HAMNET Report 21 July 2019

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.

HAMNET Report 30 June 2019

The Sun is the largest source of energy in the solar system. This sphere of hot plasma occasionally sends out charged particles that can create havoc to electronics orbiting our planet, and are fatal for astronauts in space.

In order to get a closer look at such solar events, NASA has previously launched solar missions like ‘Parker’, designed to touch the star. The latest in line to map the Sun and its effects on space weather is ‘Punch,’ set to launch in August 2022.

PUNCH stands for the “Polarimeter to Unify the Corona and Heliosphere”. The aim of the mission will be to study the complex relationships between the Sun’s blistering outer layer, the corona, and the heliosphere, the Sun’s range of influence that extends up to Pluto. The mission will orbit very close to the Earth, only 350 miles up and will track and image solar wind leaving the Sun. The spacecraft is composed of four separate probes, each one no larger than a suitcase.

As the solar particles interact with Earth’s magnetic field, the impacted space weather can have a significant effect on radio communications and the Global Positioning System (GPS). With PUNCH, scientists hope to unravel these dynamics and also other solar weather events such as coronal mass ejections, which can find their way into the Earth’s path, hindering satellites and disrupting the power system.

According to NASA, PUNCH is a small mission, as per the space agency’s standards, not priced more than $165 million. One of the probes of the spacecraft will carry a narrow-field imager looking at the polarized light from the Sun. PUNCH will be the first mission with the sensitivity and polarization capability to routinely track solar wind in 3D.

NASA scientists believe that by studying this phenomenon, they will be able better to predict solar wind and prevent damage to technology and astronauts in space.

Along with PUNCH, NASA is also gearing up for a second mission “Tandem Reconnection and Cusp Electrodynamics Reconnaissance Satellites”, or TRACERS which will explore Earth’s northern magnetic cusp region and how it interacts with Sun’s magnetic fields.

Southgate Amateur Radio News reports that 14,300 people attended the Ham Radio 2019 event in Friedrichshafen, down from the 15,460 in 2018 and the 17,400 in 2009. A translation of the DARC post reads:

The 44th HAM RADIO event together with the 70th Lake Constance meeting ended on Sunday [June 23] with the conclusion of 14300 visitors. “That’s a very good value,” summarizes Petra Rathgeber of the exhibition project management. Anyway, this results in a generally positive picture of the weekend. We talked to many exhibitors, volunteers and visitors during the Sunday tour and consistently heard the statement “satisfied”.

The date for the 45th HAM RADIO and the 71st Lake Constance meeting has already been decided:  June 26-28, 2020, again at the Friedrichshafen Exhibition Centre. With that, Europe’s biggest amateur radio show returns to its traditional last weekend in June. We look forward to seeing you again on Lake Constance!

Reporting in Univadis Medical News, researchers say they have developed a new tool to monitor people for cardiac arrest contactlessly, by detecting agonal, or gasping, breathing using a smart speaker such as a smartphone or a device such as Amazon Alexa.

Using real-world audio of agonal breathing heard on emergency calls for cardiac arrests, researchers trained a support vector machine (SVM) to accurately classify agonal breathing instances. The researchers also trained the SVM to detect interfering sounds such as air conditioning as well as instances of abnormal breathing captured during sleep studies.

On average, the proof-of-concept tool detected agonal breathing events 97 per cent of the time over the phone from up to 6 metres away.

The team envisions the algorithm could function like an app, or a skill for Alexa that runs passively on a smart speaker or smartphone while people sleep. And they now plan to commercialise the tool.

Writing in npj Digital  Medicine, the authors said the increasing adoption of commodity smart speakers in private residences and hospital environments may provide a wide-reaching means to realise the potential of a contactless cardiac arrest detection system.

The website phys.org reports that scientists have finally found malaria’s Achilles’ heel, namely a neurotoxin that isn’t harmful to any living thing except Anopheles mosquitoes that spread malaria.

Progress fighting the disease is threatened, as Anopheles develop resistance to chemical insecticides used to control them. There is also great concern about toxic side effects of the chemicals.

An international team led by Sarjeet Gill, distinguished professor of molecular, cell and systems biology at UC Riverside, has identified a neurotoxin produced by a bacteria, and determined how it kills Anopheles. Their work is detailed in a paper published in Nature Communications.

“Identifying the mechanisms by which the bacteria targets Anopheles has not been easy,” Gill said. “We were excited not only to find the neurotoxin, called PMP1, but also several proteins that likely protect PMP1 as it’s being absorbed in the mosquito’s gut.

Clearly, the next problem is going to be finding a way to get the neurotoxin into every female Anopheles mosquito. Stand by with bated breath for the next episode in this developing story!

