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.