[amsat-bb] An Anniversary QSO

Hal Lund ZS6WB zs6wb at telkomsa.net
Wed Dec 23 22:09:34 PST 2009

Last evening I had been up on several earlier satellite passes and knowing
Dean, ZD8DC was planning to come up on a later AO-7 pass I sat down in front
of the TV to pass a bit of time. As I do all too often these days, I fell
asleep in front of the TV but was awakened by a phone call from ZS2BK to
alert me that Dean was booming in on AO-7. Everything was set up for AO-7 so
the contact was quickly made with 59 signals both ways. Dean does extremely
well over the 5000 km path with his portable FT-817 and Arrow antenna. It
was not the first QSO with Dean but I was very pleased to have the
opportunity to pass holiday greetings to Dean and to thank him for the
excellent job he has done on the satellites during his work assignments on
Ascension. The QSO also brought back some great memories.

On this date in 1964, exactly forty-five years ago I was ZD8HL on Ascension
Island. I was working for the RCA Missile Test Project assigned as a
technician on a C-band radar and our mission was to track the launch
vehicles and payloads coming downrange from Cape Canaveral. Those were
exciting times as we moved through Projects Mercury and Gemini with Apollo
and the final goal of putting a man on the moon drawing closer.

Just a few days earlier I had been offered and accepted a transfer to
Pretoria, South Africa which was the next tracking station down the line
from Ascension. As I had less than ten days before the next monthly military
flight to South Africa came through I had little time to decide what to take
with me and what to send back to Cocoa Beach for storage. Unfortunately
there was no reciprocal ham license agreement with South Africa so the
Collins S-Line and other ham equipment was packed for Cocoa Beach. A huge
disappointment that I could expect to be off the air for a while. The
transfer would lead to a career change in later years and the lovely weather
down here made the decision to retire here in South Africa an easy one to

Christmas on Ascension in 1964 was quiet with no launches scheduled. The
FPS-16 radar was on a hill overlooking the base and we had asked and
received permission to decorate the radar dish with Christmas lights. It was
visible from much of the island and our "Christmas Tree" on the hill did a
lot to raise the spirits of those who had been unable to go home on
Christmas leave. The cooks in the mess hall really put on a Christmas feast
for us, turkey and all the trimmings and no one went away hungry.

I want to thank Dean, ZD8DC for helping me bring back some of these memories
with his operations from Ascension and I hope some of those great cooks are
still staffing the mess hall for him this Christmas.

Holiday greetings to the satellite community throughout the world. Thanks
for all your efforts in keeping interest in space alive and I hope that
future years may see a revival of the spirit that existed when we were
trying to put a man on the moon. Those were great times!

Hal  ZS6WB

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