Another report from Keith Lowes, ZS5WFD, says that HAMNET KZN has been invited to a “Breakfast Session” being held on Monday 01 July 2019 to showcase the current technology and services provided by the Emergency Mobilising and Communication Centre, which is a 24/7 operation positioned within the Disaster Management Centre for eThekwini Municipality.

The Emergency Centre handles incoming calls and Despatch/Mobilisation in the various regions for the Fire Services, Metro Police unit and Disaster Management branch. Internal and external stakeholders have been invited to participate in this session that will involve presentations and a question and answer session.

HAMNET KZN will also have a display of Amateur Radio equipment in their dedicated radio room within the Disaster Management Operations Centre.

Thanks for that news, Keith, and good luck with the presentation.

This Dave Reece  ZS1DFR  reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.

HAMNET Report 23 June 2019

As an example of a newspaper cover of the Field Day exercise taking place in America this weekend, here’s a report from Fair Lawn, in New Jersey.

Members of the Fair Lawn Radio Amateur Club will be participating in the national Amateur Radio Field Day exercise, beginning  Saturday, June 22nd at 2PM and ending Sunday, June 23rd at 1PM local time. The venue will be Memorial Park, c/o Avenue of Heroes/Berdan Avenue  in Fair Lawn. The event is open to everyone and refreshments will be served.

This year’s theme will feature a weekend of science and technology focused on radio science. The club will offer working demonstrations and present visitors with the opportunity to look at the Sun through a solar telescope to learn about its impact upon radio communications on earth; a satellite station offering the opportunity to communicate with orbiting satellites (and, quite possibly, the International Space Station); a chance to “get on the air” and talk with others around the country; to see a high frequency radio alternative to local land-based cellular communication; and to watch demonstrations of both the latest and earliest forms of radio transmitting.

As usual, the club will partner with other ham radio operators across North America establishing temporary ham radio stations in public locations during Field Day weekend, to showcase the science and skill of Amateur Radio. This year the Fair Lawn club will feature four working radio stations. “Field Day”, an annual event since 1933, demonstrates ham radio’s ability to work reliably under any conditions from almost any location and create an independent communications network. Ham operators train and prepare to support emergency communications by providing radio links when other communications channels aren’t working. The previous year’s hurricane disasters in Puerto Rico, Florida and Texas highlighted the value of amateur radio, which provided communications lifelines when all other methods were disabled.

This year’s event  also showcases the club’s work in public service. “In disasters, we’ve learned that cell towers won’t work and ham operators play a huge role when that happens.” said Brad Kerber, President of the Fair Lawn club. “Ham radio functions completely independent of the Internet or cell phone infrastructure, and can be set up almost anywhere in minutes. That’s the beauty of amateur radio during a communications outage.” “Hams can literally throw a wire in a tree for an antenna, connect it to a battery-powered transmitter and communicate halfway around the world,” Kerber added. “In today’s electronic do-it-yourself (DIY) environment, ham radio remains one of the best ways for people to learn about electronics, physics, meteorology, and numerous other scientific disciplines, and is a huge asset to any community during disasters if the standard communications infrastructure goes down.” Amateur radio remains contemporary and more important than ever!

Thanks to the TAPinto Fair Lawn online news service for this excerpt.

Southgate Amateur Radio News reports that the Radio Society of Australia (RASA) has written to the Australian Government radio regulator seeking an increase in output power from 400W to 1kW for advanced class amateurs.

RASA Secretary, Dr. Andrew Smith, VK6AS, produced a research/ background paper on how the issues of higher power at HF and EMR/I/C limits are managed in other countries.

The paper concludes that:

  • there is no health or occupational health reason preventing power limits for (Australian) Radio Amateurs in the HF/VHF/UHF bands to be increased; and
  • there is little or no evidence that suggests that an increase in power will increase complaints of RFI.

This seems to me to be a very progressive step, and would bring Australian regulations in line with large portions of the Amateur radio world. Let’s hope the request is granted.

Now to Friedrichshafen, Germany, where Delegations from ARRL and the International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) are currently attending HAM RADIO 2019, the popular international Amateur Radio exhibition. Each year, a contingent from ARRL attends HAM RADIO, greeting its non-US members and networking with other national radio societies. Billed as Europe’s biggest Amateur Radio convention, HAM RADIO 2019 takes place from June the 21st to the 23rd on the shores of Lake Constance.

Attending on behalf of the IARU are President Tim Ellam, VE6SH/G4HUA; Secretary David Sumner, K1ZZ, and past IARU Secretary and ARRL President (1995 – 2000) Rod Stafford, W6ROD.

This year’s event marks the 44th HAM RADIO exhibition and the 70th Lake Constance Convention of Radio Amateurs, sponsored by Germany’s IARU member-society, the Deutscher Amateur Radio Club (DARC). The convention theme this year is “Amateur Radio on Tour.”

