Amateur Radio Newsline™ Report 1807 – March 30 2012
Amateur Radio Newsline™ Report 1807 – March 30 2012
Amateur Radio Newsline report number 1807 with a release date of March 30th, 2012 to follow in 5-4-3-2-1.
The following is a Q-S-T. The next Global Amateur Radio Emergency Conference to be hekd in Malaysia; 1700 South African hams let their licenses lapse, World amateur Radio Day to celebrate 50 yesrs of ham radio in space, Japan to launch five new hamsats, DXCC is going on-line and Roving Reporter Pierre Pulinmyleg returns with a truly out of this world April 1st story. Find out where Pierre is this year on Amateur Radio Newsline™ report number 1807 coming your way right now.
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RESCUE RADIO: MY GAREC 2012 TO BE HELD IN MALAYSIA IN NOVEMBER
The 8th Global Amateur Radio Emergency Conference now coined as MyGAREC 2012, will be held from November 12th to the 14th in Malaysia. Amateur Radio Newsline’s Norm Seeley, KI7UP, has the details:
Among the draft topics to be discussed at My GAREC 2012 are High Frequency Emergency Operating Procedures, presentations from the three regions of the IARU and presentations from societies with recent disaster relief communications operations. Also to be discussed will be the future Global Amateur Radio Emergency Conference itself.
GAREC began in 2005 and is now the premier annual event attended by those with an interest in amateur radio providing emergency communications during training exercises or in response to disasters. As such it attracts participants from around the world.
General information including information on the venue, registration fees and the tentative agenda and the registration forms will be posted on the website www.mygarec2012.com by the end of this month. That website will be updated frequently to keep all updated with the latest news and program changes. For specific information you can e-mail to info (at) mygarec2012 (dot) com
For the Amateur radio Newsline, Im Norm Seeley, KI7UP, in Scottsdale, Arizona.
MyGAREC 2012 has been timed to immediately follow the IARU Region 3 Conference to be held in Vietnam from November 5th to the 9th. It too has as its theme disaster relief communications.
(VK3PC, MyGarec 2012 Team)
RESTRUCTURING: NTIA SAYS PACTOR III IS NOT THE ONLY DIGITAL MODE FOR 60 METERS
Some breaking news for those who operate the 60 meter band. In response to requests for clarification from the ARRL, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration says that it has no objection to the use of a broader range of data emissions by amateurs on the five 5 MHz frequencies on 60 meters.
In an e-mail response to ARRL Chief Executive Officer David Sumner, K1ZZ, Karl Nebbia, the Associate Administrator of the NTIA Office of Spectrum Management, stated, that his organization had no interest in limiting the types of emission used by the amateurs as long as the data emission does not exceed the 2.8 kHz bandwidth as generated by the upper sideband transmitter.
Nebbia referred all further inquiries to the FCC, which he says sets the conditions for use of the five 5 MHz frequencies by radio amateurs.
The ARRL said that its original understanding was that the NTIA preferred that the use of 2K80J2D emission be limited to Pactor III. The NTIA now says that that is not the case.
But it’s not all peaches and roses. This is because the requirement of only one signal per channel remains, as well as the prohibition against automatic operation. Also, the FCC continues to require that all digital transmissions be centered on the channel-center frequencies, which the Report and Order defines as being 1.5 kHz above the suppressed carrier frequency of a transceiver operated in the Upper Sideband mode. The ARRL says that this is typically the frequency shown on the frequency display.
For the Amateur Radio Newsline, I’m Heather Butera-Howell, KB3TZD, in Berwyck, Pennsylvania. (NTIA, ARRL, others)
WORLDBEAT: ICASA SAYS OVER 1700 SOUTH AFRICA HAM LICENSES HAVE LAPSED
The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa says that approximately 1700 amateur radio call signs have been marked as having lapsed by the regulatory agency. This is as a result of a substantial cleanup that the ICASA undertook during the last 12 months.
According to the South African Radio League, this is a significant number of former callsigns and that it is likely that many amateurs have unwittingly allowed their licenses to lapse. As an example SARL says it has 43 paid up members who no longer have valid licenses.
