The Case for Mars - The Mars Society - KA9JSV

Discussion in 'Amateur Radio News' started by KA9JSV, Oct 17, 2016.

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  1. KA0HCP

    KA0HCP XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    The original post was a bit sentimental and included an admixture of not quite appropriate ideas and parts.

    -What methods, frequencies, equipment are best for amateur Mars-Earth communications, and Mars Point-Point communications?

    Keeping in mind that we are two decades away from any human mission attempt. Certainly amateur operations from Mars will be even further in the future.

    Hams interested in familiarizing themselves with equipment and methods which might be associated with Mars operations should involve the following:

    *EME with respect to
    -High power
    -Weak signal reception
    -Various software controls and decoding
    -High gain antennas
    -Antenna feeds, multiple signal feeds, preamps, sequencing

    *Satellite Operations
    -Antenna pointing software,
    -Precision antenna pointing
    -Antenna feed and sequencing
    -Weak signals

    *Microwave terrestrial operations
    -Block amplifiers, block processing
    -High gain antennas, SHF feed types
    -Precision antenna pointing
    -Weak signals
    Last edited: Oct 20, 2016
  2. KA0HCP

    KA0HCP XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Reality check. With a two decade horizon (minimum) keep in mind this:

    -Hams over 50 years of age today are unlikely to hear any Mars signals. We will be in our 70's and in our waning years.

    -The hams or prospective hams who become astronauts on Mars are under 20 years of age today.
  3. NN4RH

    NN4RH Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    When I was a young boy in the 1960s, a neighbor friend and I would curl up in cardboard boxes with hand drawn control panels, and talk to each other on toy walkie_talkies, pretending we were Gemini astronauts.

    I guess this ham radio Mars project is basically the same sort of game.
    KA0HCP and WR2E like this.
  4. W1YW

    W1YW Ham Member QRZ Page

  5. KW0U

    KW0U Ham Member QRZ Page

  6. W8BFT

    W8BFT Ham Member QRZ Page

    I disagree. Mars Society is a non-profit registered under the tax code (specifically 509(a)(2) ) purely to avoid paying income taxes. That's irrelevant to the prohibition of "Communications for hire or for material compensation" in Part 97.113(a)(2). The Society provides facilities that selected volunteer crews use to conduct simulations. Therefore any communications are not "communications on behalf of an employer", and the operators would certainly have no "pecuniary interest". (97.113(a)(3))

    The only sub-paragraph that might conceivably apply is the prohibition on "Communications, on a regular basis, which could reasonably be furnished alternatively through other radio services." (97.113(a)(5)) First, the use of amateur transmitters would be limited to those crews that include at least one licensed amateur. If the Mars Society were to apply that criterion to their crew selection, it would certainly impact the applicant pool. So much for "regular basis". Is it "reasonabl[e]" to put a delay into another radio service to correspond to the distance between Earth and Mars? Not in my opinion.

    For short-range voice and telemetry communications, amateur radio might not be the best solution given the license requirements, but there's nothing in the regulations prohibiting it. As for simulating radio contact with the Earth: sure. No problem. In fact, it's already been done.

    I agree it's never inappropriate to discuss a proposal someone puts up for discussion. But an automatic "you can't do that because of my opinion of a regulation I haven't actually read" isn't usually helpful--indeed it seems more an attempt to shut down discussion than to promote discussion.
  7. KA0HCP

    KA0HCP XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Of course there are several. One is that amateur radio is not to be used when other services are available. The Mars Society can purchase commercial UHF and VHF equipment and obtain licensing for it. There is no reason for them to use the amateur service for their experiments. It is not appropriate.

    The operations of the Mars Society are not of a personal nature and not related to the purposes of the amateur service.
  8. W8BFT

    W8BFT Ham Member QRZ Page

    Again, I just read the regulation, and I don't agree. If I'm wrong according to the plain language of a regulation or law, (not inference or interpretation), or an official FCC determination on record, I'm certainly open to learning about it.
    Actually, no. The regulation states that amateur radio is not to be regularly used when other services are reasonably available. {97.113(a)(5)} That leaves the door open for occasional use, or regular use when there's no reasonable alternative. The stated position is akin to arguing I can't use a mobile amateur radio to tell a carpool partner I'm about to arrive at his house to take him to work, because I have a cell phone in my pocket. (Just to be clear, that example would be a completely unreasonable interpretation of the regulation.)
    That's true, in principle, if they have enough budget that isn't committed to higher priority equipment and supplies. And if they have enough volunteer or paid (more budget) labor to adapt commercial equipment to their use. And if a required adaptation is even legal. And if they deem it appropriate to their mission.
    That's pure opinion, and I pretty much completely disagree. Since we don't know what, specifically, they intend to accomplish on any given mission, we have no way to determine whether they might have a reason to use amateur radio. We don't get to tell them what they need.
    The regulatory requirement is not that amateur communications must be of a purely personal nature. It's that the operator must have no pecuniary interest or operate on behalf of an employer. Purely personal use is a subset of that, but that leaves a lot of space for use that's not purely personal. Like using it to perform (without pay) an experiment under the aegis of a non-profit organization.

    This discussion illustrates a basic dichotomy regarding regulations, I think: whether a practice is prohibited by default unless expressly allowed, or is allowed by default unless expressly prohibited. I tend toward the libertarian view.

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