DARC Press Spokesperson Stephanie Heine, DO7PR, points out, “Radio amateurs know no bounds and are on land and water as well as in the air with their mobile ‘ham radio shacks.’ They like having the option of being reachable all over the world on their expeditions and getting to know new friends.”

Thanks to the ARRL Letter for those notes.

The indefatigable Keith Lowes ZS5WFD and his band of men are at it again, gearing themselves up for an event. He writes:

We have had almost a week’s rest since the Comrades Marathon so before we get withdrawal symptoms, our next event is the Scottburgh to Brighton Sand & Surf Marathon.

HAMNET KZN provided communications for this event yesterday, the  22nd June 2019. The event covered 46.5Km starting at Scottburgh on the South Coast, a compulsory check in at the beach in Amanzimtoti, and finishing at Brighton Beach on the Bluff in Durban. This is one of South Africa’s premier ocean paddling races and is definitely a blue ribbon event on the surfski calendar. Having begun in 1958, the event proudly holds the title of the oldest long distance surfski race in the world.  The race started at 06H30 provided that it was sufficiently light to ensure paddlers safety. Were weather conditions to be deemed dangerous, today was to be the alternate date.

Categories included double and single ski’s, kneeboard paddlers, and runners on the beach.

14 Hamnet operators were positioned at key points along the route to be able to advise the control station at Athlone Park of any incidents.  Communications were maintained with Inshore Rescue Boats(IRB’s) via a commercial simplex radio channel.  This was a joint operation involving Hamnet, Lifesaving South Africa, NSRI and eThekwini Lifeguards.

A Control Station was established at Athlone Park in Amanzimtoti, giving full 2M simplex radio coverage of the event.

Keep up the good work, Keith – you and your team are certainly putting the rest of HAMNET SA to shame!

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

HAMNET Report 16 June 2019

We are again indebted to Keith Lowes, ZS5WFD, this time for a report on the Comrades Marathon run last Sunday. He says that this year’s event saw 29 operators positioned at selected refreshment points, along with 2 operators each at the Durban Disaster Management Centre and Scottsville Race Course JOC respectively, giving a total of 33.

“With the large number of operators required,  a joint operation between HAMNET, REACT (Radio Emergency Associated Citizen Teams using CB Radio on Ch 24 & 21) and LCCSA (Land Cruiser Club of SA) was implemented, with relay stations situated at strategic points to facilitate interoperability.  When all is said and done, we all have an interest in radio, and we were able to come together as a team and provide a solution.  My thanks to Guy ZR5GB who co-ordinated the assistance of the LCCSA members.

“Justin ZS5JW and Kimmy ZS5KIM were plunged into the deep-end this year and did an absolutely first class job of handling the Durban JOC, being operational from 04H30.  They managed all radio traffic from water tables up until Cato Ridge, when Keith ZS5WFD and Willem ZS5WA at the Pietermaritzburg JOC took over.   The Finish JOC only closed down at 20H00 after having had an early start at 7am.

“WhatsApp was used to great effect in support of normal radio traffic until around 16H00 when overloading of the cellular networks became a problem due to the large number of runners and spectators at the finish putting pressure on it.  This also had an effect on officials that were using PTT  radio systems reliant on the cellular network backbone. Good old fashioned VHF/UHF analogue radio did not suffer from this problem and continued to operate normally.

“I am pleased to report that no serious medical incidents were reported on the road, although an extensive medical plan was in place with Netcare 911 managing the event.  They had deployed 16 ambulances, 6 rapid response vehicles with Advanced Life Support, as well as 6 motor bikes with paramedics.  A helicopter was also on standby.  A full trauma centre was  established within the finish venue.  Quite a number of medical requests were made to their representatives in the JOC’s both at Durban and Pietermaritzburg and in a number of cases the runners had recovered sufficiently to continue with the race before they arrived.  Others just retired and were picked up by the rescue (bailer) buses. A number of requests for additional water and Arnica Ice for tired, aching and cramping muscles were received, but due to congestion on the route it was not possible to get additional supplies to these water points timeously.

“With over 20,000 runners and hundreds of spectators, it is always a  concern to respond to incidents on the route safely, and response times will never be as quick as would be achieved under normal road conditions.

“Justin ZS5KT at Essex Terrace in Westville had a number of issues at Table 3 with camera crews on motorbikes getting far too close to runners.  The directive issued had been to maintain a safe distance of at least 30 metres from runners.

“A bottleneck caused by major roadwork’s in the vicinity to 45th Cutting at Sherwood also resulted in large groups of runners crossing over onto the Durban bound carriageway of the M13 freeway which was open for normal traffic.  Video and still footage has been submitted by Justin and will be forwarded to the race organisers at the de-briefing.  These incidents were all reported to the JOC and logged accordingly.