If you are a South Africa radio amateur and believe you might be one of these people whose license inadvertently lapsed, the South African Radio Leagues advises to visit its website where you will find more information and what to do. The URL is www.sarl.org.za. (SARL)
HAM CELEBRATIONS: WORLD AMATEUR RADIO DAY TO CELEBRATE 50 YEARS OF HAM RADIO IN SPACE
April 18th is World Amateur Radio Day and celebrates the 87th anniversary of the founding of the International Amateur Radio Union, IARU. Now it has been announced that the theme of this years World Amateur Radio Day is "Amateur Radio Satellites: Celebrating 50 Years in Space."
The name and the theme were chosen in remembrance the launching of OSCAR 1 on December 12, 1961 and OSCAR 2 on June 2, 1962. Several IARU Member Societies have already announced special event stations for various dates during April to celebrate these two early ham radio in space milestones.
Callsigns known as we go to air include 6H6IARU, 3G73IARU and LZ1WARD. The EARD suffix standing for World Amateur adio Day. (IARU-R2)
HAM RADIO IN SPACE: JAPAN TO LAUNCH AMATEUR RADIO SATELLITES
Big news on the ham radio space scene. This with word that the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency has announced the upcoming launch of five amateur radio satellites. This, on two launches taking place this spring and summer. Amateur Radio Newsline’s Stephen Kinford, N8WB, is here with more:
The first launch is the H2A that takes place on May 17th. It will carry the amateur radio satellite HORYU-2.
This will be followed on July 21st when the HTV3 mission. It will deliver the JEM-Small Satellite Orbital Deployer or J-SSOD to the International Space Station. That unit will enable small satellites to be deployed from the ISS using the Japanese Experiment Module robot arm.
The Japanese amateur radio satellites WE-WISH and FITSAT-1, along with San Jose State University’s TechEdSat and Vietnam’s F-1 will also be delivered to the I-S-S on this mission. Plans are for them to be deployed to orbit on September 20th.
For the Amateur Radio Newsline, I’m Stephen Kinford, N8WB, in Wadsworth, Ohio.
We will have more ham radio space related news later on in this weeks Amateur Radio Newsline report. (JN1GKZ, Southgate)
CHANGING TIMES: ON-LINE DXCC
A new DXCC tool that brings the program partially on-line is to debut on April 2nd. Bill Pasternak, WA6ITF, is in the newsroom with more:
Actually, initial word of the DXCC going on-line came not from the ARRL but rather from the Ohio-Penn DX newsletter and was later confirmed by the ARRL DXCC desk. And in a nutshell, here’s how it’s going to work.
Using an Online DXCC Application, the candidate can select the cards that he or she would like to have checked by a card checker at his or her convenience. The person then types that data into a form which can be saved and retrieved at any time until submitted and make an application for DXCC.
When completed, the applicant will be able to print the list of cards and take the list -- and the cards -- in the same order that they are entered into the form -- to a card checker. He or she will check the cards, note any changes and send the form to ARRL HQ.
For the most part, the card checker’s job is exactly the same as before, except he or she does not need to collect a payment. This is because the applicant can pay the DXCC fee on-line.
Once submitted, DXCC staff will have access a given file, make any changes noted by the card checker and process the application.
And oh yes, the good news: The Online DXCC Application will have rates that are half those of a traditional paper QSL application that is sent to ARRL HQ.
More detailed information is on-line at tinyurl.com/dxcc-online
For the Amateur Radio Newsline, I’m Bill Pasternak, WA6ITF, in the Newsroom, in Los Angeles.
The bottom line: Submitting a DXCC application on-line should be easier than making a paper application, saving both time and money. (DXCC, OPDX)
From the United States of America, We are the Amateur Radio Newsline, heard on bulletin stations around the world including the New Orleans VHF Club net serving New Orleans Louisiana.
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ENFORCEMENT: UNLICENSED BROADCASTER IN PUERTO RICO HAS FINE REDUCED
The operator of an unlicensed FM broadcast station in Puerto Rico has been able to convince the FCC to reduce a fine levied against him based on financial hardship.
After being handed a Notice of Apparent Liability in the amount of $15,000, Eleuterio Lebron of Guayama, Puerto Rico responded to the regulatory agency last September. In his note to the agency he claimed that he was not trying to violate the FCC rules or the Communications Act when he operated an unauthorized station on 88.5 MHz. He went on to say that he thought he could use his Ramsey model PX50 transmitter legally without a license because it was marketed as being Part 15 compliant.
