[Moon-Net] EME QSL Etiquette question
courtney.duncan.n5bf at gmail.com
Wed Nov 23 20:10:14 CET 2016
I agree with Peter precisely on this point.
We all know how difficult it has been, how many diverse subject matters we have had to learn and master, to put signals on the moon. It is such a thrill to work someone else, nearly anywhere else in the world, who has gone through the same thing to also be there. To hear the broken CW and after many tries, hear or piece together your whole callsign, or your whole name, reflected off the moon! To see a trace start up following your JT65 CQ, drifting ever so slightly down in frequency so you know it’s off the moon, then to decode the first block into the beginning of a contact, for you or for someone else. But, either way you and your highly sophisticated setup has decoded something from a ham that was reflected off the moon!
That’s the thrill that I do it for. I haven’t had so much fun since I was a Novice in the 1970s, torturing all those poor guys on 40 and 80 meter CW with my poor but improving CW skills, but transmitting with a rig that I built myself (with significant help from an Elmer W5KRZ). I reached out on the electromagnetic spectrum with my equipment that I, at length and after many learning curves, more or less understood and barely had competence to operate and made contact with someone else who had done something similar to what I had done. It’s amazing that we can even do that. And yes, I enjoyed the QSL cards then too.
There’s no decline of amateur radio here. There isn’t anyone on EME who hasn’t accomplished a major technical achievement, who isn’t technically competent in many different useful ways: mechanics, electronics, machine shop, computers, software, orbital mechanics, electromagnetics, leadership, statistics, scrounging, bargaining, coding theory, amplifiers, antennas — I mean, I can’t even think of all the things you have to know something about, a lot about, and have at least basic competency in to succeed here. And everyone else you work off the moon has done it too in some fashion! This is truly an elite group.
So, you bet I don’t mind sending and receiving QSL cards. Every time I make a contact, every time I review the contact in my log for some purpose (a contest or award entry, or just for fun) I relive the excitement of that QSO. Then I go out to the mailbox and there’s a QSL with a picture of some fantastic station that some fellow ham has put together. I know what he went through to get there, all the challenges and setbacks and triumphs he experienced. I know exactly how he feels about all that equipment. I know why he’s proud of that picture! And, I look at that card and relive the QSO again. That card may have come from half way around the world or it may have come from across town but my station worked that station **off the moon**! Can you even imagine that? This is not merely the magic of wireless (astounding as that is in itself) this is “using the moon as a passive reflector.” It doesn’t get much more profound than that! The fact that hobbyists as individuals or in small groups can even do that is astounding. Then I take that QSL and check the log (and my screen shots and my ALL.TXT) and relive the QSO again. Then I fill out my own card and mail it off and relive the QSO again. What could be more fun?
It has been on my to-do list for at least five years: I’m going to start the process of getting myself on LoTW today so you and I don’t miss any of those confirmations either.
And no, these cards aren’t just post cards. They are cards carefully designed, produced, and carefully filled out by operators who understood what we all have achieved, carefully enclosed in protective envelopes, sometimes with return envelopes and stamps. They really care about what we’ve done here, and so do I.
OK, so I haven’t actually replied to any of the QSL’s yet. I was so busy getting my station on the air this summer that it didn’t occur to me that I don’t have any recent QSL cards, certainly not any that are EME worthy, so I had my daughter who is a graphic designer design some for me. She’s busy; I’m busy; they aren’t printed yet. I have a suspicion that she’s going to give them to me for Christmas, so you guys who are waiting on replies, look for them early in 2017. They’ll be there, 100%.
But for this - I spent thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours putting together some equipment that will bounce signals off the moon. You bet I’ll spend a few bucks and a few minutes collecting commemorative confirmations of that!
As you can probably tell, there’s no ears vs. computers conflict in my mind. In all these cases we’ve used electromagnetic signals that went into and came back out of space that my equipment and me together were able to make some sense of.
I’m the supervisor of the Reprogrammable Signal Processing Group in the Flight Radios Section at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory here. We go to work every day and build custom radios that will fly to destinations in the solar system and even far beyond the solar system, that will receive commands up from earth reliably in a 3 Hz bandwidth when necessary and send science data back to earth across distances so great that the light times are getting up close to a whole day (in the case of Voyager, see https://eyes.nasa.gov/dsn/dsn.html ) and are always at least tens of minutes to hours. Tens of minutes to hours to nearly a day at the speed of light! (You thought two and a half seconds was bad!) Even to the 70 meter Deep Space Network subnet with 30 Kelvin system noise temperatures, we don’t get data back from Voyager at 137 astronomical units much faster than the weak signal JT modes do. (An astronomical unit (A.U.) is the distance from earth to sun, convenient for discussion solar system distances, 137 A.U. is 20.5 billion kilometers.)
It’s all digital of course, we couldn’t do the ultra low rates or the sophisticated codes any other way, and there’s no brains (yet) out 4-5 times as far away as Pluto to help us, but we get that same thrill when we lock up on that signal that was transmitted sometime yesterday that can only barely be detected here today from a machine with a radio that we built over 40 years ago that has been flying away from us at incredible speeds for all that time, and we sure believe the data that comes down on it.
(Wouldn’t that be a great 10 GHz troop contest contact? A few billion points for a few billion km. The QSO wouldn’t fit into the 48 hour contest window, however.)
But I’ve been a CW hound from the beginning too. If I’d lived a hundred years ago I would have been on the CW side of the CW versus phone struggles (but yes, in the end would have done both). And those are both important parts of what amateur radio is. Pushing the boundaries of technology while at the same being the keepers of and honoring the very heritage of the technology of radio itself. Here we are on EME doing both at the same time. What could be more cool?
Of course that doesn’t mean I’m not looking forward to my first SSB EME QSO! I just need to make a schedule with one of you big guys to give it a shot sometime.
So, fellows, we share the greatest hobby there is, and what we’re doing here is pretty close to the best and grandest part of it. What we have the opportunity to do here makes our little corner of the world — of the solar system — a better place and I’m proud to be part of it and share it with all of you — QSOs, QSLs, logger, reflector, all of it.
Time to go check my mailbox for QSLs!
73 all and look forward to seeing you all off the moon — Courtney, N5BF
> Message: 1
> Date: Wed, 23 Nov 2016 11:08:09 +0100
> From: "PA2V" <peter at pa2v.com <mailto:peter at pa2v.com>>
> Subject: [Moon-Net] EME QSL Etiquette question
> To: <moon-net at mailman.pe1itr.com <mailto:moon-net at mailman.pe1itr.com>>
> Message-ID: <firstname.lastname@example.org <mailto:email@example.com>>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset="utf-8"
> To me every EME contact is very valuable.
> It shows me that all I have made, the work I did and study done let me made the contacts.
> My QSO partner did the same and made us doing that moonbounce contact.
> In my opinion it is all a ham can do at the edge. (some do even better)
> So a QSL card is an award to me. And I like to get them very much.
> When it is a DXpedition or new DXCC I most do them via the buro.
> But when there is no buro or people want to have it faster I don?t mind sending them direct at my cost.
> BUT?. I do not get them all in return. So for sure QSL policy did change quite a bit.
> Even when I send one with dollars, euro?s or IRC together with a SAE. I still need some valuable DXCC?s to get confirmed.
> Up until now I keep the screen dumps? But is nothing like a QSL card.
> 73, Peter PA2V
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