HAMNET Report 21 July 2019


This weekend, we have been remembering the Apollo moon landing 50 years ago on the 20th of July 1969. Some of you remember listening to the live radio transmissions of the landing – remember we didn’t have television in 1969 – and some of you will be curious to see what the video footage actually looked like.

Well, here is your chance. Ben Feist has created a blogspot with all, and I really do mean all, the video and audio collected from all the sources around mission control, the launch pad, the landing site on the moon, and the video footage of the astronauts placing instruments on the moon. Be prepared for a long watch, but you can see it all at  https://apolloinrealtime.org/11/

Thank you to Southgate Amateur Radio News for sharing that with us.

The ARRL Letter for July the 18th reports that The Nashville Tennessean newspaper recently featured the story of a 104-year-old ARRL member who contributed to NASA’s effort to put the first humans on the moon 50 years ago this month. Cary Nettles, W5SRR, of Columbia, Tennessee — who calls himself the nation’s oldest rocket scientist still alive — was a NASA project manager and research engineer on rocket propulsion systems in the 1950s and 1960s.

While working on the Centaur second-stage rocket program, Nettles determined that the rocket engine failures NASA was experiencing were a result of misdirected exhaust destroying the vehicles’ engines. Nettles told the Tennessean he came up with an “exhaust pipe” that solved the problem. In May 1966, an Atlas-Centaur launcher propelled the first Surveyor lander toward the moon. That year, NASA awarded Nettles and colleague Ed Jonash with its Distinguished Service Medal for “their superhuman effort in turning the troubled rocket into a reliable upper stage,” according to a 2004 NASA publication, “Taming Liquid Hydrogen — The Centaur Upper Stage Rocket 1958 – 2002.”

On July 16, 1969, a Saturn V rocket with a liquid hydrogen-fueled second stage carried astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins to their rendezvous with the moon. Nettles retired from NASA the following year.

Nettles got his Amateur Radio licence in 1945, and remains active on 40 meters as well as on VHF and UHF repeaters

Thanks to the ARRL for sharing that story.

Jennifer Crompton, writing in WMUR9 reports that a World War II veteran from Portsmouth who played a critical role in radio communications was honoured on Friday for his service.

Antonio Vaccaro, 100, was newly married when he volunteered in World War II. He was a radio engineer at WHEB in Portsmouth before becoming an Army tech sergeant.

“I guess a favourite memory for me was V-J Day, when the Japanese broke into our frequency and said they wanted to surrender,” Vaccaro said.

Vaccaro still lives independently, as a widower with a large, close-knit family. Five generations of his family gathered on Friday at Portsmouth City Hall to recognize his service.

“As a communications chief for the renowned Flying Tigers, Tony was instrumental in the fight against the Japanese,” U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen said. “He jerry-built and maintained radio equipment used by the squadron, and he developed a relationship with Chinese leader Chiang Kai-shek.”

The Flying Tigers was an American volunteer group of the Chinese Air Force that was organized before the U.S. entered the war.

“He’s credited with climbing into the hills accompanied by five Chinese soldiers to rig up the radio beacons that brought the Enola Gay home after dropping its atomic cargo in Japan,” Brig. Gen. William Conway said.

“I put the direction finders on top of some mountains,” Vaccaro said. “When they dropped the atomic bomb, they couldn’t come back from where they came. They had to fly over, pick up my homing devices and come to our field.”

Vaccaro was honoured Friday with six medals, recognition his family said he never asked for. A fine endeavour indeed!

The 19th July marks 9 years since the death of the man who invented the aircraft “Black Box”. BBC.com tells us that Dr David Warren received a gift as a young boy of a crystal set, from his father, and this launched a love affair with science.

When his father was killed in an air crash, David became obsessed with an idea, which his Aeronautical Research Laboratory bosses at the Australian Defence Department frowned on, of a recorder which would help trouble shoot the cause of aircraft crashes.

One day in 1958, when the little flight recorder had been finished and finessed, the lab received an unusual visitor. Dr Coombes, the chief superintendent, was showing round a friend from England.

Dr Warren explained how  his world-first prototype used steel wire to store four hours of pilot voices plus instrument readings and automatically erased older records so it was reusable.