“The initial plan was to link the Midlands Amateur Radio Club (MARC) 145.750 repeater to the Highway Amateur Radio Club (HARC) 145.625 repeater, but local interference was causing the 750 to lock up the 625.  Mike ZS5ML and Koos ZS5KDK were able to unlink them and we operated them in stand-alone mode.  Good use was also made of cross-band mobile repeaters, and a list with frequency/CTCSS tone allocations was circulated to avoid interference between users.

“Unfortunately due to my work commitments and the passing of OM Glen ZS5GD last year, who put in many long hours at the Expo with me in the past, we did not participate in the Comrades Expo that was held from 06 to 08 June 2019.

“Once again I extend my thanks to all of the operators that worked together to ensure the safety of all participants and spectators, as without you our task would be impossible.” Close quotation.

Thanks for the excellent report Keith. It looks as though the runners were safer because of your combined presence.

From SKA Global Headquarters, comes a report that the SKA Organisation has followed closely the recent developments towards creating constellations of satellites that aim to offer wireless broadband access in remote areas.

Prof. Philip Diamond, the SKA Director-General says “Innovation and societal impact are at the heart of our mission to deliver the world’s largest radio telescope, and indeed we feel some community pride that Wi-Fi itself originated as a globally-significant spin-off from fundamental radio astronomy research.

“Radio astronomers have been engaged for decades in the work of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) – a United Nations Agency – to regulate the international use of the radio frequency spectrum. Their efforts ensured a limited number of narrow bands of the spectrum received protection in the 1960s to allow radio astronomy to develop and conduct essential and unique research.

“Over the years however, there has been growing pressure on the spectrum due to the arrival of novel technologies. However, at the same time radio astronomy has developed extensively beyond those bands to remain at the forefront of scientific breakthroughs. In the case of the SKA, our eventual ability to observe the sky across a large part of the radio spectrum continuously, promises a wealth of discoveries in an extremely broad range of science disciplines.

“Whilst there is legislation in place at the two SKA sites in Australia and South Africa to protect the telescopes from ground-based radio interference at those frequencies, the use of air and space-borne radio communications is regulated on a collaborative international basis, often coordinated through the ITU.

“As a global project, we firmly believe in the power of collaboration. As a sector member of ITU, we are engaging directly with companies such as SpaceX to explore mitigation options and initiatives that could be applied  to ensure that the large-scale investments in the SKA and other radio telescopes, their discovery potential and the likely spin-offs coming out of their development, are safeguarded, while these new developments in telecommunications, with their obvious broader societal benefits, flourish.

“Recent public statements from SpaceX officials are reassuring in this respect and we remain optimistic that the development of such satellite constellations can be compatible with radio astronomy, preserving our ability as a society to continue advancing our knowledge about our universe.

“We look forward to further cooperation to evolve a radio astronomy friendly environment.” Close quote.

Perhaps the SKA and SpaceX’s goals ARE compatible after all.

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

HAMNET Report 9 June 2019

Keith Lowes, ZS5WFD, Divisional Director of HAMNET KwaZulu Natal reports that they provided support for the Standard Bank 70.3 Ironman held in Durban on Sunday 02 June 2019.  The race consisted of a 1.9Km swim, a 90.1 Km Cycle ride and finished off with a relaxing 21.1Km run along the Durban beachfront.

A total of 10 operators were stationed at points covering the route, with Justin ZS5KT on foot with the Race Director, who covered a distance of 22Km foot-mobile by the end of the day.  There were 2 operators in the VOC  (Provincial Director Keith Lowes ZS5WFD assisted by Ugo ZS5UGR), Craig ZS5CD at the cycle turnaround point at the M4/ Umdloti , whilst Geoff ZS5AGM and Val ZS5VAL were at the other end of the cycle route in Sandile Thusi (Argyle) Road.

Troy ZS5TWJ was positioned at the race penalty tent in the parking lot of Suncoast Casino, Wayne ZS5WAY was on the run route at Blue Lagoon,  Terry ZS5TB at the Pirates Surf Lifesaving Club, and Deon ZS5DD at Ushaka Beach.

90% of communications were handled on 145.525 Simplex, with the 145.7625 repeater used to communicate with Craig ZS5CD at Umdloti.

Keith reports no serious race casualties and thanks all those who volunteered to help with this annual race.

He and his band of merry men in HAMNET KZN are busy again today shepherding the Comrades runners on another up-run from Durban to Pietermaritzburg. We hope the weather is acceptable today, and the race goes well. Keith says he will send me a report on the Comrades for inclusion in this bulletin in the coming weeks.