However in its findings the FCC disagreed with Lebron interpretation of Ramsey’s marketing. It noted that Part 15 compliance wasn’t mentioned. It also stated Lebron’s ignorance of the rules doesn’t justify or mitigate the violation. Especially as he had been warned before that the transmissions were illegal.
However the agency did reduce the penalty to only $1500 based on documentation submitted by Lebron’s backing up his assertion that the original $15,000 penalty amounted to a financial hardship that he could not pay. While it accepted this as a viable reason to reduce the fine, the commission warned Lebron that any future violations may result in higher monetary forfeitures that may not be reduced based on his financial circumstances.
Payment of the reduced fine was due within 30 days of Lebron being officially notified of the FCC’s decision in the case. (FCC)
RESTRUCTURING: FCC FORMS BROADBAND SPECTRUM RE-ALLOCATION TASK FORCE
The Federal Communications Commission is proposing to re-allocate another 40 MHz of spectrum out of mobile satellite services spectrum for broadband, and has formed an Incentive Auction Task Force. Amateur Radio Newsline’s Cheryl Lasek, K9BIK, reports:
This is a committee loaded with some well known names in the field of telecommunications. Its purpose will manage the auction process to restructure current broadcast television spectrum for future broadband use.
Ruth Milkman, the former Wireless Bureau chief who is now special counsel to the FCC chairman, will head up the task force. Among others she will be joined by Rick Kaplan, who now heads the FCC’s Wireless Division; Julius Knapp, head of the Office of Engineering and Technology; FCC Chief Economist Marius Schwartz; Chief Technologist Henning Schulzrinne and General Counsel Austin Schlick.
Along with the formation of the task force the commission also issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to open up 40 MHz of spectrum in the 2 GHz Mobile Satellite Services band for wireless broadband. The proposed rules would allow flexible use of the targeted spectrum and reflects the directives in the National Broadband Plan.
For the amateur Radio Newsline, I’m Cheryl Lasek, K9BIK, in Zion, Illinois.
A related Notice of Inquiry seeks comment on more strategies to free up additional spectrum as well. (FCC, TVT)
HAM HAPPENINGS: ARRL SPONSORING WEBINAR TO HELP YOU PUBLICIZE FIELD DAY
The ARRL Public Relations Committee will be holding a free Webinar on Thursday evening April 12 for Public Information Officers, radio club officers and anyone else wanting to join in. This, to teach the easiest and most effective way to write a press release for Field Day and actually get it noticed by the mass media in your home region.
The webinar will begin at 9 pm Eastern Daylight Time and will run for about 90 minutes. Several experts in mass media communications will be on hand to teach the tricks of the trade in dealing with radio, television and print publications.
Pre-registration is required. To reserve a spot simply take your web browser to tinyurl.com/arrl-field-day-webinar or directly at https://www3.gotomeeting.com/register/278619454.
Space is limited so if you want to take part you need to sign up today. (ARRL PR Committee)
HAM HAPPENINGS: MICROWAVE UPDATE 2012 PUTS OUT CALL FOR PAPERS
This years Microwave Update Conference will be held October 18th to the 21st in Santa Clara, California. Hosted by the 50 MHz and Up Group, a first call is going out to solicit conference papers, presentations and workshops on technical and operational aspects of microwave weak signal amateur radio. This covering the centimeter, millimeter and sub-millimeter to light wavelengths. Tutorials and overviews are also welcome to summarize current know how and to help and encourage newcomers. For more information on submitting papers as well as all other aspects of the conference please go www.microwaveupdate.org on the World-Wide-Web. (WZ1V)
HAM HAPPENINGS: ESPN EMPLOYEES CREATE THE WORLDWIDE AMATEUR RADIO CLUB
Current and former employees of the Entertainment and Sports Network, better known to the public as ESPN, have formed the Worldwide Amateur Radio Club. Located on the grounds of the ESPN facility in Bristol, Connecticut, the group has now been granted the club call WE1SPN .
At present the club has about 40 members. Inaugural operations were to take place on 7.177 MHz at 21:00 UTC on March 29th. This opening gala was to include trying to contact as may radio clubs at Disney theme parks as possible.
