HI-SEAS Mission Team Set for Mars “Landing” on March 28
Ron Williams, N9UIK, and his fellow “astronauts” are set to “land on Mars” on March 28. Williams is part of Mission 2 (of four) in the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation — HI-SEAS — project. The team is taking ham radio along to their simulated Martian outpost, a self-contained domed shelter, where they’ll be cut off from civilization until mid-summer. They’ll be on the air from their quarters on “the Red Planet” — actually in Hawaii — starting on April 12 at 1900 UTC.
“We will continue to do this weekly for the duration of the mission or until interest wanes,” Williams said. Their plan calls for simulating the communication delay that would occur over the distance from Mars to Earth, as required by the project’s NASA sponsors. This will mean integrating a 20 minute signal delay into all communications, whether via Amateur Radio or the Internet.
“To the best of our knowledge, this will be unique to any Amateur Radio special event ever conducted,” Williams told ARRL in February. “Learning how to deal with signal delay is something that NASA is very interested in. The team was able to obtain the special event call sign K6B for the project for nearly the entire length of the mission, instead of the typical 15 days.
Every Saturday morning at 1900 UTC (0900 Hawaii Time), K6B will call out on an EchoLink repeater and on 10 meters, to offer information regarding the project and to invite calls. “We will stop transmitting and will turn off our receiver,” he said. “During the following 20 minute ‘signal delay,’ an outside coordinator will line up individual hams wishing to make contact with us. At the end of 20 minutes we will turn our radio back on and begin receiving transmissions.” These will be called in order by students at Hawaiian Preparatory Academy, KH6HPA.
After logging the call signs, the “Martian” team will wait another 20 minutes before transmitting acknowledgements. A special QSL card will be available. Williams said operational details will be announced as they become available.
The HI-SEAS participants will simulate living and working within a Martian outpost — actually a solar-powered dome at a remote site some 8000 feet up on the slopes of Mauna Loa. The experiment is being conducted by the University of Hawaii and Cornell University.
At 60, Williams, a clinical neuropsychologist from Indiana, is the oldest member of the team and one of two hams on this crew increment. The other is Ross Lockwood, VA6RLW, of Alberta.