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Meridian Passages, Volume XIII, Number 23

Central Pacific Edition

From Sea to Space

The Radio Guys Try to Contact the Mother Ship

November Alpha One Sierra Sierra … this is November Yankee Zero Victor Maritime Mobile, Region 3 aboard the Research Vessel Mermaid Vigilance calling…”

“Comm” Tom’s plaintive calls reached over the airwaves, trying desperately to make contact with the space ship whizzing overhead. It was our only chance … he just had to get a reply ….

“We must be on you, but can’t hear you … pretzels are running low …”

But it was useless. The orbiting space station dropped overr the horizon, leaving just a few meager “data packet bursts” t o tantalize us. Actually, this is not a science fiction story (though it may contain a few “alternative facts”). Inspired by our success during previous expeditions, the Radio Guys decided to see if they could get in touch with the Space Station. Turns out that two of the current residents, astronaut Commander Shane Kimbrough and Mission Specialist Thomas Pesquet are Hams, so they talk Rod, Tom, & Bryan’s language. They crafted a special hand-held antenna that could be pointed at the Station as it flew overhead (Don’t they have enough antennas already??), and with some help from Mermaid’s Electrical Engineer Sergiy, they got it working. They are also keen to speak with Peggy Whitson from Iowa, and we imagine our Russian-speaking friends on Vigilance may want to speak to the three cosmonauts on ISS.

A few emails to NASA (Kenneth Ransome at JSC Houston) got them the orbital transit times for our part of the world, and they were ready.

Marika and Sue held the antenna, Dave marked the transit times and azimuths (armed with Bryan’s green laser pointer), Tom manned the radio, and Rod-io supervised. Quite a crowd gathered for the 12:34 AM event, probably the largest congregation ever seen on the Mermaid’s bridge after midnight. Doc Pam was available (i.e., asleep in her cabin) in the event of injury. The Media Team was on hand to record the event, and a crowd of rubber-neckers hovered. It was probably just like waiting for Amelia on the Itasca!

As the transit began, Tom started his calls. “NA1SS” is the U.S. Amateur Radio Call Sign for the International Space Station. “NYØV” i s Tom’s call sign. “Maritime Mobile” identifies us as aboard a ship on the high seas. “Region 3” is the ITU (International Telecom Union) region of the world we are in, as agreed by international treaty.

Sadly, Tom’s calls were not answered, and we were all disappointed. Maybe the astronauts were asleep? Maybe they were afraid to be asked to teach a SEA School? Anyway, the Station will pass overhead regularly, and our Hams will try again.

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