HAMNET Report 15th September

Jon Excell, writing in The Engineer, says that LiFi, an emerging wireless technology that enables users to send and receive data in beams of LED light, will help overcome the limitations of radio frequency communications

In today’s connected world, wireless data has become a critical utility: an invisible element of our modern infrastructure that increasingly underpins many of the services upon which we rely.

And as we deploy connected devices in ever-greater numbers, and embrace emerging technologies such as autonomous systems, the internet of things and virtual reality (VR), the demand for wireless connectivity is expected to increase exponentially.

But there’s a problem. The radio spectrum upon which much of our connectivity depends is getting crowded and some fear that our insatiable appetite for data will ultimately lead to a ‘spectrum crunch’ that will soon crash our communications networks, rendering many of our fancy new technologies useless.

Against this backdrop, unlocking new levels of data and bandwidth is a priority, and one area of technology that looks set to play a major role in addressing this challenge is Li-Fi, an emerging wireless optical networking technology that enables data to be transmitted over short distances via the rapid and, to the human eye, imperceptible modulation of LED light bulbs.

Pioneered almost a decade ago by Edinburgh University’s Prof Harald Haas, the technology has some compelling advantages. For a start, the data spectrum for visible light is 1,000 times greater than the RF spectrum so there’s more capacity to drive bigger bandwidths and higher data rates. Li-Fi developers have already demonstrated speeds of 224Gbps in laboratory conditions and expect 1Gbps or above – around 100 times faster than conventional Wi-Fi – to become the norm.

What’s more, because data can be contained within a tight area of illumination, there’s little risk of interference and it’s also highly secure: while radio waves penetrate through walls and can be intercepted, a beam of light is confined.

Haas first caught the headlines with the technology following a 2011 TED talk in which he demonstrated how a standard LED lamp could be used to transmit high-resolution video directly to a receiver placed just beneath the bulb.

In the years following this jaw-dropping illustration of the technology in action, Li-Fi has begun making waves beyond the academic research space, with a number of organisations already commercialising the technology, and a growing number of companies supporting research into what is increasingly being viewed as a key emerging sector.

So, watch this space, if you’ll pardon the pun, for more detail and data!

In a follow up to the mention I made in the HAMNET Bulletin of 1st of September, about the dangerous lung disease occurring in persons using Vape Devices, the website univadis.co.za has noted that the FDA has issued a warning against purchase of all illegal (street) vaping products and urges consumers to refrain from using tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) oil or modifying/adding substances to purchased products.

New York State (NYS) public health officials have announced that laboratory testing links recent vaping-associated pulmonary illnesses to high levels of vitamin E acetate in cannabis-containing products.

The FDA also states that although there are not enough data to unequivocally implicate vitamin E acetate, it believes that prudence and avoidance of inhaling THC are warranted.

A second, and possibly third, death has been reported and linked to the use of unregulated substances in the vape devices.

So please heed these warnings, if you use such devices. I hope you don’t!

Spaceweather.com reports that another interstellar visitor appears to be passing through the solar system–and this time it’s definitely a comet. Ukrainian amateur astronomer Gennady Borisov discovered the object, now named C/2019 Q4 (Borisov), approaching from beyond the orbit of Mars on Aug. 30th.

Based on observations gathered since Borisov discovered the distant fuzzball, the comet seems to be following a hyperbolic orbit with an eccentricity greater than 3.5. This means the comet is unbound to the sun. Indeed, it is moving some 30.7 km/s (68,700 mph) too fast for the sun’s gravity to hang onto it. Comet Borisov is a first time visitor to the inner solar system, and after this flyby it will return to deep space.

Comet Borisov will make its closest approach to the sun (2 AU) around Dec. 7th. Three weeks later, near the end of December, it will make its closest approach to Earth (also 2 AU). At the moment the comet is very dim, around magnitude +18. How bright it may become by December is anyone’s guess.

The first known interstellar object to visit our solar system, ‘Oumuamua, caused a sensation when it was discovered racing away from the sun in late 2017. Speculation about its nature ranged from an alien spacecraft to a fossil exocomet. Astronomers still aren’t sure what it was. Comet Borisov, on the other hand, appears to have a fuzzy atmosphere (a “coma”) and perhaps a stubby tail — signs that it really is a comet.

Because Comet Borisov is still just entering the solar system, astronomers will have plenty of time to study it in the months ahead.

UK investigators have revealed that reluctance to use a cockpit cup-holder resulted in coffee being spilled over control panels on an Airbus A330, causing substantial radio communications problems and forcing a diversion.

The A330-200 had been operating from Frankfurt to Cancun on 6 February this year.

It had commenced the transatlantic crossing when the cockpit crew was served coffee in cups without lids. While Airbus recommends using the cup-holder, the size of cups used by the carrier on the route made lifting them from the holder difficult.

The crew naturally tended to place cups on the fold-out table in front of them – making them “vulnerable” to being knocked over.

The coffee on the A330 captain’s table was spilled, with a small amount falling on the left-hand audio control panel, which immediately malfunctioned and subsequently failed. Some 20min later the first officer’s corresponding control panel also became hot and failed – although the precise reason for this was not clear.

VHF radio transmissions and public-address announcements were affected by the malfunctions and the captain chose to divert to Shannon, with the precautionary use of cockpit oxygen masks owing to electrical smoke emanating from the panel.

None of the 326 passengers and 11 crew members on board the jet was injured.