Greg Mossop G0DUB, the IARU Region 1 Emergency Communications Co-ordinator, has released the schedule for the Emergency Comms meeting to be held at Friedrichshafen on the 21st of June.

After a welcome and a short region 1 report, Greg will lead a discussion on what use we can make of Satellites for Emergency Communications, including Low Earth Orbit and Geostationary satellites. This will be followed by another open discussion on HF conditions and weak signal message modes like JS8call.

Then Alberto IK1YLO will show a 6 minute film about the North East Italian Flood Exercise of 5-9 June 2018, followed by an update on their national DMR project.

Ron 4X1IG will talk about a contest as a drill, and then Oliver DL7TNY will introduce the attendees to AREDN data networks.

After a short open forum to answer any remaining questions and for guidance for new groups, Greg will discuss how EmComms would respond to a power grid failure.

All in all a useful meeting, and I’m sorry that we may not get to hear about the entire proceedings.

Southgate Amateur Radio News reminds us that the Hara Arena used to be the venue for the Dayton Hamvention before it took up residence at the Xenia Fairgrounds, also in Ohio.

This week, just days after the Xenia Hamvention was over, word was received that Ohio ARES was activated after a tornado badly damaged Hara Arena in Trotwood on US Memorial Day.

According to a report from WHIO TV, Hara Arena suffered extensive damage. Drone video showed that the roof and side of the structure had been blown off in several places. Hamvention relocated to the Xenia Fairgrounds in 2017, after Hara Arena shut down the previous year.

The Hara Arena damage apparently resulted from what CBS News called “a large and dangerous tornado” that struck Trotwood. Ohio Section Emergency Coordinator Stan Broadway, N8BHL, said ARES counties and districts activated that evening after nearly 40 tornado warnings were issued across the state.

It must have been a wild and dangerous time for the residents of Ohio.

Reporting on another disaster, the IOL website says that social media was the unsung hero of the 2017 Knysna fires and an independent disaster report released on Thursday recommends that municipality communications teams should make more use of social networking to improve communication with the public.

According to Richard Walls, who heads up Stellenbosch University’s Fire Engineering Research Unit (FireSUN), social media was extensively used during the incident. Walls, who delivered a slide presentation during the launch of the report, said that while “Facebook was used more by Knysna residents tracking the fire, Twitter was used more in the relief efforts that followed”.

The report, Minimising The Risk And Impact Of Another Mega-Fire In South Africa, recommended that “municipality communications teams must identify high-profile social media influencers and enlist their support in spreading messages and directing users to information sources”.

Another key recommendation was that insurers develop more affordable insurance products for the so-called missing middle, the households which are not sufficiently impoverished to be supported by government welfare, but which are not able to afford insurance. Communities could also join the local Fire Protection Association (FPA), the report said, and participate in setting up fire-wise communities. Residents and landowners should work with FPAs to map and monitor the extent and densities of invasive alien plant re-growth accurately.

This is fundamental to determining the amount and duration of funding required to control the massive regeneration of invading plant species after fires.

Other recommendations in the report commissioned by short-term insurer Santam included managing or controlling the presence of fire-prone vegetation and other combustible or flammable material on tracts of land, attending to all fire call-outs even if they don’t appear threatening, and focussing more on public education and awareness programmes on the risks associated with wildfires.

The Knysna fire was the worst wildfire disaster in South Africa’s history. The report found that its severity was caused by a cocktail of factors including drought, low atmospheric humidity, strong winds and abundant fuel.

Thank you to IOL for those extracts from the report.

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

HAMNET Report 2 June 2019

NewsHub reports that Elon Musk has enraged astronomers around the world, who are warning his SpaceX company is putting the future of astronomy at risk. Musk plans to encircle the world with 12,000 Starlink communications satellites, and launched the first 60 into orbit a few days ago.

The satellites are high-reflective, and they’re currently lighting up the night sky with a spectacular ‘train’ of lights. But scientists fear his plan for space domination could have dramatic adverse effects on their research.

A number of senior figures say the satellites will cause a massive spike in light pollution in the sky, affecting the use of large, sensitive ground-based telescopes. “The potential tragedy of a mega-constellation like Starlink is that for the rest of humanity it changes how the night sky looks,” Ronald Drimmel, from the Turin Astrophysical Observatory in Italy, told Forbes. “Starlink, and other mega constellations, would ruin the sky for everyone on the planet.”

Mark McCaughrean, the senior advisor for science and exploration at the European Space Agency, warns a drastic increase in visible satellites is a “chilling thought”. “The more I think about this, the more of a disaster it seems and not just for astronomers,” he tweeted.

“Just trying desperately to scramble for any possible way this can go well,” agreed science writer Mika McKinnon.

