Saturday, December 31, 2016

Milestones: VE3FRH SK, British Ham Receives Space Honor, VK Ham Works on Mars Mission

Former AMSAT-NA President Robin Haighton, VE3FRH, became a Silent Key in early December, a few days after suffering a major stroke. According to the AMSAT News Service, Haighton was a founding member of the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) project and served the North American amateur satellite community for many years as a board member, Executive Vice President and President of AMSAT-NA. 

British astronaut Tim Peake, GB1SS, with prototype
of Astro Pi project board (AMSAT-UK photo)
ANS also reports that British ham David Honess, M6DNT, recently received the Sir Arthur Clarke Award from the Arthur C. Clarke Foundation and the British Interplanetary Society. Honess was recognized for his work on the Astro Pi project as part of the Principia mission of British astronaut Tim Peake, GB1SS. The Astro Pi project resulted in the installation of two Raspberry Pi computers aboard the International Space Station as a platform for students back on Earth to write and run their own computer code in space.

Finally, ANS reports that Robert Brand, VK2URB, is working on a wide-area radio network planned for eventual deployment on Mars. The project is part of a methane detection system scheduled to land on the red planet in 2025. The MEDIAN system will consist of 10 "penetrators" that will be ejected from the Mars Nano-Lander's heat shield once it has been jettisoned from the lander about 6 kilometers above the planet's surface. The penetrators are planned to spear into the ground and form a ring about 8 kilometers in diameter. They are designed to measure wind speed and direction and detect the presence of any methane in the Martian atmosphere, then send the data by radio to an orbiting spacecraft. Some scientists believe the presence of methane gas may indicate the possibility of microbial life on Mars. Brand is planning to test the system on a salt lake in Australia early next year, with amateur radio playing a significant role.