But the carrier subsequently changed its procedures to ensure cup lids were provided on all routes, says the inquiry, and has sought to obtain “appropriately-sized” cups for cockpit cup-holders.

Thanks to FlightGlobal for this shortened report.

This is Dave Reece  ZS1DFR  cautiously moving his cup of coffee away from the face of his VHF/UHF dualbander, and reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.

HAMNET Report 8th September 2019

Writing in USA TODAY on Friday, Doyle Rice noted that, as Hurricane Dorian moved away from the United States, it’s now certain that the storm’s lasting legacy will be its slow, torturous rampage as a Category 5 monster across the Bahamas over the Labour Day weekend, which left dozens dead and unimaginable destruction.

With sustained winds of 185 mph [296 kph], Dorian was the strongest hurricane on record to strike the Bahamas since records began in 1851.

It was also the first Category 5 to make landfall on Grand Bahama Island, and, at 185 mph [296 kph], was the strongest hurricane on record to hit Abaco Island.

What was even more stunning was its slow path across the Bahamas: According to Colorado State University meteorologist Phil Klotzbach, Dorian tracked only about 25 miles [40 km] in 24 hours – the shortest distance tracked by an Atlantic major hurricane in a 24-hour period since Hurricane Betsy in 1965.

Weather Underground meteorologist Jeff Masters said that “portions of (Dorian’s) eyewall lashed Great Abaco and Grand Bahama islands with Category 5 winds for a total of 22 hours before the great hurricane finally weakened to Category 4 strength.

“In records going back over a century, there are no cases where an Atlantic Category 5 hurricane has impacted a land area for as long as Dorian battered the Bahamas,” Masters said.

At least 30 people are reported dead in the Bahamas and the death toll is expected to rise significantly. Property losses in the Bahamas could hit $7 billion.

The storm also left its mark in the record books in other ways:

As of Friday, with its landfall in North Carolina, Dorian has been a hurricane for a total of nine days. This is longer than most Atlantic storms: Klotzbach said that only about 10% of all Atlantic hurricanes last longer than eight days.

While this may seem like a lot, it’s still a long way from the record of 19.5 days, which was set by Hurricane Ginger in 1971, according to Klotzbach. Ginger took a long and loopy path around the Atlantic before finally making landfall in North Carolina in late September 1971.

In addition, Dorian has been a named storm for 13 days, which includes its first few days as a tropical storm. That places it in a tie for 5th place for most storm days by an Atlantic hurricane that formed in August, Klotzbach said.

Because of the death and destruction caused by Dorian, the storm’s name will almost certainly be retired by the World Meteorological Organization; the United Nations’ group that determines which hurricane names will be used in upcoming years.

A nation hardest hit by a storm can request its name be removed because the storm was so deadly or costly that future use of the name would be insensitive. The names of two of last year’s most destructive storms – Florence and Michael – were retired by the WMO earlier this year.

Yesterday (Saturday) afternoon’s news was that the Hurricane Watch net suspended activities at 16h00 UTC on Friday, because Dorian had inched away from the North Carolina coast, and been downgraded to a Category One storm, with sustained windspeeds near 145 kph.

Here’s an encouraging report from univadis.co.za about the ongoing battle of misinformation, with regard to vaccinations of all kinds.

A major social media platform has announced that it will only display authoritative vaccine information to its users, as part of efforts to tackle health misinformation.

Last year, Pinterest stopped showing results for searches related to vaccines as a way to prevent people from encountering harmful health misinformation. Now, the social media platform has announced it is introducing a new experience so that when users search for terms such as vaccine safety or other related health terms, they will only receive reliable results about vaccination from leading public health organisations.

The move has been welcomed by the WHO, whose Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he hopes to see other social media platforms around the world following Pinterest’s lead.

“Misinformation about vaccination has spread far and fast on social media platforms in many different countries, including during critical vaccination campaigns like those for polio in Pakistan or yellow fever in South America.

“Social media platforms are the way many people get their information and they will likely be major sources of information for the next generations of parents. We see this as a critical issue and one that needs our collective effort to protect people’s health and lives,” Dr Tedros said.

Finally, Krugersdorp News reports that, if disaster strikes and the world finds itself on the brink of destruction, radio communication may be the only way of getting the message out when all other systems fail.

Okay, so maybe that’s the worst-case scenario and it probably won’t happen. Learning radio communication skills and writing the international exam can still be very important, however. The disaster scenario was one of the many reasons Geoff Levey, ZS6C, from the West Rand Amateur Radio Club (WRARC) brought up for why it’s important for people to take up the hobby of, as they name it, amateur radio.

Young Clarissa Clarke, ZS6LIS, who knows all about the important uses of the international radio system, most of all enjoys connecting to people from all over the world.

Although the ever-increasing ease of accessibility to cell-phones and the internet has put a damper on the widespread use of radio as a means of communication, there has recently been a relative explosion of interest among members of the community, who are taking this up as a hobby. Clarissa is one of the many young people who found an interest in radio communication when she joined WRARC three years ago, following in her father’s footsteps.

At 21, Clarissa can build a complex radio system from scratch, and fully understands how to connect to any radio system around the world. She enjoys spending her time talking to people from across the globe. Sometimes these friends establish a radio time and frequency beforehand, and sometimes she meets new and interesting people by randomly accessing channels.

Last year, Clarissa participated in the Youngsters On The Air (YOTA) conference when it was hosted in South Africa. This year, she was chosen as one of only two youngsters to travel to Bulgaria from 10th to 17th August to participate in this year’s YOTA conference.