US astronomy student Victoria Girgis took a photo of what they look like passing in front of her telescope with a 25-second exposure. The result was a night sky smeared with satellites.

And Royal Institution of Australia lead scientist Alan Duffy, an astronomer at Swinburne University, warned the completion of the Starlink network will only make things worse. “A full constellation of Starlink satellites will likely mean the end of Earth-based microwave-radio telescopes able to scan the heavens for faint radio objects,” Duffy told ScienceAlert. “The enormous benefits of global internet coverage will outweigh the cost to astronomers, but the loss of the radio sky is a cost to humanity as we lose our collective birthright to see the afterglow of the Big Bang or the glow of forming stars from Earth”, he said.

Musk has defended his actions, variously arguing that the International Space Station also has lights, that his satellites won’t have any impact, SpaceX is working to mitigate any impacts, that even if they did have an impact it was for the “greater good”, and scientists need to upgrade their equipment anyway.

I, in turn, wonder what the effect on the Square Kilometre Array will be in Southern Africa. I am amazed that the concept of 12000 satellites, causing light and electronic pollution everywhere around the globe, got as far as the launch of 60 of them!

Writing for Phys.org, Mike Williams of Rice University says that wearable devices that harvest energy from movement are not a new idea, but a material created at Rice University may make them more practical.

The Rice lab of chemist James Tour has adapted laser-induced graphene (LIG) into small, metal-free devices that generate electricity. Like rubbing a balloon on hair, putting LIG composites in contact with other surfaces produces static electricity that can be used to power devices.

For that, thank the triboelectric effect, by which materials gather a charge through contact. When they are put together and then pulled apart, surface charges build up that can be channelled toward power generation.

In experiments, the researchers connected a folded strip of LIG to a string of light-emitting diodes and found that tapping the strip produced enough energy to make them flash. A larger piece of LIG embedded within a flip-flop let a wearer generate energy with every step, as the graphene composite’s repeated contact with skin produced a current to charge a small capacitor.

“This could be a way to recharge small devices just by using the excess energy of heel strikes during walking, or swinging arm movements against the torso,” Tour said.

“The nanogenerator embedded within a flip-flop was able to store 0.22 millijoules of electrical energy on a capacitor after a 1-kilometer walk,” said Rice postdoctoral researcher Michael Stanford, lead author of the paper. “This rate of energy storage is enough to power wearable sensors and electronics with human movement.”

The weekend of the 23rd to 26th of May was a busy time for the Peninsula Wilderness Search and Rescue (WSAR) teams. Four difficult rescues took place, two of them ending badly.

On the 23rd, a team responded to assist a climber injured after some rocks had fallen on him at Llandudno Corner. A helicopter lowered rescuers to the site, where two victims were found. A climber with a minor ankle injury was hoisted out and delivered to the landing zone, while a second more seriously injured patient was immobilised and packaged for safe hoisting and delivery to the landing zone.

On the 24th, a man was discovered just off a path in Newlands Forest to be deceased, and was carried off the scene down to a Metro Rescue Vehicle before being handed over to Forensic Pathology Services.

On the 25th, a climber became stuck on a ledge after sustaining an ankle injury above Woodstock Cave on Devil’s Peak. Again, a helicopter evacuation was needed, and two rescuers were lowered to the ledge. The hiker was secured in a special “nappy harness”, hoisted to the helicopter, and delivered to the awaiting ground crew at the landing zone.

And, on the 26th, a report was received of a cardio-pulmonary resuscitation being attempted on a person who had collapsed in Tokai Forest. Rescuers were able to drive along the forest jeep tracks to reach the area known as “level four”, near where a middle-aged man was found to have suffered a cardiac arrest while mountain biking with friends. Members of that group had immediately begun CPR while summoning help. After more than an hour, attempts to revive him were abandoned by the Metro Medical Rescue Technicians, and he was declared dead on the scene. Police Services attended to the removal of his body.

WSAR conveys its sincerest condolences to the families and friends of these two men.

HAMNET in turn salutes the work of the groups of volunteers comprising WSAR who took part in rescuing or retrieving the various parties.

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

HAMNET Report 26 May 2019

May I start this bulletin today by congratulating the 129 candidates who passed this May’s Radio Amateur Exam, and now find themselves licensed to be heard on the airwaves. Well done all, we hope to hear you all on the air soon, and hope that at least some of you will join HAMNET in your relevant province or division, to assist with emergency communications or sporting events. Please contact me for details of your local divisional director of HAMNET.

In the first Snow Report of the Winter for Southern Africa, mention was made on Tuesday the 21st of a light dusting of snow on the top of the Matroosberg near Ceres that morning. This followed the night after the first winter storm to hit the Western Cape brought  between 30 and 70mm of rain at least to mountain ranges and dam catchment areas in the Overberg and Western Cape region. Night-time temperatures have dropped considerably since the cold front of last weekend, but a fairly dry week and a half has followed the front, and no more rain is forecast here for another week.

