Radio fans reach out – The Eastern New Mexico News
CLOVIS – To a stranger who had just parked in an empty grocery store lot on a clear Tuesday evening, the cluster of trucks and the low light suggested something bad was happening in northern Clovis.
The real answer is much less outrageous, and much more interesting and / or complicated. A significant portion of the Eastern New Mexico Amateur Radio Club had come together informally to connect with other radio enthusiasts across the country – with a little help from above.
Members of the club invited The News to the rally, slated to coincide with the passage of the International Space Station, which has for decades featured amateur radio on board.
The ISS, as the members dubbed it, was the featured guest at Tuesday night’s rally at the former Raintree Thriftway parking lot. The location was ideal for many reasons, starting with its proximity to the homes of many club members. It was also good for the reception, without a lot of buildings or trees to compete with. The grounds also provided plenty of room for members to set up equipment that was admittedly, or perhaps intentionally, rudimentary.
Marty Tressell, who operated one of the two primarily used radios that night, used a folding camping table to set up his grounding station about 15 feet from the back of his truck, where the rest of his equipment was installed. Charles Roller de Clovis received a signal by pointing his tape measure antenna which was charming in its simplicity – an antenna made entirely of PVC pipe, postal tape and six strips of yellow tape measure.
“This is where amateur radio started,” Roller said, “people just make their own radios.”
The space station flies over Clovis about four times every 30 days. Glen Hawthorne said the ISS performs a sort of “spider’s web” series of orbits around the Earth.
After 30 days, the station is doing so many different orbits that it is flying over just about every point in the world. Members follow local arrivals through various apps for smartphones and tablets.
The Tuesday night tour around 8:20 p.m. was perfect for a group reunion as no one had work or errands and the night sky provided an opportunity to see what they were trying to communicate with. 250 miles above the parking lot as it flies at 17,500 miles an hour, the ISS to the uninformed eye looks like a dim light from a passing plane.
Once this faded light became visible, the members jumped into action as the ISS was a connection point for other radio users.
“Kilo Zero Bravo Bravo Kilo,” Tressell said into his microphone, “DM84, Clovis, New Mexico, speaking live on the ISS.”
The first segment referred to Tressell’s radio call sign K0BBK. The 0 refers to Colorado, where Tressell was living when he received the sign. Most local users have a 5 in this location corresponding to Texas and New Mexico. Hawthorne’s Arizona past is referenced in his call sign KK7LA. The DM84 refers to a map grid that contains Clovis and is roughly split in half by the Texas-New Mexico border. New Mexico includes some or all of the 22 different grid sections.
Within seconds, Tressell received a response from a radio user in Orange County, Calif., Followed by cheers from the group.
And after a few minutes of conversation, it was over. An optimal flight over the ISS gives radio enthusiasts about eight minutes of reliable signal, but most overflights typically provide about two or three minutes of good use. The members said their farewells, and it became a grocery trip after all – one of the members brought produce from his garden and begged everyone to take some because he had a lot to. the House.
The club, which has been in Clovis since the 1950s, engages in all types of radio activity, including storm chasing, and meets on the third Saturday of each month at 9 a.m. at the Disabled American Veterans Hall on Fourth Street.