YOTA, in IARU Region 1, is a shining example of what value amateur radio can add to the lives of tomorrow’s leaders of society.

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

HAMNET Report 1st SEPTEMBER 2019

Alister van Tonder, ZS1OK, has provided us with a summary of the activities of HAMNET members during a recent event. He writes:

A team of six HAMNET operators provided communications support at the Wildrunner Kogelberg event on Saturday, 10th of August.  The team consisted of: Matt ZS1MTF and Grant ZS1GRC as team 1, Ian ZS1OSK and Ann ZS1AMS as team 2 and Douw ZS1DGK and Alister ZS1OK at the base.

When things run smoothly during the event, and it is a brilliant spring day with hardly a breath of wind, compared to last year when the jumping castle ended up in the breakers due to strong winds and tents had to be taken down for safety reasons, this year ran smoothly and effective updates and feedback were provided.  As usual team 1 always have a bit of a runabout from their initial position to a site with a superb view over Kleinmond and the sea.

As before, cellular APRS was utilized to track the XL-route and Long route sweeps, who had the responsibility to ensure that no runners were left behind on the track. As a result, they were the last to return to the finish line.  Having this information on hand, and being able to track the other HAMNET operators via APRS ensured race control was always informed of vital movements of support staff.  Having the positions available and accessible on APRS ensured all operators were informed of all the activity relevant to the event.  While using an RF iGate/Digi would be possible, 95% of the route has good GSM coverage and would not warrant the risk of the iGate/Digi being stolen, or requiring an additional operator just to keep an eye on it.

The briefing session commenced at 06:45 in the morning and the team stood down at 14:35.  This was Grant ZS1GRC’s first opportunity to assist at one of these trail events, although he previously also assisted at the Two Oceans Marathon.

Thank you to all of you, and especially Alister, for keeping HAMNET’s flag flying high.

Now we move to the Caribbean, where ARRL news reports that the Hurricane Watch Net (HWN) has been closely watching the progress of Hurricane Dorian and activated on Saturday at 2100 UTC, and will remain in continuous operation on 14.325 MHz and 7.268 MHz.

Over the past 24 hours, the hurricane’s forecast track has shifted slightly, which will take the storm over the northern Bahamas before it strikes south-eastern Florida.

As of 1500 UTC on Friday, Dorian was some 760 km east of the north-western Bahamas and about 1000 km east of West Palm Beach, Florida. Maximum sustained winds were 176 kph (making it a Category 2 hurricane) and moving to the northwest at 16 kph.

“The new forecast track does not look good,” HWN Manager Bobby Graves, KB5HAV, observed. “The Bahamas are forecast for a direct hit late this (Sunday) afternoon when Dorian is a Category 4 hurricane. Next stop is currently forecast to be near West Palm Beach as a strong Category 3 hurricane.” Graves said that after it makes landfall, Dorian is expected to turn to the northwest and move up Florida’s east coast.

“No matter the location of landfall, suffice it to say that, unless something major changes, a huge area of Florida will be impacted by this storm,” Graves said.

According to the National Hurricane Centre:

  • Life-threatening storm surge and devastating hurricane-force winds are likely in portions of the north-western Bahamas, where a hurricane watch is in effect. Residents should execute their hurricane plans and heed advice from local emergency officials.
  • Life-threatening storm surge and devastating hurricane-force winds are likely along portions of the Florida east coast by early this coming week, but it is too soon to determine where the highest storm surge and winds will occur. Residents should have hurricane plans in place, know if they are in a hurricane evacuation zone, and listen to advice given by local emergency officials.
  • A prolonged period of storm surge, high winds, and rain is likely in portions of Florida into this week, including the possibility of hurricane-force winds over inland portions of the Florida peninsula.
  • Heavy rains are expected over portions of the Bahamas, Florida, and elsewhere in the south-eastern United States this weekend and into the middle of the coming week.

ARRL Headquarters remains in monitoring mode and has been in regular contact with ARRL’s partner agencies.  Thank you to ARRL News for this report.

Now, here’s bad news for those who use vapour inhaling devices in place of cigarettes.

Authorities in the United States are investigating around 150 cases of severe lung disease which they believe could be linked to e-cigarette use or vaping.

Between 28th June and 20th August this year, at least 149 possible cases of severe lung illness associated with e-cigarette product use were reported by 15 states, primarily among adolescents and young people.

According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in many of the cases, patients reported a gradual start of symptoms including breathing difficulty, shortness of breath and/or chest pain before hospitalization. Some cases additionally reported mild-to-moderate gastrointestinal illness and fatigue.

In a statement, the CDC said available evidence does not suggest that an infectious disease is the principle cause of the illness. While a cause has not yet been identified, all reported cases had used e-cigarette products or had been vaping.

It also noted that in many cases, patients acknowledged the recent use of tetrahydrocannabinol-containing products (marijuana); however, it said no specific product has been identified in all cases, nor has any product been conclusively linked to illnesses.

“Even though cases appear similar, it is not clear if these cases have a common cause or if they are different diseases with similar presentations,” the CDC said.

In a subsequent news release mentioned on the same website, Robert R Redford MD, Director of the CDC said:

“We are saddened to hear of the first death related to the outbreak of severe lung disease in those who use e-cigarette or “vaping” devices. CDC’s investigation is ongoing. We are working with state and local health departments and FDA to learn the cause or causes of this ongoing outbreak.