Those ever-vigilant reporters at Southgate Amateur Radio News say that The Hindu reports that members of the Amateur Radio Society of Odisha (ARSO) want the state government to promote amateur radio.

The newspaper says the Odisha government should promote amateur radio enthusiasts in all blocks of Odisha to increase preparedness at the time of communication failure, especially during natural calamities, according to members  of the ARSO.

But ARSO laments that during cyclone Fani, Odisha government did not take their direct help, and preferred to use HAM operators from West Bengal and Hyderabad, who faced problems with respect to language and lack of knowledge of localities.

The group has 25 licensed HAM radio operators who regularly update the technology along with their operational skill. In February this year, they had tested their communication skills at an uninhabited island within Chilika lake to check their    preparedness for natural calamities like cyclonic storms.

During cyclone Fani, members of ARSO reached Puri on May 4 to provide support to the public after all conventional modes of communication had failed after landfall of the cyclone. Connecting to the internet in Berhampur via HAM radio, they were able to reach out to social media, asking  people living outside to provide addresses of their family members in the cyclone-devastated regions so that news about their condition could be checked and passed on. Hundreds of families of Puri and Chandanpur areas are said to have benefited from this.

Thank you to The Hindu for the follow-up on the effects of Cyclone Fani.

Scientists from Ireland and France announced a major new finding on Friday about how matter behaves in the extreme conditions of the Sun’s atmosphere.

The scientists used large radio telescopes and ultraviolet cameras on a NASA spacecraft to understand better the exotic but poorly understood “fourth state of matter”. Known as plasma, this matter could hold the key to developing safe, clean and efficient nuclear energy generators on Earth. The scientists published their findings in the leading international journal Nature Communications.

Most of the matter we encounter in our everyday lives comes in the form of solid, liquid or gas, but the majority of the Universe is composed of plasma—a highly unstable and electrically charged fluid. The Sun is also made up of this plasma.

Despite being the most common form of matter in the Universe plasma remains a mystery, mainly due to its scarcity in natural conditions on Earth, which makes it difficult to study. Special laboratories on Earth recreate the extreme conditions of space for this purpose, but the Sun represents an all-natural laboratory to study how plasma behaves in conditions that are often too extreme for the manually constructed Earth-based laboratories.

Postdoctoral Researcher at Trinity College Dublin and the Dublin Institute of Advanced Studies (DIAS), Dr. Eoin Carley, led the international collaboration. He said: “The solar atmosphere is a hotbed of extreme activity, with plasma temperatures in excess of 1 million degrees Celsius and particles that travel close to light-speed. The light-speed particles shine bright at radio wavelengths, so we’re able to monitor exactly how plasmas behave with large radio telescopes.”

“We worked closely with scientists at the Paris Observatory and performed observations of the Sun with a large radio telescope located in Nançay in central France. We combined the radio observations with ultraviolet cameras on NASA’s space-based Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft to show that plasma on the sun can often emit radio light that pulses like a light-house. We have known about this activity for decades, but our use of space and ground-based equipment allowed us to image the radio pulses for the first time and see exactly how plasmas become unstable in the solar atmosphere.”

Studying the behaviour of plasmas on the Sun allows for a comparison of how they behave on Earth, where much effort is now under way to build magnetic confinement fusion reactors. These are nuclear energy generators that are much safer, cleaner and more efficient than their fission reactor cousins that we currently use for energy today.

Professor at DIAS and collaborator on the project, Peter Gallagher, said: “Nuclear fusion is a different type of nuclear energy generation that fuses plasma atoms together, as opposed to breaking them apart like fission does. Fusion is more stable and safer, and it doesn’t require highly radioactive fuel; in fact, much of the waste material from fusion is inert helium.”

“The only problem is that nuclear fusion plasmas are highly unstable. As soon as the plasma starts generating energy, some natural process switches off the reaction. While this switch-off behaviour is like an inherent safety switch, in that fusion reactors cannot form runaway reactions, it also means the plasma is difficult to maintain in a stable state for energy generation. By studying how plasmas become unstable on the Sun, we can learn about how to control them on Earth.”

And this report came from the website phys.org to whom we extend thanks.

Finally, Dayton Hamvention has come and gone, and your writer awaits with keen interest news of new equipment and technologies announced over the weekend. It is understood that a new SDR transceiver from Elecraft, and many new gadgets from MFJ Industries, are amongst the revelations. More news as soon as I acquire it.