The visitor was Robert Hardingham (later Sir Robert), the secretary of the British Air Registration Board and a former Air Vice-Marshal in the RAF, and he was impressed.

David was soon on a plane bound for England – with strict instructions not to tell Australia’s Department of Defence what he was really doing there, because “somebody would frown on it”.

In England, Dr Warren presented “the ARL Flight Memory Unit” to the Royal Aeronautical Establishment and some commercial instrument-makers.

The Brits loved it. The BBC ran TV and radio programmes examining it, and the British civil aviation authority started work to make the device mandatory in civil aircraft. A Middlesex firm, S Davall and Sons, approached ARL about the production rights, and kicked off manufacturing.

Though the device started to be called “the black box”, the first ones off the line were orange so they’d be easier to find after a crash – and they remain so today.

Peter Warren believes the name dates from a 1958 interview his father gave the BBC.

“Right at the end there was a journalist who referred to this as a ‘black box’. It’s a generic word from electronics engineering, and the name stuck.”

In 1960, Australia became the first country to make cockpit voice recorders mandatory, after an unexplained plane crash in Queensland killed 29 people. The ruling came from a judicial inquiry, and took a further three years to become law.

Today, black boxes are fire-proof, ocean-proof and encased in steel. And they are compulsory on every commercial flight.

David Warren worked at ARL until his retirement in 1983, becoming its principal research scientist. He died on 19 July, 2010, at the age of 85. I think we are all better off because of him.

This is Dave Reece  ZS1DFR  reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.

HAMNET Report 14 July 2019

Dan Falk, writing on the Smithsonian.com website summarises some interesting backroom radio events in his report on the Apollo moon landing 50 years ago this week.

The Apollo lunar module had a transmitter for sending back not only TV images but also crucial telemetry, radio communications and the astronaut’s biomedical data—but receiving those signals was no simple matter. The transmitter had a power output of just 20 watts, about the same as a refrigerator light bulb, and picking up that signal from the moon a quarter of a million miles away required huge, dish-shaped antennas. Moreover, as the Earth turns, the moon is only above the horizon for half the day at any one receiving station. So NASA relied on ground stations on three different continents, located at Goldstone, in California’s Mojave Desert, in central Spain, and in south eastern Australia. To this day, these radio stations make up the Deep Space Network, allowing NASA to monitor all parts of the sky for communications at all times.

The critical moment when Armstrong and Aldrin were due to leave the lunar module and step out onto the moon’s surface was initially scheduled for noon, eastern Australia time, which would have put the giant 64-metre dish at Parkes, New South Wales, in prime position to receive the signal.

But all did not go according to plan. The astronauts, eager to leave the spacecraft, decided to skip their scheduled rest break and began preparing for their moonwalk some six hours ahead of schedule, forcing the Australian antennas to aim just above the horizon, rather than overhead. Because of its design, however, Parkes can’t tilt its huge dish any lower than 30 degrees above the horizon. And to complicate matters, it was just then that the windstorm of a lifetime kicked in, with gusts of 60 miles an hour buffeting the giant Parkes dish.

With the winds howling at dangerous speeds, normal protocols would have called for a halt to telescope operations—but this was humankind’s first visit to another world, and the rules were bent. Parkes director John Bolton gave the go-ahead to keep the dish operating.

Fortunately for the Parkes crew, the astronauts took longer than expected to put on their spacesuits and depressurize the lunar module in preparation for the moonwalk, allowing the moon to rise a bit higher in the sky and align with the big dish’s line of sight. And even more fortunately, the delay allowed the storm to blow over. The wind eventually subsided, allowing the telescope to lock onto the Apollo signal.

Controllers in Houston could choose which feed to send out to the TV networks, and in the end telescopes in both California and Australia played a role. Viewers around the world saw the superior images from the enormous Parkes dish—and remained on Parkes for the majority of the two-and-a-half-hour lunar walkabout.

Most viewers would have known nothing of the windstorm at Parkes—or even of the giant dish that played such a vital role in the historic broadcast.

Parkes remains a world-class radio observatory, known for the first detection of Fast Radio Bursts (mysterious bursts of energy from deep space) and for participating in the search for extra-terrestrial civilizations as part of the Breakthrough Listen project. The giant dish also continues to track NASA spacecraft, including Voyager 2, now some 18 billion kilometres from Earth.

