to become part of the Apollo Program, which landed the first humans on the moon, and was involved in all of the manned spaceflight programs since Apollo. He retired in August 2009.
Although he became interested in Amateur Radio as a youngster, it wasn’t until his 8-year-old daughter Erica said she’d like to study for a ham radio license. Father and daughter passed their license exams together in 1994, becoming KC5KBO and KC5KBP, respectively. A couple of years later, his son Nick, now KC5SWM, earned his license at age 7; his wife Renee, now KC5VMA, followed that same year.
Lance was a member of the JSC Amateur Radio Club and past president of the Clear Lake Amateur Radio Club (CLARC). He also taught licensing classes to the public and to intermediate school students, licensing about 30 or 40 students per year. The Westbrook Intermediate School Club and the League City Intermediate School Club competed in the ARRL School Club Roundup using Lance’s call sign.
Lance also competed on the tournament horseshoe circuit as a member of the National Horseshoe Pitchers Association, winning back-to-back gold medals in the 2009, 2011, and 2013 National Senior Olympic Games. In 2013 he also won the Texas State Horseshoe Championship.
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“I was born in Brooklyn, NY but consider Middlesex, NJ my hometown. I received my undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 1973 and my master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Houston in 1979. I began my career at the NASA/Johnson Space Center in 1968 as a co-op student, and was part of the Apollo Program which landed men on the moon. I have been part of all the manned space programs since Apollo. I retired in August 2009.
I first considered studying for an amateur, or “ham”, radio license at the age of 10 at the suggestion of my father. I have fond memories studying the code with my dad in our basement. But as a 10 year old, I was involved in too many activities and did not get my license. Fortunately, a generation later, when I asked my 8-year old daughter, Erica, if she would like to study for a ham radio license, she said, “Yes”. In 1994 we passed our license exam together and received consecutive callsigns, KC5KBO and KC5KBP. In 1996, my son Nick, KC5SWM, earned his license at age 7, and my wife Renee, KC5VMA, followed with her license later that year. I enjoy sharing the fun of ham radio with others.
I am a member of the JSC Amateur Radio Club and past president of the Clear Lake Amateur Radio Club (CLARC). In my spare time, I teach license classes to the public and to intermediate school students in the CCISD (Clear Creek Independent School District). I’ve taught in the CCISD schools since 1999 and licensed about 30 – 40 students per year. Both the Westbrook Intermediate School Club and the League City Intermediate School Club compete in the School Club Roundup under my callsign. I am part of the ARISS (Amateur Radio on the International Space Station) team that organizes the ham radio contacts with the astronauts on the Space Station. One of my specific roles is to prepare the astronauts to pass their amateur radio license exam. I was named the Professional Educator of the Year in 2003 by the Amateur Radio Relay League.
When I am not “radio-active”, I enjoy spending time with my family and competing in the tournament horseshoe circuit as a member of the National Horseshoe Pitchers Association, taking the sport up again after a 35 year hiatus, after winning the New Jersey State Junior Championship in 1966. Since getting back in the game, I’ve won back to back to back gold medals in horseshoes in the 2009, 2011, and 2013 National Senior Olympic Games. In 2013 I won the Texas State Horseshoe Championship.
Part of the fun of amateur radio is meeting other people, so if your plans bring you to Houston, TX, please email me in advance.