“This tragic death in Illinois reinforces the serious risks associated with e-cigarette products. Vaping exposes users to many different substances for which we have little information about related harms – including flavourings, nicotine, cannabinoids, and solvents. CDC has been warning about the identified and potential dangers of e-cigarettes and vaping since these devices first appeared. E-cigarettes are not safe for youth, young adults, pregnant women, or adults who do not currently use tobacco products.”

Thanks to Univadis.co.za for these notes of warning.

And, in late news just handed to me, Icom Japan has surprised the amateur fraternity with the announcement of a small HF/VHF/UHF SDR transceiver putting out 10 watts, and called the IC-705. Look out for it on YouTube channels and Icom announcements. And remember, you heard it here first.

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

HAMNET Report 25 August 2019

On 10th August 2019, members of HAMNET Gauteng South, Ground Search and Rescue, and the Off Road Rescue Unit (ORRU) met at the training facility of SA Emergency Care in Modderfontein to hold a workshop on Disaster Management. Unfortunately representatives from local Disaster Management and the Aeronautical Search and Rescue Coordination Centre were unable to attend.

The workshop kicked off at 09h00 and Leon ZS6LMG, Deputy Director of HAMNET Gauteng South, discussed various topics relating to disaster management, and in particular sharing some of the activities and experiences that HAMNET have been involved with during disasters.

Topics that were covered were amongst others, the differences between an emergency, a crisis or incident and a disaster, and the role of agencies other than Fire and Rescue, and EMS.

The objectives of disaster management were also discussed as well as what an exit strategy is, that is, when and how one withdraws and stops providing services.

Contingency and disaster plans were also discussed, including the elements of a good plan and the layout. Plans also need to be dynamic and there is no one plan that fits all scenarios.

The various resources were discussed, namely Metro, public and private line functions as well as NGOs and local informal resources, the deployment of personnel, when and where, and support for the personnel deployed, such as food, water and accommodation. Personnel are often exposed to horrific scenes, so stress monitoring and counselling were also discussed.

Logistics were discussed, around equipment, the line functions and maintenance of the resources utilised, and making sure that there is no duplication of resources.

The flow of information and communications between the supporting agencies, the JOC or VOC as well as the media, were also discussed. The type of information that needs to be communicated and stored was also discussed. Here the role of HAMNET was highlighted, as well as some of the capabilities that exist within HAMNET.

The control structure was discussed and who is in charge, as well as mandates, agreements, memorandums of understanding, standard operating procedures and the activation processes.

Disaster relief is expensive and so finances were also discussed, covering items such as budgets for various scenarios, with costs that need to be approved ahead of time, as there is no time for negotiations during a disaster.

Lastly, some of the role functions in disaster management were discussed.

HAMNET had on display a working QO-100 satellite station and the role and capability of this system and what it means for disaster management was described. The HAMNET Incident Control System Software was also demonstrated to show the functionality of the system and how it can be used effectively to manage resources and incidents.

The very informative morning was closed off with a delicious prego roll supplied by the Fireman’s Tavern.

In a second report, Brian ZS6YZ says that, on Wednesday 20th August 2019, HAMNET Gauteng, represented by Glynn Chamberlain ZS6GLN, Leon Lessing ZS6LMG and Brian Jacobs ZS6YZ, attended the quarterly Gauteng Provincial Disaster Management NGO’s Forum meeting, held in Midrand at the offices of the GPDM.

The meeting was chaired by Dr Elias Sithole, the Head of the Provincial Disaster Management Centre.

The various NGOs that were represented were given an opportunity to do a presentation about their organisations, who they are and what they do, as well as examples of events and incidents in which they have been involved.

The presentation on HAMNET that Leon ZS6LMG presented was very well received, and role players who have experience as first responders reiterated the importance of communications, and noted that they have experienced existing communications infrastructure failing during a disaster situation.

The meeting was very productive and Dr Sithole from Gauteng Provincial Disaster Management requested all the role players to come forward with ideas and projects, to start working together to ensure that in the event of a disaster, everyone knows what needs to be done, and all systems are fully operational. Dr Sithole also made it clear that Incident Command System (ICS) training was compulsory for everyone to ensure that they understood how the disaster management structures operate. A provincial disaster management exercise is being planned for the middle of next year to check the state of readiness of all the role players in disaster management in the province.

Thanks to Brian Jacobs ZS6YZ for these informative reports.

Now, here’s a good news story about a Russian aircraft that had to make an emergency landing last week. eTurboNews reports that Airbus A321 departed from Zhukovsky Airport outside Moscow to Simferopol, Crimea early on Thursday the 15th of August. During take-off, the jet, with 233 people aboard, ran into a flock of gulls, causing engine malfunction.

The pilots had to perform an emergency landing, successfully putting the jetliner down on its belly in a cornfield near the airport. When the aircraft was back on the ground, the crew professionally executed their duties, organizing a swift and safe evacuation of the passengers. Nobody died on the plane as a result of the miraculous landing – 76 people were given medical attention, but only one required hospitalization.

The pilots who carried out the successful emergency landing in the cornfield, saving the lives of all the passengers, have been awarded with Russia’s highest state honour – the ‘Hero of Russia’ title. The rest of the crew received “Orders of Courage”.

President Vladimir Putin signed a decree to decorate the pilots and flight attendants from Russia’s Ural Airlines on Friday. Putin praised the level of training in the company and expressed hope that such emergency situations will occur as rarely as possible in the future.