Most of the scientists, who work at Parkes today, though too young to remember Apollo, are still keenly aware of the history that surrounds them.

Thank you to Smithsonian.com for the extracts from Dan Falk’s report.

ARRL News says that the Hurricane Watch Net (HWN) and WX4NHC— the Amateur Radio station at the National Hurricane Centre (NHC) in Miami — have announced plans to activate, as Tropical Storm Barry approaches the coast of Louisiana and Mississippi. The HWN activated yesterday (July 13) at 01h00 UTC on both 14.325 MHz and 7.268 MHz.

Graves said that once the net activates on Saturday, it will remain in operation until further notice. He said that the HWN also will be available to provide back-up communication to official agencies in the affected area and will be collecting and reporting “significant damage assessment data” to FEMA officials at the National Hurricane Centre.

“We encourage all ham operators in the affected area to take all safety precautions needed and comply with evacuation orders from authorities,” WX4NHC Assistant Manager Julio Ripoli, WD4R, said. The Hurricane Watch Net and WX4NHC typically coordinate their activities, with the HWN reporting weather data observed by participants to the NHC via WX4NHC.

Hurricane hunters report that Tropical Storm Barry is gaining strength. Forecasters predict additional strengthening before landfall; Barry is expected to be a hurricane when the centre reaches the Louisiana coast. The NHC says dangerous storm surge, heavy rainfall, and high wind conditions are expected across the north-central Gulf Coast.

The heavy rainfall could generate additional flooding in the region. According to NHC forecasters, Barry is expected to produce total rain accumulations of 10 to 20 inches over south-central and southeast Louisiana as well as over southwest Mississippi, with isolated maximum amounts of 25 inches. “These rains are expected to lead to dangerous, life-threatening flooding over portions of the central Gulf Coast into the Lower Mississippi Valley,” the NHC forecast said.

Please be mindful of emergency nets on 14.325MHz or 7.268MHz, or thereabouts, in the next few days, and maintain radio silence if you hear traffic there.

In a combined report regarding rescues on Table Mountain, written last week, Wilderness Search and Rescue commends three aspects of rescue worth, which showed themselves in a 12 hour period.

Firstly, some of the parties that needed rescuing were able to drop WhatsApp pins on their phone Apps to pinpoint their positions. This is a marvellous development in modern smartphone technology, and made the job, for searchers finding them, considerably easier.

Secondly, the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway Company is always ready to assist in bringing injured or rescued people off the mountain, if the weather allows it.

And thirdly, responders, all of them volunteers, are ready and willing to go back and rescue another person or party, even though they have just come off a challenging and arduous rescue. They are all to be highly commended for this.

In the weekend under consideration, four rescues took place within 12 hours, interestingly involving 11 hikers, 3 from Australia, 2 from the USA, 1 from France and 2 from the Netherlands, with 3 local hikers in the Australian party.

We can only be grateful to the climbers, 4-wheel drive enthusiasts and HAMNET members, who brought all these people safely down.

This is Dave Reece  ZS1DFR  reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.

HAMNET Report 7 July 2019

The Belfast Telegraph Digital reports that an amateur radio enthusiast from County Londonderry has helped rescue a man more than 300 miles away in Wales.

Dungiven couple Esther Harper, and her husband Ivan Evans, were in Co Fermanagh near the border town of Belcoo yesterday lunchtime, when Esther received a mayday call.

Fellow radio ham Richard Haynes had stumbled across what he believed to be an injured motorist in the county of Ceredigion. The driver was on the Greenlaning Road on the Strata Florida trail, an off-road driving route.

Richard radioed Esther, who was surprised to receive the mayday call.

“I had a great signal, which is very unusual for that part of the Mournes,” she told the Belfast Telegraph.

“I had never heard a mayday call before.”

Esther immediately sprang into action and rang 999. The emergency operator asked her to ring Richard back and get further details, because the rescue services weren’t sure if the call was genuine at the time.

