Sol 5 – Allo… do you copy?
Author: Nicolas WATTELLE
Today we missed a rendezvous. In the context of the HF propagation study, we were supposed to contact a different “Martian base” in Toulouse. There, the radio club REF 31 should have gathered ham radios and pointed its antenna towards the MDRS.
Remember, on Sol 3 we set up the antenna near the Hab. During the following day, we set up the indoor setup: an ICOM transceiver, an antenna adapter, and a computer, linked to our triangle of steel. We did some tests, we received signals from around the planet, so we were hopeful for this morning’s session. But our experiment does not depend only on our work, another big factor named “The Sun” has also its part of the responsibility.
Mars (as Earth), has an atmosphere made of different layers. Among them, one, in particular, allows long-range propagation: the ionosphere. This layer is sensitive to Sun activity (solar storms, eruptions…), and can accumulate electrical charges. And if the total charge is significant, it permits HF waves reflections, and considerably increases the range of radiocommunications.
On Earth you might be able to perform intercontinental contacts, only using basic antennas and transceivers: a ground-ground communication without any satellite or other facility between the source and the receiver. It would be an interesting technique to use between ground stations on Mars!
So, we tried during the last months to set this experiment with the radio club (we will also perform beacon listening during the upcoming days to characterize the propagation following the propagation during the days), and today was the first attempt.
The protocol was one hour long, testing different modes of modulation, from the more reliable to the less reliable one. But the Sun might not have had enough activity the previous days: we faced a sad silence. We issued calls, but we received no answer. Have we been heard in France? We don’t know yet. But we will twice again before our mission ends, another case to follow!
That was the first experiment of the day for Valentine and me. For the rest of the crew the day was more classic: a maintenance EVA for the atmospheric experiment, adjusting the planning for the next week, repairs in the RAM…
For this one, I would like to thank a lot our Crew Engineer Matheo, who made a great job with the MegaAres antenna, tinkering with what we had in the RAM: it was out of service since the beginning of our mission, and we will be able to put it on the field by tomorrow! Thank you again Matheo (take a look at him and me, striking a pose in front of the “brand new” antenna!).
All the crew is now looking forward to tomorrow, our first “Martian rest day”! We can’t wait!