HI-SEAS Project Inaugural Ham Radio Event Will Commemorate Gagarin’s Space Flight


The Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation — HI-SEAS -- “Mars mission,” recently underway in Hawaii, will launch its Amateur Radio special event on April 12 — the anniversary of Soviet Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin’s historic spaceflight in 1961. Ron Williams, N9UIK, one of two radio amateurs on the mission — the other is Ross Lockwood, VA6RLW — said this week that the team’s first Amateur Radio activity will begin Saturday, April 12, at 1900 UTC. The team will solicit callers from special event station K6B, and explain the nature and purpose of the event. Amateur Radio communication to and from the “Martian” enclave will incorporate a 20 minute delay in each direction, to emulate actual transmissions between the Red Planet and Earth. USSR Cosmonaut Gagarin was the first human launched into space during the US-Soviet “Cold War” space race.

“The HI-SEAS crew will be celebrating in our habitat and will recognize this human achievement on its anniversary, during our first ham radio activity,” Williams said. The HI-SEAS “astronauts” will be spending the next 4 months in a self-contained, solar-powered habitat at a remote site some 8000 feet up on the slopes of Mauna Loa volcano.

Special event station K6B will call on the WH6FM 2 meter repeater, which is connected to the AllStar VoIP system (node 27084) as well as to the Western Intertie Network, or the WIN System, linked repeaters (reflector 9101). K6B also will transmit into local 2 meter and 70 centimeter repeaters. At 2000 UTC, K6B will begin operation on 28.300 MHz.

“Please remember that we will maintain simulation by imposing a time delay between our transmission and reception that simulates the Earth-to-Mars distance and the time it would take a signal to get there and back,” said Williams, a neuropsychologist. The delay also is being applied to Internet communication.

Williams said that imposing the delay makes the K6B operation “unique to any Amateur Radio special event ever conducted.” He said that NASA is “very interested” in learning how to deal with radio signal delay to and from space.

After transmitting, Williams explained, the K6B operator will turn off the radio for 40 minutes — simulating a 20 minute delay in each direction. “During those 40 minutes, a control operator will take call signs from those wishing to contact us, be acknowledged, and receive a commemorative QSL card,” he said. “At the end of the 40 minutes, we will turn the radio back on and listen for the control operator to allow, one by one, hams to call in and give us signal reports or other pertinent information or greetings.” Acknowledgements of these contacts will arrive without the self-imposed delay.

The HI-SEAS team plans to activate K6B every Saturday at 1900 and 2000 UTC for the duration of their mission, which wraps up in July. The experiment is being conducted by the University of Hawaii and Cornell University.