Those given the Hero of Russia titles are Captain Damir Yusupov, 41, and co-pilot Georgy Murzin, 23.

In passing, note that nowhere in this report does it say that the pilots jettisoned their fuel before performing the emergency landing, so the landing was probably all the more daring!

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

HAMNET Report 18 August 2019

Dave Higgs, ZS2DH, of HAMNET Eastern Cape has told us about the Transbaviaans Mountain Bike event, which is taking place this weekend and at which PEARS and HAMNET EC are assisting. We look forward to a report on this race from you in the future, Dave.

The scientific part of our HAMNET report today says that the Planetary Society reports that its crowdfunded LightSail 2 spacecraft is successfully raising its orbit solely on the power of sunlight. Since unfurling the spacecraft’s solar sail on July 23, mission managers have been optimizing the way the spacecraft orients itself during solar sailing. After a few tweaks, LightSail 2 began raising its orbital apogee, something the mission team said demonstrated the mission’s primary goal of “flight by light for CubeSats.” Continuing to sail on sunlight in Earth orbit, the spacecraft’s orbital apogee hit 729 kilometres as of August 5, an increase of 3.2 kilometres since sail deployment.

LightSail 2 launched on June 25, and it deployed on July 2 from Prox-1, a Georgia Tech student-built spacecraft the size of a small washing machine. Using the Experimental License call sign WM9XPA, LightSail 2 automatically transmits a beacon packet on 437.025 MHz at 9,600 bps FSK every few seconds, which can be decoded into 238 lines of text telemetry describing the spacecraft’s health and status — everything from battery status to solar sail deployment motor state. Every 45 seconds, the spacecraft transmits “LS2” in CW on 437.025 MHz.

Thanks to the ARRL Letter for this interesting insert.

Science News reports that shudders in the cosmos have revealed what’s likely the sad end of a neutron star — getting swallowed by a black hole.

If confirmed, it would be the first solid detection of this source of gravitational waves, revealing a type of cataclysm never before spotted. Researchers from the LIGO and Virgo gravitational wave observatories reported the candidate event, which was detected on August 14, in a public database used by astronomers.

Scientists are still analysing the data to verify what created the gravitational waves, which are tiny vibrations in spacetime caused by massive, accelerating objects. But one thing seems fairly certain: “Something has occurred out there in the sky,” says physicist Daniel Holz of the University of Chicago, a member of LIGO. “So far, it doesn’t obviously look like anything we’ve detected with high confidence before.”

LIGO and Virgo previously have picked up gravitational waves from pairs of merging black holes and from colliding neutron stars, which are extremely dense collapsed stars. In April, scientists saw tentative hints of a rendezvous between a black hole and neutron star, but the signal was weak and could have been a false one.

This new discovery offers much more solid evidence: The detection was so clear that it’s considered very unlikely to be a false alarm. The researchers estimate that the run-in between the two objects occurred around 900 million light-years away, and within an area about 23 square degrees across the sky. (For comparison, the moon is about half a degree across.) Astronomers have since been peering at that region with their telescopes, looking for any light that may have been emitted in the merger. Such light could have been released if the neutron star were torn apart by the black hole before being gulped within its depths.

Further study of the encounter could help reveal new secrets about some of the universe’s most mysterious objects. But the potential detection is exciting on its own, Holz says. “The first of anything is always really fascinating.”

Now for the medical news in today’s bulletin, an excerpt in Science News, written by Aimee Cunningham reports that an especially dangerous type of tuberculosis may have met its match.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced on August 14 that it has approved the antibiotic Pretomanid to help tackle what’s called extreme drug-resistant tuberculosis. This form of the disease is resistant to at least four of the main TB drugs, and treatment often fails. Only around 34 percent of infected patients typically survive, the World Health Organization says.

The current treatment requires patients to take as many as eight antibiotics orally, and sometimes by injection, for 18 months or more. By contrast, the new antibiotic is paired with two other previously approved drugs, Bedaquiline and Linezolid, in a six-month course of pills. Ninety-five of 107 patients who had the highly resistant disease and took this drug regimen recovered, according to the TB Alliance, the non-profit organization that developed Pretomanid. The drug is only the third since the 1960s to be approved for tuberculosis, which is caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis.

Tuberculosis sickened an estimated 10 million people in 2017. Around 558,000 cases were multidrug-resistant, unresponsive to the two most powerful TB drugs. Of those cases, about 8.5 percent, or roughly 47,000, were extensively drug-resistant, according to WHO.

Pretomanid has been tested only in patients with highly resistant TB. More research is needed to determine whether the drug could be useful for the vast majority of patients who have TB that’s more receptive to treatment, says William Bishai, a tuberculosis researcher at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, who was not involved in the drug’s development. Perhaps the standard regimen of multiple drugs taken for six months could be shortened by including the new antibiotic, he says. “We’re delighted to have this new drug Pretomanid, but there’s a lot more to do.”

And, in further medical news, Science News says that two Ebola treatments have proven to be effective in preventing death during a clinical trial conducted amid the ongoing Ebola outbreak in Congo, preliminary data suggest.

The trial began in November, with participants randomly given one of four experimental treatments. Data from 499 patients reviewed on August 9 suggest that those people taking one of two antibody treatments — mAb114 or REGN-EB3 — had a greater chance of survival than those on the antiviral drug Remdesivir or the antibody treatment ZMapp. Researchers reported the trial results in a news release on August 12th, but these findings have yet to be finalized.

