Spring 2008 Issue

The Lost Letters of KH6UK Part 4:
Project Moonbounce (1962–1964)



The previous three parts of this article covered Tommy Thomas, KH6UK’s tropo QSO with W6NLZ,
his pioneering VHF EME activities, and the effect the Klystron had on his EME work, respectively.
In this concluding segment, WA2VVA discusses Tommy’s involvement in moonbounce.


By Mark Morrison, WA2VVA

By December 1961, a small group of Klystron pioneers had been formed with Hank Brown, W6HB, as its leader. Included were Sam Harris, W1FZJ, Ralph Thomas, KH6UK, John Chambers, W6NLZ, and Walt Morrison, W2CXY. Hank, who was on the West Coast end of the first moonbounce QSO in 1960, decided it was time to dust off the Klystron and give others a chance. Sam, who was on the East Coast end of that same QSO, had maintained a presence on 1296, but without any other stations to work he had not heard anything from the moon since 1960.

During this time, Sam had taken over as editor of “The World Above 50 Mc” column in QST magazine, replacing Ed Tilton, W1HDQ, who held the reins for over 20 years. This put Sam in a unique position to not just talk about moonbounce, but to challenge others to join in. At least two other hams who didn’t seem to have Klystrons took up that challenge. These were John Rodebaugh, W8LIO, of Dorsett, Ohio and Dr. Karl Lickfield, DL3FM, of Germany.

Although Sam could reach out to a wider potential audience through QST, publishing deadlines meant information was often dated, sometimes by a month or more. Hank picked up where Walt and Tommy had left off, writing letters to all interested parties and sharing up-to-date information with each. Many times he’d copy the letters received from others and distribute those as well. In a letter dated December 19, 1961, Hank had this to say:

While on vacation, two weeks ago I visited Ralph Thomas, KH6UK. Here is a real doer. Tommy’s transmitter is all rack and cabinet mounted, power supply complete, exciter operating. His receiver is essentially ready to go. And the biggest news of all to me was that his 28-foot dish would be in the air on an ex-radar pedestal by the end of this month!

Even the really big problem of a decent antenna switch has been solved by Tommy—and beautifully.

All Tommy needs to do is get all the stuff in the operating position and KH6UK will be in business on 1296 mc. Tommy, at last, has a capable helper or two and things are really moving.

Also attached are letters from Walt Morrison, W2CXY, and John Chambers, W6NLZ. Each of these two is really getting there, and will be pushing sizeable signals moonward quite soon.

At about this same time, both Hank and Sam received the ARRL Merit Award for their successful first amateur moonbounce QSO. In December of 1961 Tommy wrote Hank a letter (figure 1), which is the last of Tommy’s written letters in the W2CXY collection. As Tommy mentioned in his letter, the gang was using a liaison frequency of 7095 kc. Hank had proposed that everyone meet on this frequency on Wednesday and Friday evenings “for information exchange only so we can keep abreast of activities.”
In addition to the letters that Hank distributed to others, he also issued minutes of the various meetings held by the West Coast gang working on the project. To read these minutes, portions of which are shown below, is to appreciate the scope and teamwork that is involved in a successful moonbounce operation. Here’s what Hank reported in one such letter:

Transmitter:

The stable crystal oscillator and multiplier, built by Dave Meacham, and its power supply, built by Bernie Coler, have been finished and all is working well. The stability is excellent. It has been used to drive Willie Sayers’ 1296 exciter and performs nicely. The Klystron tuning boxes have been built and are in San Bruno with the rest of the transmitting equipment which is waiting to be assembled. It will be put together and run into a dummy load before it is brought down to the transmitter shack in San Carlos.
 

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