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

HAMNET Report 19 May 2019

One of the strongest solar magnetic storms in recent years, which began early on 14 May and was forecast to continue through the evening, could have increased the possibility of spacecraft de-orbiting, and caused problems in satellite navigation and communication, the Lebedev Physical Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences (LPI RAS) said.

“In accordance with the developed scale of magnetic storms, level three storms have a noticeable impact on technology, especially in space, including causing [space] vehicles to de-orbit and creating problems with maintaining their orientation”, the LPI RAS Laboratory of X-ray Astronomy of the Sun said in a statement.

The lab added that interruptions in satellite navigation and problems with low-frequency radio navigation, as well as interruptions in high-frequency radio communication were expected. In turn, Russian State Space Corporation Roscosmos told Sputnik that it did not record changes in the work of Russian satellites [as a result of] the magnetic storm.

The most powerful geomagnetic storm seen in almost two years, caused by the solar activity, began on Tuesday morning, chief scientist of the Laboratory of Solar X-ray Astronomy of the Lebedev Physical Institute Sergey Bogachev told Sputnik.

“In comparison with the events of recent years, this is a major event. Over the past year and a half or two, this is the severest magnetic storm, an impressive event. This event forms aurora, and creates interference in radio communications”, Bogachev said.

According to the scientist, the geomagnetic storm can affect meteo-sensitive people too.

The storm began on Tuesday around 03h00 UTC and was expected to last through the evening, as this kind of event usually lasts up to ten hours. Normalisation of the Earth’s magnetic field was expected by the early hours of Wednesday.

Thanks to Space Daily for that report.

The Amateur Radio on the International Space Station team (ARISS) is pleased to announce that it has worked together with Hamvention again this year. Hamvention’s 2019 theme is “Mentoring the Next Generation”, and ends today the 19th..

ARISS’s mission is all about mentoring and inspiring. Tens of thousands of people have been touched by the programme: students, educators, community members, and new hams–all wanting to explore STEM and Amateur Radio through ARISS.

Hamvention’s support to ARISS began with approval for their first-ever ARISS Forum, held last Friday at 1:15pm local time. A group of speakers presented current and future lifelong learning activities for hams and students via ARISS SSTV, APRS, voice repeaters, radio experiments and robots.

Attendees heard about the next generation on-orbit hardware systems, updates on school activities, ARISS’s visionary initiative to fly ham radio on the human spaceflight lunar Gateway, how to maximize hams’ opportunities to make ARISS connections and listen to the ISS crew in home stations, and to meet special guests.

And that report came from the Southgate Amateur Radio News.

This week’s World Health Organisation report says that dementia affects around 50 million people globally with nearly 10 million new cases every year. Dementia is a major cause of disability and dependency among older people.

Here’s important advice for you: You can reduce your risk of dementia by getting regular exercise, not smoking, avoiding harmful use of alcohol, controlling your weight, eating a healthy diet, and maintaining healthy blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels, according to new guidelines issued by WHO.

Strangely, there’s no mention of the important benefit to health of qualifying for and using an amateur radio licence. The authors must be chided for overlooking this important fact!

The dates fixed by NASA to return to the Moon are 2024, and 2033 to land on Mars, but, according to experts and industry insiders, reaching the Red Planet by 2033 is highly improbable, barring a Herculean effort on the scale of the Apollo programme in the 1960s.

“The Moon is the proving ground for our eventual mission to Mars,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said at a conference this week.

“The Moon is our path to get to Mars in the fastest, safest way possible. That’s why we go to the Moon.”

Amongst the psychological challenges facing the journey to Mars:

Well, from the design, manufacture, and testing of the rockets and spaceships required, to learning the best way to grow lettuce, all the groundwork remains to be done.

Just getting there will take six months at least, as opposed to three days to the Moon.

The whole mission could take two years, since Mars and the Earth are closest to each other every 26 months, a window of opportunity that must be taken.

Key tasks include finding a way to shield astronauts from prolonged exposure to solar and cosmic radiation, said Julie Robinson, NASA’s chief scientist for the International Space Station.

“A second is our food system,” she added. The current plant system ideas “are not packageable, portable or small enough to take to Mars.”

And then there’s the question of dealing with medical emergencies. Astronauts will need to be able to treat themselves in case of any accidents.

Techniques to exploit Martian resources to extract water, oxygen and fuel necessary for humans to live there don’t yet exist — and must be tested on the Moon by the end of this decade.

Finally there’s the most fundamental question: how will a group of people cope with the psychological stress of being totally isolated for two years?

It won’t be possible to communicate in real time with Houston mission control. Radio communications will take between four and 24 minutes between the planets, one-way. NASA plans to test out delayed-communication exercises on board the ISS in the coming years.

Artificial intelligence must also be developed to assist and guide the astronauts.

Thank you to Yahoo News for the report on this very formidable task awaiting NASA.

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