“One thing that won’t change is that those two therapies are better than the other two — that’s for sure,” says Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md. The trial now enters a phase with only the two most effective treatments in order to gather more data on their safety and the immune response to each drug. Researchers won’t study enough patients, however, to determine which drug works best.

The percentage of patients who died while taking one of the two treatments was in the region of 29 to 34 percent. That’s a big improvement over the current 67 percent mortality rate reported for Congo’s outbreak, which began on August 1, 2018.

The successful conclusion of this ground-breaking research will make a huge difference to the risks of Haemorrhagic Fevers in Central Africa.

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

HAMNET Report 11 August 2019

If you’re ever in a disaster and see a weird-looking aircraft flying overhead, don’t fret — it could be there to help you.

For two years, Chinese aircraft manufacturer OXAI Aircraft Co. has been developing MOZI 2, a fully solar-powered unmanned aircraft it hopes will one day help out in disaster relief situations.

On Saturday, the drone took its maiden flight at an airport in Deqing County — and it appears the test went off without a hitch.

OXAI Aircraft told Xinhua that MOZI 2 has a wingspan of 15 meters and is powered solely by solar cells. It can reach an altitude of 8,000 meters, with a maximum cruise time of 12 hours at night following eight hours of charging in sunlight.

In addition to contributing to disaster relief scenarios, the solar-powered drone could be useful for reconnaissance missions and communication efforts, OXAI Aircraft told Xinhua — and now that it knows the craft can fly, it can start working toward those applications.

Thanks to the website The Byte for this report.

We’ve all tried to kill a cockroach only to watch it scurry away at a super-fast pace.

One of nature’s creepiest insects, as it turns out, has inspired researchers to create a very tiny robot that could in theory burrow through natural disaster sites and relay information to rescue workers. The New York Post says that a team at the University of California, Berkeley have designed a robot that’s made out of a material known as polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF) and is the size of a postage stamp.

Scientists involved in the project explained that it could have many applications.

“For example, if an earthquake happens, it’s very hard for the big machines, or the big dogs, to find life underneath debris, so that’s why we need a small-sized robot that is agile and robust,” said Yichuan Wu, first author of the paper, who completed the work as a graduate student in mechanical engineering at UC Berkeley, in a press statement.

It’s also almost as hardy as a real cockroach, as the researchers repeatedly applied pressure to it by stepping on it.

“Most of the robots at this particular small scale are very fragile. If you step on them, you pretty much destroy the robot,” Liwei Lin, senior author of a paper on the research, told New Atlas. “We found that if we put weight on our robot, it still functions, more or less.”

Although the robot doesn’t look like much, it can actually do a lot, according to researchers: It can move along the ground at a speed of 20 body lengths per second, which is comparable to that of a cockroach and apparently the fastest pace among insect-sized robots. It can also zoom through tubes, scurry up small slopes and carry tiny cargo loads, like a peanut.

ARRL member Eric Knight, KB1EHE, played a role in the development of an RF-based Alzheimer’s disease treatment that now shows great promise. A study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease following a months-long FDA clinical trial of the treatment protocol concluded that memory decline in most patients “appeared to have been reversed to cognitive levels equivalent to 12 months earlier” after 2 months of treatment. The clinical trial concluded last December 31 and focused on the initial efficacy of what NeuroEM Therapeutics, Inc. — the company developing the device — calls “transcranial electromagnetic treatment” (TEMT), using a non-invasive head-worn device called the MemorEM™.

“Results from the trial demonstrate that TEMT was safe in all eight participating patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease, and enhanced cognitive performance in seven of them, as measured by standard cognition scales,” said a news release from NeuroEM Therapeutics. Seven of the eight clinical trial patients agreed to take part in a 4-month extension study, based on the findings and the positive feedback from all participants.

“This pioneering study suggests that TEMT may be an entirely new therapeutic intervention against Alzheimer’s disease,” said NeuroEM CEO Dr. Gary Arendash. “Our bioengineering technology may be succeeding where drug therapy against this devastating disease has thus far failed. TEMT appears to be affecting the Alzheimer’s disease process through several actions directly inside neurons (brain cells), which is where we believe the disease process needs to be stopped and hopefully reversed.” Arendash has explained that TEMT in the 900 MHz range breaks down the small protein aggregates (amyloid oligomers) in brain cells that are thought to initiate Alzheimer’s development.

Knight, of Unionville, Connecticut, is the president of Remarkable Technologies. He has no medical background, but several years ago, he learned of experiments that Arendash had carried out on mice specially bred to have Alzheimer’s disease, in which the mice were exposed to low levels of RF for therapeutic purposes. The effects were dramatic, sometimes even reversing the disease’s effects. Borrowing some concepts from earlier experiments with small rockets and avionics, Knight set about developing — and later patenting — a wearable device that could deliver requisite low levels of RF to a human head. NeuroEM was also developing a device, which it patented as well, and NeuroEM has filed multiple patents since then, Knight explained to ARRL. NeuroEM has an exclusive license to Knight’s patent, and his contribution is now part of the overall mix of applied technology.

“As an inventor and entrepreneur, all you can hope for is to have a positive impact on society, and this is about as important as it gets,” Knight told ARRL News, whom we thank for this insert.