The Worldwide Amateur Radio Club is the latest bin a long series of broadcast industry based employee recreation entities. It joins similar employee groups at the CBS, NBC, ABC and Fox networks as well as at a number of broadcast stations nationwide and world-wide.
More about WE1SPN can be found by checking the listing page for their callsign on QRZ.com. (KE6ZGP)
HAM HAPPENINGS: SOUTH AFRICA WESTERN CAPE ANTIQUE WIRELESS ASSOCIATION EXPO
South Africa’s Western Cape section of the Antique Wireless Association of South Africa will be holding an Expo over Easter weekend from April 6th to the 9th. Location ids the farm owned by John and Judy Martin, ZS1D, and ZS1JEG and located near the town of Stanford. Featured will be a large display of radios of yesteryear and associated equipment. Also a classic radio station will be in operation. Talk-in is on 145.5 MHz simplex as well as on the 145.725 Hermanus repeater. Those planning to attend are encouraged to bring an antique radio to exhibit. (SARL)
NAMES IN THE NEWS: VE3CBR APPOINTED PIO FOR RAC NATIONAL FIELD OFFICE SECRETARIAT
Some names in the news. Radio Amateurs of Canada has announced that Alan Bauld VE3CBR has been appointed Public Information Officer to the Field Organization National Secretariat. VE3CBR resides in Stittsville, Ontario just outside Ottawa, and brings with him an extensive background in both management and amateur radio. His appointment is effective immediately. (RAC)
NAMES IN THE NEWS: RSGB APPOINTS NEW AROS COORDINATOR
The Radio Society of Great Britain has announced the appointment of Keith Bassett, G7NBU has been appointed as the new Amateur Radio Observation Service or AROS Coordinator with Mario Brashill, G2DPA appointed as a deputy. The RSGB says that together they bring significant experience and skill to the Amateur Radio Observation Service with its broad challenges of investigating matters that might create a negative public of amateur radio. (RSGB)
NAMES IN THE NEWS: ANDY SENNITT TO RETIRE FROM RNW END OF APRIL
Andy Sennitt who edited the now closed Radio Netherlands Media Network weblog says that he will be retiring from that international broadcaster at the end of April. Sennitt says that during his last weeks at Radio Netherlands that he will be writing a series of articles reflecting on the changes in international broadcasting since he started appearing on the Media Network radio show in 1981 as well as looking ahead to the coming decade.
This perspective will be published on the Radio Netherlands English language website. Sennitt asks that if you have any memories of Radio Netherlands or any other international broadcasters that you would like to share, please e-mail them to him. He can be reached at at MediaNetwork (at) rnw (dot) nl. Sennitt adds that he will try to include them in the articles as is possible. (Media Network)
NAMES IN THE NEWS: WO4W SAYS BETTER TORNADO WARNING SYSTEM NEEDED
In an interview with National Public Radio, veteran T-V meteorologist James Spann, WO4W, recently highlighted the limitations he and his colleagues face when covering tornadoes. Spann, who has become something of a severe weather pundit during his time at Birmingham Alabama’s ABC 33/40, says that we are not as good as we think we are, and we have to accept that and work on it and be better.
WO4W says that television stations must stream their long form tornado coverage in a way that is accessible to all portable devices, not just some of them. And says Spann, its important to make the stream easy to find either via a web page or app. You can hear the story on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered at tinyurl.com/npr-tornado-alert.
James Spann has long been an outspoken critic of the siren only warning process and the public’s over-reliance on them. Following the April 2011 tornado outbreak he wrote a long blog post about the siren mentality titled “The Warning Process Must Be Fixed.” Its on the web at tinyurl.com/spann-tornado-warning (NPR)
This is ham radio news for today’s radio amateur. From the United States of America, We are the Amateur Radio Newsline with links to the world from our only official website at www.arnewsline.org and being relayed by the volunteer services of the following radio amateur:
(5 sec pause here)
THE FINAL FRONTIER: NASA ANNOUNCES ISSLIVE! APP
NASA has announced the release of the ISSLive! app for iPhone, iPad and Andoid devices. Amateur Radio Newsline’s David Black, KB4KCH, has the details:
The ISS Live! app delivers live streaming data from the International Space Station. Users can take a virtual 3-D tour of the Mission Control Center and the space station, and view mission control console displays with real-time data. Interactive educational lessons using the data, as well as crew and science timelines with individual crew member, social media and international science experiment details are also available via the app.
