Amateur Radio (AA6AX)
NASA flew the retired Space Shuttle Endeavour through the San Francisco Bay Area this morning. It was a treat for tens of thousands of us who waited and watched for this very last flight of the Endeavour. It is one of four shuttles going into retirement in the form of permanent exhibits…with Endeavour ending up in Los Angeles.
Using amateur radio repeaters — there were lots of folks watching for the aircraft all along its route — I tracked the flight’s progress from Southern California up past Stockton, where it flew around the capitol building in Sacramento twice, then down the Sacramento River to the Bay Area. The craft made a pass by the Golden Gate Bridge, one around the Bay in a big loop, and then back out straight between the bridge towers. I joined hundreds of enthusiastic fans viewing from Twin Peaks (elev. 800+ ft) in the geographical center of San Francisco. We were nearly the same elevation as the aircraft, which flew between 1,200 and 1,500 feet during the entire maneuver. (continue reading…)
This is a way geeky night for us engineers, and somewhat akin to the 1969 moon landing in many ways. I’m watching the Mars rover Curiosity landing right now (14 minutes delayed, of course, due to the speed of light). “Parachute deploy!” they say just now. And a minute or two later I’m watching as the JPL engineers report “Touchdown confirmed, we are safe on Mars … and … Now to see where Curiosity will take us.” The largest rover and science experiment to date has landed on Mars (afternoon Mars time, actually). By the time the radio signals reached us, the rover had been there for 14 minutes. (The photo is of a wheel cover, which I guess a mechanic is going to remove tomorrow.) Follow developments online at nasa.gov/msl
It has been my plan to make several trips into the Yosemite wilderness this summer in order to visit some places I’ve never seen before. Most tourists have seen Yosemite “Valley” and many have seen Tuolumne Meadows. Access to the wilderness areas is controlled by a “permitting” process that limits the number of people who may enter on a wilderness trailhead each day. There are a couple dozen trailheads, and they have quotas of one to two dozen camper-hikers per day per trailhead. Once you’re into the wilderness area, you can pretty much go where you desire, as long as you have the energy and the food. (continue reading…)
Since the age of 6, when I visited Estes Park, Colorado, whenever I see any geographical feature more than say 100 meters above me, I climb it. (Provided it’s not a technical climb.) If I can get there without hanging by my fingertips, I go.
Summits On The Air [SOTA] is an organization that operates mostly in Europe and the US, which encourages amateur radio operation from mountain peaks. In many areas these are really just large hills, but here the western mountains of the US, we have many hundreds of peaks that are truly mountains and not just high spots. (continue reading…)