Finally, please be aware of Tropical Cyclone LEKIMA-19, which is currently 650km North-East of Taiwan, and bearing down on the Chinese mainland, with windspeeds of up to 190kph. 40000 homes in Taiwan are without power (as of Friday), and citizens in coastal areas are preparing to evacuate their homes. A RED typhoon warning has been issued for the coast of Taiwan and far Eastern tip of Chinese Mainland, while heavy rain, strong winds and storm surges are expected along the coast and Ryukyu Archipelago.

Please be mindful of emergency communications on HF frequencies over this weekend.

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

HAMNET Report 4 August 2019

ARRL News reports that the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) next-generation Interoperable Radio System (IORS) successfully completed a battery of stress tests, required as part of the final certification of the hardware for launch to and operation on the International Space Station (ISS). The IORS consists of a JVC Kenwood D710GA transceiver and the AMSAT-developed Multi-Voltage Power Supply (MVPS). In early July, the equipment successfully completed a series of electromagnetic interference/electro-magnetic compatibility (EMC) tests to ensure that the ARISS hardware will not interfere with ISS systems or other payloads.

The IORS also successfully passed power quality and acoustics testing, which verified that the ARISS IORS will not introduce harmful signals back into the ISS power system and is quiet enough to meet ISS acoustic requirements. ARISS Hardware Team members Lou McFadin, W5DID, and Kerry Banke, N6IZW, were at NASA’s Johnson Space Centre to support the 2-week battery of tests in concert with the NASA test and certification team.

“Since the IORS is being qualified to operate on 120 V dc, 28 V dc, and Russian 28 V dc as well as transmit on VHF or UHF, a lot of test combinations were required to cover all cases,” Banke said. “Each input voltage type was also tested at low, medium, and high line voltage. Moreover, additional permutations were required to test the IORS under no load, medium load, and full load at each voltage level. So it should not be surprising that the tests took 2 weeks to complete.”

Successful completion of these tests represents a key milestone in preparing the IORS for launch. ARISS says it now can begin final assembly of the flight units and prepare for their safety certification before launch. ARISS is working toward launch-ready status by year’s end.

From a Blog entitled Bryan on Scouting, for Adult Scouting Leaders, comes proof that you can reach practically any corner of the globe via amateur radio. That’s the message K2BSA wanted to show Scouts at the World Scout Jamboree. Those in the amateur radio association launched four Mylar balloons from the Summit Bechtel Reserve in West Virginia, in hopes that one would catch the jet stream and end up on the other side of the world.

Each balloon, about 3 feet in diameter, was equipped with a global positioning system and an amateur radio transmitter. This combination of devices could relay information about weather conditions, the balloons’ movement and location. Solar panels power the transmitter, sending signals during daylight hours. Filled with high-grade helium, each balloon could reach a height between 28,000 and 32,000 feet — that’s nearly as high as most commercial planes fly.

The first balloon, launched on July 21, was only in the air for a few hours before it was last tracked northeast of The Summit, still in West Virginia.

The second balloon, however, which went up on July 24, sent its last message two days later — from Spain. Specifically, the balloon reported back from the north-central part of the country, near the village of Bordecorex.

The third balloon was launched on July 27. The next day, signals were sent back from New Jersey; and the next day, it appeared to be floating by Newfoundland.

“We’ll continue to monitor this payload as it progresses,” says Bill Stearns, K2BSA vice president.

The final balloon went up on July 29 and tracked in the opposite direction, last heard over eastern Kentucky.

The amateur radio association also arranged communication with the International Space Station on July 27. Scouts were able to ask astronaut and assistant Scoutmaster Andrew Morgan some questions about space and his 8-month mission in space.

For more than 60 years now, amateur radio has been a fun part of the World Scout Jamboree. The Jamboree-on-the-Air was launched during the 1957 World Scout Jamboree in the United Kingdom.

Southgate Amateur Radio News reports that, with two weeks to go, and 335 registrations received for the International Lighthouse Lightship Weekend so far, organisers are hoping for another 100 over the next 14 days.

Leading the field is Germany with 53 entries, USA with 48, Australia 39 and England 24. Just as important are the 17 countries with only one entry each some of which are sought after by DXers and award hunters. Some are the Canary Islands, Gibraltar, Panama Canal, Namibia, Latvia, Trinidad and Tobago, Serbia and Market Reef.

One entry worthy of note was received on Friday from GB2LG, the Wigtownshire ARC, for the Mull of Galloway Lighthouse. This club was a participant in the Northern Lighthouse Activity award 26 years ago, and which became the International Lighthouse Lightship Weekend in 1998.

GB2LG has been at the same lighthouse with the same call sign since 1993. There are several other entrants who have been in the ILLW continuously since 1998 and these have been acknowledged with an appropriate certificate.

Our reliable and trusty reporter, Keith Lowes, ZS5WFD, Director for HAMNET KZN reports that the Division will again be providing 12 operators to manage communications for the Kloof Conservancy 3 Falls Trail Run today the 4th August 2019, organised by the Kloof Conservancy. Operators assisting are: Keith Lowes ZS5WFD (Race Control/JOC), Dave ZS5DF, Terry ZS5TX, Troy ZS5TWJ,  Peter ZS5HF, Hettie ZS5BH, Geoff ZS5AGM, VAL ZS5VAL, Jitesh ZS5JM, Jason ZU5Z, Brad ZS5Z and Craig ZS5CD.  Last year saw us dealing with a number of medical emergencies that fortunately were not too serious. The race, now in its 8th year will start at 06H30. It covers a distance of 18,6Km through the Krantzkloof Nature Reserve, starting and ending at the Forest View Primary SchoolApproximately 350 runners have registered and at least 50 people have entered for the 6,5Km Fun Walk which starts at 06H45.

