Friday, May 14, 2004

Ham Radio, Rockets, and Little Sisters. Amateur Radio Operators have their own national organization, called the Amateur Radio Relay League. Its 90 years old this year. A group of hams will be trying to boost a transceiver into subspace on Monday with a rocket and you can read about it on the ARRL website. I won't be in a position to receive its signals on Monday.

Hams have had their own satellites going around in orbit for many years, but they got up there by piggy-backing on a NASA launch. They are not in a fixed orbit. That is, a satellite will come up on one horizon and go across the sky and then "set". While it is racing by, however, one can communicate with other hams by using the satellite as a repeater, in a way somewhat similar to the way that we use a cell in the cell phone system. I have a transceiver that can do that, but I don't yet have the antenna and have not communicated with it. You have to aim the antenna at the point on the horizon at which you think the satellite will come up, and then, when you have it, you have to track it with the antenna as it goes across the sky. You can do this manually or you can construct an antenna with some sort of motor that will follow the thing. All of this is on my to-do list, but pretty far down toward the end of it.

This also makes me think about the times that Macon, Walter and I were building model rockets and shooting them up from the East Drive athletic fields in Miami Springs and from the playground at the high school. If there was a breeze (and there always seemed to be), we would shoot a rocket up and then spend the next 15 minutes or more chasing it down, as it floated on its parachute eastward or northward or wherever. We lost a few.

You could get a rocket that would have a compartment in it in which you could put things to launch. We didn't ever get one of those, but thought about it. We thought about putting a lizard or a mouse in the rocket and launching it. They didn't make those compartments big enough for little sisters.

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