When Esther radioed back she was able to get a grid reference and asked Richard to name a town close to where they were. From these details, the rescue services in Northern Ireland were able to contact the ambulance service in Wales. The emergency services were able to scramble a helicopter with a medical crew aboard, which was successful in rescuing the injured party.

After the brief encounter on the radio Esther heard nothing until later that evening.

But at around 8pm Richard got in contact with her to confirm the emergency services had arrived. Esther was unable to confirm the condition of the injured person, but was told that he had been air lifted within an hour of her ringing 999.

“I was amazed at the link-up between the different services. We were taken aback,” Esther said. Both she and her husband are members of the Northern Ireland North West Raynet group, which is part of a British national voluntary communications service provided by amateur radio operators.

Here’s a good example of the sort of report issued by a Field Day group in America after the exercise 2 weeks ago.

The Edgefield County Amateur Radio Club (call sign WR4EC) with the assistance of the Edgefield County Emergency Management Agency had a successful weekend on June 22nd & 23rd, participating in the Nation-wide Amateur Radio Field Day event. Nine operators set up, operated and broke down various radios and antennas throughout the weekend.  Switching between different modes of transmitting (voice, digital, and Morse Code), eight of the operators were able to provide 24 hours of continuous radio coverage.  The operators made 184 contacts across the country and with several other countries.

Amateur Radio Field Day has provided excellent training and situational awareness among the Amateur Radio operators in Edgefield County over the past few years.  Working as a team they have become proficient in being able to set up remote sites for communications by coming up with a plan and implementing it.  They are flexible and able to adapt when the plans need to be changed due to weather or other unforeseen circumstances.

In a provisional appeal for volunteers to assist, Alister ZS1OK, of HAMNET Western Cape, says that a total of six operators with three vehicles are required to assist with communications for the Wildrunner Cape Winter Trail Series race taking place in the Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve at Kleinmond on Saturday, the 10th of August.

Two operators are required at the base. The other two vehicles, with two operators each, will be posted to two other locations along the route.  One vehicle is normally required at the Betty’s Bay side of the river, and a high clearance vehicle for this will be an advantage.

Any Hamnet operator able and willing to assist, is please to email Alister at zs1ok.alister@gmail.com.

Operators need to be at the start point in Kleinmond by 06h45 for the event briefing.  The event typically concludes by 14h00.

Seismologists are nervously watching the tectonic activity along America’s West coast after 2 major earthquakes in the last couple of days.

Saturday morning, at 05h19 our time, a magnitude 7.1 earthquake struck California just North East of Los Angeles, and about 100km  from Death Valley. 74000 people live within 100km of the epicentre at a depth of 17km.

Aljazeera, quoted by News24, says that tTop of Form

tt  tttt   he shallow quake struck near the small city of Ridgecrest and followed a 6.4-magnitude quake that hit the same area the day before.

The latest earthquake was 11 times stronger than the previous day’s “foreshock”, according to the US Geological Survey, and is part of what seismologists are calling an “earthquake sequence”.

The tremor was felt more than 240km away in Los Angeles, where the fire department deployed vehicles and helicopters to check on damage and residents in need of emergency aid.

The earthquake was the largest in southern California since 1999 when a 7.1-magnitude quake struck the Twentynine Palms Marine Corps base, according to The Los Angeles Times.

The tremor sent Ridgecrest residents fleeing outside for safety and reporting continued  aftershocks, with one woman saying she was “not comfortable” about heading back inside for the night.

The quake revived fears of the “Big One” – a powerful tremor along the San Andreas Fault that could devastate major cities in southern California.

On Thursday, Caltech seismologist Lucy Jones had warned a press conference that there was “about a one-in-20 chance that this location will be having an even bigger earthquake within the next few days, and that we have not yet seen the biggest earthquake of the sequence.”

On Friday, Jones tweeted: “You know we say we have a 1 in 20 chance that an earthquake will be followed by something bigger? This is that 1 in 20 chance.”

HAMNET hopes that there will not be “something bigger” in the next few days, and asks operators to be mindful of the HF emergency frequencies used worldwide. Please listen carefully before transmitting on 20, 40 and 80 metres, and, even if you only hear some transmissions down in the noise floor, please give a wide berth to frequencies potentially being used.

This is Dave Reece  ZS1DFR  reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.