The space agency calls ISSLive! an innovative, interactive application that provides a novel way to learn about the International Space Station while on the go. To learn more and find links to download the ISSLive! app, visit spacestationlive.jsc.nasa.gov. That’s where you will find the icons for the iPhone App Store and the Android Market.
I’m David Black, KB4KCH, from the South-East bureau in Birmingham, Alabama.
Once again that URL is spacestationlive.jsc.nasa.gov. (NASA)
RADIO IN SPACE: NASA CONSIDERING LAGRANGE POINT OUTPOST
NASA is pressing forward on assessing the value of a human-tended outpost near the far side of the moon. One that would embrace international partnerships as well as commercial and academic participation,
According to SPACE.com, William Gerstenmaier is NASA's Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and operations. And in a February 3rd memo Gerstenmaier says that a team is being formed to develop a cohesive plan for exploring a spot in space known as the Earth-moon Lagrange point.
Lagrange points sometimes called liberation points, are places in space where the combined gravitational pull of two large masses roughly balance each other out. This would allow a spacecraft or other object to essentially park in that spot without being pulled toward either one of the masses.
A pre-memo NASA appraisal of Lagrange Point EML-2, which is near the lunar far side, has spotlighted this destination as the leading option for a near-term space study. EML-2 could serve as a gateway for exploration of multiple destinations including near-lunar space, our own moon, asteroids, the moons of Mars and ultimately, the red planet itself. (Space.com)
ON THE AIR: CELEBRATING THE US ISLANDS AWARD PROGRAM
On the air listen out for KL7JR and XYL WL7MY who will be active from the Big Island of Hawaii between April 1st to the 15th. This venture is in celebrating the 18th anniversary of the U.S. Islands Awards program. Operation will be on 80 through 10 meters using the callsign NH7DX. QSL via KL7JR (Southgate)
ON THE AIR: HAM RADIO COMMEMORATES THE BATTLE OF SHILOH BATTLE
While a bit short notice, word that the NorthEast Mississippi Amateur Radio Club will be operating a special event station March 30th and April 1st. This in honor of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War Battle of Shiloh, in Tennessee.
The ham radio commemorative will have two stations set up on the grounds of the Shiloh Military Park. Frequencies used will be in the lower part of the General class SSB portions of the High Frequency bands which include the Technician frequencies on 10 meters. Certificates and QSL will be available after the operation has concluded.
The ham radio operation will be held in conjunction with a special reenactment held by Blue Gray Alliance. For more information please e-mail event coordinator Charles Buster, NA5MS to cebuster (at) ms (dot) metrocast (dot) net. (NA5MS)
RADIOSPORTS: THE 2012 HOLYLAND CONTEST APRIL 20 - 21
The 2012 Holyland Contest sponsored by the Israel Amateur Radio Club is slated to begin on Friday, April 20th at 21:00 UTC and conclude on Saturday April 21st at 21.00 UTC. Special trophies and newly certificates will be issued to participating hams and SWL’s for different classes and modes of operation. The Israel Amateur Radio Club adds that it invites the world-wide ham radio community to be on the bands during the contest as an exercise in the spirit of friendship between all radio amateurs. More about the contest is on line at www.iarc.org. (4Z0X)
In DX, F8ATS will be active portable 6W from Senegal between March 30th and April 7th. Operations will be holiday style probably on all HF bands. QSL via the Bureau is preferred.
DL7BC will be on the air from Mayotte through April 6th using the callsign TO7BC on 80 through 10 meters. QSL to his home callsign, either direct or via the bureau.
OH4MDY will be active as XV2RZ from Vietnam until April 16th and says that this time he will pay special attention to digital modes. No frequencies or operating hours are known. QSL via his home callsign, direct only.
ZB3M and ZB2ER will activate the special callsigns ZQ3M and ZQ2ER from Gibraltar between May 5th and June 10th. This operation is to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II. QSL via ZB3M direct only. No bureau or electronic QSL’s will be accepted for this one.
An international team will activate the callsign E51M from the North Cook Islands from March 28th to April 10th. They will operate on 160 through 6 meters using CW, SSB and RTTY. The QSL manager is DJ8NK.
