Maine High Altitude Balloon Launch

I received a QSL card in the mail the other day for a contact I made with N1ME though a high altitude balloon repeater launched during the Pine State Amateur Radio hamfest near Bangor, Maine. I made the contact while camping with my family in a state park on the Maine coast with a Wouxun HT (stock antenna). The repeater signal was amazingly quiet from my operating position atop a picnic table.

The picture above, taken by the balloon, is at approximately 95,000 ft.  I heard contacts being made from as far away as Long Island, New York which is about 450 miles away.  For quite a few minutes, the repeater was covering an area well over 600,000 square miles. Very cool stuff!

While my kids found it quite entertaining, sometimes I worry that growing up in the “Skype” generation — where everyone in the world is a mere free video phone call away — has raised the bar when it comes to impressing them. I feel that it’s my responsibility to make this stuff fun and show them that they can be creators of technology and not just consumers. I suppose every “nerd” dad shares this frustration.

Kudos to University of Maine Associate Professor Dr. Rick Eason, AA1PJ, and his team of students at UMaine’s High Altitude Ballooning project. This is truly great stuff! It’s fantastic to see folks in higher education reaching down to the high school level to show them how exciting — and relevant — this kind of thing can be.

Matt Thomas, W1MST, is the managing editor of AmateurRadio.com. Contact him at [email protected].

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