Bob Baker, a ham radio operator in Glenwood, bounces radio waves off the moon so he can communicate with radio operators in other parts of the world.
Earth-Moon-Earth, or moon bounce, was developed by the U.S. military after World War II, and it helped pinpoint radar installations in Russia during the Cold War, giving the U.S. a decided advantage.
Modern computer software allows messages to be decoded that are undetectable to the human ear. Prior to the development of the software, moon bounce used Morse code.
Baker types a message into his computer, the signal travels to the moon, bounces off and returns to the earth 2.5 seconds later. If somebody is listening at the right frequency, they receive the signal. Then, that person bounces a signal off the moon and replies to him.
Baker has been working with ham radio since 1989. He and made his first successful moon bounce in 2002.
He started doing moon bounce because it is the hardest form of ham radio, and he wanted the challenge.
Baker says, "This stuff is addictive. You can spend a great deal of time and money making your station ever bigger and better, not to mention the time spent chasing initials."
Initials are the unique contacts that are made. Moon bouncers collect initials.
Baker has collected about 590 initials on 144 MHz.
Now he is concentrating on a different band frequency, 432 MHz. He has 31 initials on 432 MHz, and each one is exciting.
The call sign tells him where the person is located, so Baker knows he has communicated with people from 116 countries, as well as every state in this country. He contacted Nebraska by bouncing off meteor trails and would still like to get Nebraska via the moon.
According to Baker, "It is difficult to get new countries because only 50 or 60 countries have resident moon bouncers. So some very crazy hams take their moon bounce gear to foreign countries.
"There are currently some Italian moon bouncers on a small remote island in the Indian Ocean called Rodriquez Island, which counts as a country to ham radio operators. I am trying to contact them, but have failed so far.
"The smallest station I have contacted was a Canadian station on Vancouver Island. He had 150 watts at his transmitter, and about 90 watts at his antenna, which was only 14 feet long. However, he was located on the coast and the moon was close to his horizon. The signal becomes much stronger if you are pointed nearly horizontally, particularly over salt water, due to ground reflections. Unfortunately I can never point horizontally because my horizons are full of trees. Signals do not penetrate dense vegetation very well."
According to Baker, "One of my great sources of happiness from moon bounce is that I made a suggestion to Joe Taylor regarding his software, which he incorporated into his next release. You meet some really cool people in moon bounce."
Joe Taylor is the Nobel laureate in physics who developed the computer software used for moon bounce.
Baker will keep on pointing his antenna at the moon, and meeting interesting people around the world. If you are interested in learning more about ham radio and moon bounce, you can email him at KD3UY@comcast.net. He will be happy to answer your questions.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun