HAMNET Report 10th January 2021

In a Hackaday article dated the 3rd of January, Dan Maloney refers to the new digital mode included in the new version of WSJT-X. Dan says that “it looks like there will be a new digital mode to explore soon. The change will come when version 2.4.0 of WSJT-X, the program that forms the heart of digital modes like WSPR and FT8, is released. The newcomer is called Q65, and it’s basically a follow on to the current QRA64 weak-signal mode. Q65 is optimized for weak, rapidly fading signals in the VHF bands and higher, so it’s likely to prove popular with Earth-Moon-Earth fans and those who like to do things like bounce their signals off of meteor trails. We’d think Q65 should enable airliner-bounce too. We’ll be keen to give it a try whenever it comes out.”

Writing in the same article, Dan also refers to our JetPack Man. Humourously, he notes that “it looks like we can all breathe a sigh of relief that our airline pilots, or at least a subset of them, aren’t seeing things. There has been a steady stream of reports from pilots flying in and out of Los Angeles lately of a person in a jetpack buzzing around. Well, someone finally captured video of the daredevil, and even though it’s shaky and unclear — as are seemingly all videos of cryptids — it sure seems to be a human-sized biped flying around in a standing position. The video description says this was shot by a flight instructor at 3,000 feet (914 meters) near Palos Verdes with Catalina Island in the background. That’s about 32 km from the mainland, so whatever this person is flying has amazing range. And, the pilot has incredible faith in the equipment — that’s a long way to fall in something with the same glide ratio as a brick.”

I chuckled at the thought of someone analysing a brick to see what its glide ratio would be! Thanks to Hackaday for both those inserts.

Southgate Amateur Radio News is reporting that a portable amateur radio station for the QO-100 geostationary satellite is active from the icebreaker FS Polarstern on its journey to the Antarctic

AMSAT-DL reports that a portable satellite station for the QO-100 geostationary satellite (Es’hail-2) was commissioned on the icebreaker FS “Polarstern” at 14:23 UTC on December 27, 2020, with an initial QSO between DP0POL/mm and DK3ZL. The very special experiment originated from an idea of Felix DL5XL and Charly DK3ZL. AMSAT-DL spontaneously supported this project by providing a complete 6 Watt transverter radio station, as well as a 75 cm dish on a tripod.

In agreement with the responsible board engineer of Polarstern, Jörg DJ0HO, who is responsible for the callsign DP0POL on Polarstern, the station could be set up in front of a container on the upper deck, depending on the weather situation. Theresa DC1TH and Felix DL5XL are thus able to make radio calls in their spare time during the several-week trip to Antarctica. After the premiere there was an impressive “pile-up” of up to 40 kHz on the narrow-band transponder on the following days.

NASA Science says that, more than halfway to the Red Planet, NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover isn’t just shuttling sophisticated science instruments and tubes to be filled with Earth-bound rock samples. It’s carrying symbols, mottos, and objects that range from practical to playful – everything from meteorite fragments to chips carrying the names of 10.9 million people.

The “extras” are part of a tradition that harks back to the early space age and is now called “festooning” in NASA lingo. A plaque aboard Pioneer 10 and 11 displays a man and a woman for distant space-farers who might find the spacecraft. The Golden Record aboard Voyager 1 and 2 serves a similar purpose. Metal from the wreckage of the Twin Towers on 9/11 was installed on the rovers Opportunity and Spirit, while Spirit also carried a memorial to the crew of Space Shuttle Columbia.

“These kinds of embellishments add artistic elements on missions that are otherwise solely dominated by science and technology, as well as lasting tributes to colleagues who have helped pave the way for humanity’s exploration of space,” said Jim Bell of Arizona State University, who has helped festoon almost all of NASA’s Mars rovers, including Perseverance.

(There is a 1909 penny aboard the Curiosity rover, which nods not just to the hundredth anniversary of the Lincoln penny, but also to how geologists often include a penny for scale when analysing images of rock features.)

There is a calibration “sundial” on Perseverance, a circular disk, not unlike a test pattern, which the rover’s cameras can use to set their colour measurements. It also has small line drawings of early life forms on Earth, including Cyanobacteria, a fern and a dinosaur, and outlines of a female and a male figure. Furthermore it has some inscriptions and a motto.

A second calibration target is for the scanning instruments on the end of the 3 metre long robotic arm. This item has a Martian meteorite included to help fine-tune some settings, and four samples of spacesuit materials to be observed for signs of aging or decay.

Then there’s a placard, with three silicon chips, stencilled with 10,932,295 people’s names, submitted during a NASA campaign long before launch, as well as the essays from the finalists in NASA’s “Name the Rover” contest. The same placard is adorned with a laser-etched graphic depicting Earth and Mars, joined by the star that gives light to both. The phrase “Explore as one”, written in Morse code in the Sun’s rays, connects the two.

Finally, to honour the healthcare workers of the world during the Covid pandemic, there is an emblem styled after the Staff of Aesculapius, the classical emblem of the medical profession, with an entwined snake, and with a globe of the earth at the top, symbolising the impact the pandemic has had, and paying tribute to the perseverance of healthcare workers around the world.

And, boy, do they deserve tributes being heaped upon them! This pandemic is not going to go away anytime soon, and, in spite of the naysayers, will only be brought to an end by vaccinating about 80% of the world’s population.

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