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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, April 21, 2007

Moonbounce: Ham operator from Pupukea shoots the moon

Video: Hawai'i prepares to HAM it up

By Mike Leidemann
Advertiser Staff Writer

Bruce Clark climbs up the radio tower used to bounce a signal off the moon. At right is Alex Benton, the first Isle moonbouncer in 25 years.

GREGORY YAMAMOTO | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Bruce Clark uses a Morse code setup to send a signal to the moon and back. He'll continue to send signals for several more days so others can receive them.

GREGORY YAMAMOTO | The Honolulu Advertiser

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PUPUKEA Alex Benton aimed for the moon yesterday. His shot was heard around the world.

Benton better known to friends as KH6YY became the first Hawai'i amateur radio operator in more than 25 years to successfully bounce a signal off the moon and have it heard back on Earth.

After fiddling with rigged equipment that included an old 12-foot satellite television receiving dish and a World War II-era plane engine, Benton and visiting expert radio operator Bruce Clark successfully sent a signal from Benton's backyard tower in Pupukea to the moon, some 238,000 miles away.

Three seconds later, the signal reflected off the moon and spread out as it returned to Earth, where dozens of amateur radio operator were listening and waiting to add to their list of firsts:

Moonbounce Hawai'i.

"It's a cool thing to do," Benton said, summing up the importance of the moment. "Sophisticated and cool."

Moonbouncing has been around since 1946, when the U.S. military first got the idea of using Earth's only natural satellite as a way to help communicate with far-flung surface submarines.

Gradually, the military developed better ways of staying in touch, and amateur radio operators better known as hams started using the technique in their pursuit of long-distance records.

Amateurs moonbounced several times in Hawai'i in the 1960s and in 1980 using old RCA dishes on the North Shore, but no one has had the equipment or expertise to try since then.

Normally, the radio operators send their signal into the ionosphere the outermost section of the Earth's atmosphere where it is reflected, diffused and sent back to receivers around the world.

"A lot of operators are out there chasing DX long-distance to see how far they can send their signal," Clark said. "So there's a lot of interest in using the moon. It's the ultimate way of working it."

Yesterday, about a dozen operators in the United States, Japan and Australia became the first to hear the signal moonbounced from Hawai'i.

"Three of them had received signals off the moon from 49 other states and had been waiting for a long, long time to complete their list of all 50 states," Benton said.

Benton and Clark plan to maintain the Hawai'i station for several more days to give others around the world a chance to get their Hawai'i-to-the-moon-and-back connection. They expect about 85 stations around the world to participate.

Reach Mike Leidemann at mleidemann@honoluluadvertiser.com.

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