Archive for December 2015

Ham Radio and the International Space Station   Leave a comment


Credit: 15 December 2015 File Photo

Sure, everyone’s done it. You pick up the phone, take a quick glance at a number you’ve never seen before and dialed it. A voice connects at the other end and it sure sounds unfamiliar. Still, you ask for the person you intended to reach, hoping a friend or a wife or a kid answered the phone. And no, they’re not there because you’ve dialed the wrong number.

No biggie. It happens.

Except when that wrong number happens to originate from the International Space Station.

British astronaut Tim Peake mistakenly called someone and later tweeted about his wrong attempt and apology. I’m sure the person at the other end thought it was a bunch of bored kids pranking and though little of it until the story broke in the news. It just goes to show you that no matter who and where you are, accidents happen, even at the ISS.

But here’s something: do you know that anyone can contact the ISS? That’s right. If you’re a licensed ham radio operator, you have an opportunity to contact the ISS when it’s above your neck of the woods.

Last summer, Adrian Lane contacted the ISS while it flew over Britain. After sending out a call signal, Lane’s signal was received. He and an American astronaut spoke for about 45 seconds before contact was broken.

As it turns out, there are three ham radios aboard the ISS: an Ericsson MP-X handheld radio, a Kenwood TM D700 and a Kenwood D710.

John Phillips and Ham Radio

Credit: NASA – John Phillips at an ISS Ham Radio 

Obviously, their frequencies operates on different ones than Houston. Its purpose is exactly the same as Adrian Lane discovered – as a means of public education. Schools, for example, reach out to the inhabitants of the ISS to ask questions.

When astronauts have free time, they choose to make random, unschedule contact with whomever is choosing to reach them. Though their work schedules dictate their availability, an astronaut’s waking period is weekdays between 7:30 am – 7:30 pm UTC during the week, which means during that time they’re generally working. However, at either end of that schedule they might be available, as well as weekends, when more free time is also available.

Crews don’t scan but switch between frequencies, depending upon their location. Since the ISS travels rapidly, a person only has about 45 seconds worth of contact time.

If you are interested in contacting the ISS, visit this excellent website hosted by Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS). It details location prediction maps, frequencies, and everything else you’ll need to set up contact and once you do, how to receive a QSL card to prove it! And though it’s entirely random, you might just get lucky like Adrian Lane.



Episode 7 – The Riffs Awaken   Leave a comment

In celebration of things Episode 7, I’d thought I’d bring you a miscellany of mirth from a few different sources riffing off of things SW.  The above video came to me via my FB friends. It’s so silly, so ridiculous, I just HAD to post it.

Secondly, here’s a damn good rap between two baddies:

Say, how’d you like to try your hand at lightsabering? Turn that otherwise defenseless smartphone into a lethal weapon with this:

Who doesn’t love a love story? Here’s Darth’s turn at happiness…or is it?

May you all force your way in to the nearest box office and see SW7! Happy viewing!


MST3K Is Back! Yay!   Leave a comment

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know, I know this news hardly pales in comparison to the other big release occurring at the end of this week. But hey, those who can really claim to be sci-fi geeks and connoisseurs of wit know where the good stuff is.

Who doesn’t remember the iconic show from the latter part of the last century? I used to catch it on Comedy Central, and later on, the former Sci-Fi Channel (now SyFy).  It was just so silly, part film commentary, part comedy sketch. I latched on to each episode just to watch a kidnapped janitor and his ‘bot buds watch absolutely horrible films (a goodly portion I had already seen) and wisecrack nonstop.

MST3K’s story reads like a movie plot too. Begun in Minneapolis, MN in 1988 on KTMA, it later moved to Comedy Central and ran for six years until it was cancelled in 1997. A fierce letter campaign to bring it back revived the brilliant show until 1997 on Sci-Fi, when it met its cable demise in 1999. Recipient of the Peabody award in 1993 and named by Time Magazine in 2007 as one of the best television shows of all time (in the top 100), it leaves you wondering why this show was cancelled in the first place. Chalk that up to network execs usual interference with what they want vs. what the creatives envision, and the result is a battle that never ends well, at least for someone.

After the airing of “Danger: Diabolik” on August 8, 1999, MST3K went out of business, although it did go into syndication and if you were lucky, you could pick it up again here and there.

But, like anything worth remembering and savoring, this show had life in it yet. By the modern miracle of crowd funding, the show’s originator/creator, Joel Hodgson, raised $5,764,229 in a month. Add $425,000 raised outside of Kickstarter et voila! We’ll be seeing  14 new episodes in the near future. What’s telling about all of this is show never really went away, it only drifted out to space. Facing a fierce gravitational pull by its devoted fans both old and new, money flowed the instant the Kickstarted campaign started and in the process, broke all crowd funding records.

It still hasn’t been announced when the new episodes will air, but they’ll feature the likes of Patton Oswalt and even Jerry Seinfeld might to do a cameo. So stay tuned! Whether you’d like to revisit old episodes or keep in touch with MST3K happenings, an official channel lives on YouTube.  If you’d like to contribute, here’s their dot-com site. It has all the latest information, merch for sale and all the FAQs you’d ever want answered.

Happy viewing!


%d bloggers like this: