HAMNET Report 25 November 2018

The Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System (GDACS) announced a red alert yesterday for Tropical Cyclone USAGI-18, crossing the Southern coast of Vietnam, with winds in the region of 130 km/h, and heading North-West. 1.3 million people are in the direct path of the storm, and 31.6 million are within range of the tropical depression. By Monday the 26th, the storm will have entered the bottom left corner of Cambodia, and hopefully crossed the coast out to sea West of Cambodia.

Now, from spaceweather.com comes news of an exciting event this week.

For the first time ever, cubesats are approaching Mars. Their mission: To experience “7 minutes of terror”. If all goes as planned, on Monday the two tiny spacecraft will watch NASA’s InSight lander touchdown on the Red Planet, relaying updates to Earth in near-real time.

InSight is the latest NASA probe to land on Mars–or disintegrate in the attempt. On Nov. 26th, it will tear through the planet’s atmosphere in a fireball, shedding more than 12,000 mph of velocity in just under 7 minutes (during which time NASA will be unable to receive signals from it! These are the “7 minutes of terror”.). NASA hopes InSight will touch down gently on the plains of Elysium Planitia where it can drill into Mars, using seismometers, heat flow sensors, and radios to study the planet’s interior.

Officially the two cubesats are known as MarCO-A and MarCO-B, but JPL engineers have nicknamed them “WALL-E” and “Eva.” They were launched alongside the lander on May 5, 2018. Mission controllers weren’t even sure the tiny spacecraft would survive the journey across interplanetary space–but they did. Now they will act as radio relay stations. Instead of waiting several hours for InSight to report back to Earth, WALL-E and Eva will relay entry, descent and landing data much sooner. This is the first time cubesats have travelled beyond Earth orbit, so it will be a significant achievement if they succeed.

NASA will broadcast the landing on NASA TV starting at 2 p.m. EST on Monday, Nov. 26th. That is 9pm, our time, so do go to NASA TV and watch.

And for an entertaining description of InSight’s mission to Mars, go to TheOatmeal.com, choose “Comics”, and watch “A mole will land on Mars”.

Carly Zervis, reporting in the Citrus County Chronicle, has reported on Fred Moore, who is a longtime amateur radio operator, and who, earlier this month, played a role in getting medical assistance to a crew member suffering chest pains aboard a sailboat in the Atlantic.

“I’ve been doing this since I was a kid,” Fred said. “I first got licensed as an amateur radio operator when I was about 13 or 14 years old.” He liked it so much he made it a career as chief engineer at several radio stations in the Philadelphia area and in the Merchant Marine as a radio officer.

Now, retired and a member of the Maritime Mobile Service Network (MMSN), Moore volunteers his time and years of experience to help radio operators aboard anything afloat and equipped with a radio to communicate with anybody they need to talk to on land. On Nov. 9, a crew member on the Maria Elena needed help.

“There was a vessel off the coast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, who had on board a crew member who had began to suffer chest pains,” Moore said Monday. “He had training himself, as an emergency medical person, so he knew kind of what was happening to him, and he said ‘I’ve got to get off this boat, or I’m not gonna see tomorrow, maybe.’”

But given the boat’s location — 300 miles east of Bermuda — calling 911 wasn’t an option, so the captain got on the radio.

“He came up on a frequency on which the MMSN operates and explained what was going on. He was talking to somebody up in Wisconsin, but the signal began to fade, and I happened to have the radio turned on and on the right frequency, and I said ‘I’ve got to help this guy,’” Moore continued. “So I called him. It happens I had talked to the captain of that boat previously, in previous years. He explained to me what was going on, and said, ‘could you get us some help?’”

Moore patched the captain through to the U.S. Coast Guard, allowing them to communicate directly via his home radio station, but that wasn’t the end of the story.

“We decided it might be a good idea to establish a schedule to maintain contact over the next several hours, to see how the patient was doing and how the Coast Guard was progressing in getting a facility available to offload this guy. So that’s what I did,” he said. “It started around midday and went into the evening hours, and by 9 or 10 the following morning the Coast Guard managed to have a rescue vessel come alongside. They moved him to the rescue vessel, and then he was offloaded from the rescue vessel to a helicopter and taken to a medical facility.”

“The assistance we received from the ham radio operator[s] was crucial in helping us communicate with the vessel’s crew,” U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Travis Unser said in a press release after the crew member was evacuated. Unser was the search-and-rescue coordinator for the incident.

As for Moore’s role in the man’s rescue, it wasn’t the first time he’s provided aid via radio. As a volunteer with both the MMSN and the Military Auxiliary Radio System (MARS), he’s assisted with calls for help as well as larger disasters, including after the devastating earthquake in Haiti in 2010.

According to an article by the American Radio Relay League, Moore was one of three amateur radio operators who assisted significantly with the communications effort after the earthquake.

Fred is definitely an asset to Amateur Radio and Emergency Communications..

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