Keith says that communications will be on the 145.625 Highway Amateur Radio Club repeater with additional links to the JOC on the Ezemvelo Wildlife repeater system that the field rangers will be utilising.

Thanks for the news, Keith – we look forward to your race report in a future bulletin.

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

HAMNET Report 28 July 2019

World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has declared the Ebola outbreak in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).

“It is time for the world to take notice and redouble our efforts. We need to work together in solidarity with DRC to end this outbreak and build a better health system,” said Dr Tedros. “Extraordinary work has been done for almost a year under the most difficult circumstances. We all owe it to these responders – coming from not just WHO but also government, partners and communities – to shoulder more of the burden.”

The declaration follows last week’s meeting of the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee for Ebola in DRC. The Committee said recent developments in the outbreak underpin the decision, including the first confirmed case in Goma, a city of almost two million people on the border with Rwanda and the gateway to the rest of DRC and the world.

The Committee expressed disappointment about delays in funding which have constrained the response and made a number of specific recommendations related to this outbreak.

The United Nations has also activated a humanitarian system-wide scale-up to support the response efforts.

In better news, AIDS-related deaths continue to decline as access to treatment expands and progress continues in the delivery of HIV/tuberculosis services, according to a new report from the United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS).

Since 2010, AIDS-related deaths have fallen by 33 per cent to 770,000 in 2018, the Global AIDS Update shows.

Global declines in AIDS-related deaths have largely been driven by progress in eastern and southern Africa. In Eastern Europe and central Asia, however, AIDS-related deaths have risen by 5 percent and in the Middle East and North Africa by 9 percent since 2010.

That’s great news that Southern Africa is leading the field in AIDS death prevention.

In a week of mixed blessings, the Western Cape experienced a huge winter storm, with the majority of the rain falling on Tuesday.  The City’s Disaster Operations Centre logged 176 incidents including flooding, power outages and fallen trees or structural damage, following the most recent heavy weather episode.

The Disaster Operations Centre logged 43 flooding-related incidents; 122 power outages across the metropole; nine incidents of trees that had blown over or fallen branches, and two incidents where roofs were blown off in Masiphumelele and Burundi informal settlement.

Operationally, the status of reported incidents included 3 640 structures affected in 7 suburbs, fallen trees reported in 6 municipalities, roads flooded across the city, and power outages in 15 municipalities.

Looking on the good side, catchment areas of all the major dams supplying the Cape Peninsula experienced heavy and prolonged rain, and all dams have shown upwards of 5 percentage points of improvement, with the Berg River Dam finally overflowing its wall, and quoted as 102% full. This is wonderful for the rapidly enlarging population of the Peninsula, and, with another 6 weeks or so of winter rainfall possible, our dams can potentially provide us with a summer free of water-worry.

Southgate Amateur Radio News has received news from Rob Mannion, G3XFD that a new movie called “The Current War” has gone on general release in the UK. The film features the “war” between the rival promoters of D.C. and A.C. …namely Edison and Westinghouse.

The film stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Shannon, Katherine Waterston, Tom Holland, Tuppence Middleton, Matthew Macfadyen and Nicholas Hoult.

Rob notes that it’s not often we see films that feature the stories of technology. So watch for the release of this one in South Africa soon.

The Website Phys.org reports that, more than 100 years after Albert Einstein published his iconic theory of general relativity, it is beginning to fray at the edges, according to Andrea Ghez, UCLA professor of physics and astronomy. Now, in the most comprehensive test of general relativity near the monstrous black hole at the centre of our galaxy, Ghez and her research team report on July the 25th in the journal Science that Einstein’s theory of general relativity holds up.

“Einstein’s right, at least for now,” said Ghez, a co-lead author of the research. “We can absolutely rule out Newton’s law of gravity. Our observations are consistent with Einstein’s theory of general relativity. However, his theory is definitely showing vulnerability. It cannot fully explain gravity inside a black hole, and at some point we will need to move beyond Einstein’s theory to a more comprehensive theory of gravity that explains what a black hole is.”

Einstein’s 1915 theory of general relativity holds that what we perceive as the force of gravity arises from the curvature of space and time. The scientist proposed that objects such as the Sun and the Earth change this geometry. Einstein’s theory is the best description of how gravity works, said Ghez, whose UCLA-led team of astronomers has made direct measurements of the phenomenon near a supermassive black hole—research Ghez describes as “extreme astrophysics.”

The laws of physics, including gravity, should be valid everywhere in the universe, said Ghez, who added that her research team is one of only two groups in the world to watch a star known as S0-2 make a complete orbit in three dimensions around the supermassive black hole at the centre of the Milky Way. The full orbit takes 16 years, and the black hole’s mass is about four million times that of the sun.

The researchers say their work is the most detailed study ever conducted into the supermassive black hole and Einstein’s theory of general relativity.

The researchers studied photons—particles of light—as they travelled from S0-2 to Earth. S0-2 moves around the black hole at blistering speeds of more than 16 million miles per hour at its closest approach. Einstein had reported that in this region close to the black hole, photons have to do extra work. Their wavelength as they leave the star depends not only on how fast the star is moving, but also on how much energy the photons expend to escape the black hole’s powerful gravitational field. Near a black hole, gravity is much stronger than on Earth.

So monitoring those photons over a very long time can help prove Einstein’s original theory. That theory has certainly stood the test of time.

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

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.