Lastly, KV1J will be operating from Miquelon Island stroke FP between July 10th and the 17th. His activity will be on 160 through 6 meters using CW, SSB, RTTY and PSK31. He will generally be on the highest frequency band that is open, and he may try 6 meters if there is an indications of propagation. Also, look for him on the satellites, weather permitting. QSL via KV1J, direct, via the bureau or electronically using Logbook of the World.
(Above from various DX news sources)
THAT FINAL ITEM: STRANGE MORSE FROM SPACE
And finally this week, it appears as if radio astronomers have discovered mysterious sources of extremely high-powered radiation across the universe. Amateur Radio Newsline’s Newsline's space-faring, roving reporter Pierre Pullinmyleg, says that hams are helping to unravel the mystery.
Scientists at NASA say the Fermi space telescope has discovered hundreds of super-high-energy gamma ray sources at the very top end of the electromagnetic spectrum, and that more than a third of them are complete mysteries. Adding to the mystery is the pattern of these gamma rays on spectrograms, showing short bursts of energy that resemble dots and longer ones that look like dashes.
Several radio astronomers who are also radio amateurs noticed these patterns and performed two sets of calculations with amazing results. The frequencies on which the gamma ray sources were discovered correspond with the two-billionth harmonic of 20 meters, and distance calculations show that, had the signals originated on Earth and been re-radiated back toward us, the dates of origin always seem to match up with the dates of major CW contests here on Earth.
One spectrogram currently making the rounds in ham radio astronomy circles clearly shows a pattern which, in Morse code, would read:
"Di-dah, di-dah-dah-dit, di-dah-dit, di-dit, di-dah-di-dit," followed by a space and "di-di-dah-dit, dah-dah-dah, dah-dah-dah, di-dah-di-dit." Another reason, they say, to know code.
Reporting from near Alpha Centauri, this is Pierre Pullinmyleg for Newsline.
More details on the Fermi Space Telescope's findings and current sample spectrograms are available online at science dot nasa dot gov. We are told that the spectrograms Pierre alluded to in his report are not scheduled to be released until sometime after the 1st of April, in the year 2112. (Pierre Pullinmyleg Annual April 1st Technology Report)
With thanks to Alan Labs, AMSAT, the ARRL, the CGC Communicator, CQ Magazine, the FCC, the Ohio Penn DX Bulletin, Radio Netherlands, Rain, the RSGB, the Southgate News and Australia's WIA News, that's all from the Amateur Radio Newsline™. Our e-mail address is newsline (at) arnewsline (dot) org. More information is available at Amateur Radio Newsline's™ only official website located at www.arnewsline.org. You can also write to us or support us at Amateur Radio Newsline™, 28197 Robin Avenue, Santa Clarita California, 91350
A reminder that the nominating period for the 2012 Amateur Radio Newsline Young Ham of the Year Award is now open. Full details and a downloadable nominating form are on our website at arnewsline.org/yhoty.
For now, with Bill Pasternak, WA6ITF, at the editor’s desk, I’m Jeff Clark, K8JAC, saying 73 and we thank you for listening.
Amateur Radio Newsline™ is Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.
Sounds like a something from the Twilight Zone. Where are Rod Serling and Ray Bradbury when you need them?
Originally Posted by WA6ITF
FIRST LICENSED AS KN3JBU IN JULY 1959. 52 YEARS AS OF JULY 2011.
Really rally long DX??
EHF transmissions from M0ON/UF0?
.- .--. .-. .. .-.. ..-. --- --- .-.. --... ...--
Last edited by WA8LGM; 04-01-2012 at 11:15 AM.
Hey!! Why am I in this handcart and where am I going?
It's Probing time.
Loved the mystery signals from space! You really had me going until I read the Morse. Great Job, ARN!!
Vy 73, and Mni tnx for keeping us all up to date...Joe (dit-dit)
We are all lucky ET knows Morse Code. Hi Hi
FIRST LICENSED AS KN3JBU IN JULY 1959. 52 YEARS AS OF JULY 2011.
Pierre Pullinmyleg alerted me.
Pierre alerted me too -- in a sub-space message that came via SKYPE. Until he called in his story I had no idea that they even had SKYPE out near Alpha Centauri. Got to tell y'a though -- Pierre's reports become more and more surreal each year. At least he did not ask for return bus fare from out there amongst the stars.