Talking with spacemen
I can hear spacemen. They talk to me. But they don't answer when I talk back.
No, I'm not hallucinating.
For a long time now, most (if not all) of the astronauts that have gone up into space, to the International Space Station at least have been licenced amateurs. Indeed they used it for "emergency messaging while [the] Mir [space station] was in distress."
When they're up on the ISS, and have a spare minute (which is rare based on their schedules), they sometimes have a chat with "normal" folk down here on earth. I guess when you're spinning around the world in a tin can at 17,000 mph, it's nice to know that everything's still OK down here.
There are lots of things that make a contact difficult.
There's one of them, and lots of us who want a contact, and from their altitude, they can "see" a lot of the earth at once.
They have to have some spare time, and actually be overhead at that time. (They orbit the earth every 1hr 40 mins, and over a different path each orbit)
They are visible (above the horizon) for only about 10-12 mins max.
And for me, I can only operate mobile, which means that I don't use directional antennas, which means that 99.9% of my transmitted power is just heating up the ground, the atmosphere, and the trees nearby.
I heard them having a contact with a school on Friday though. I took two short vids with my mobile phone - Vid 1, Vid 2. (They're in MP4 format - I have no idea what you need to play it in Windows - I'd suggest Googling for mplayer win32, or it seems Winamp will do it.) You can see the strength of the signal on the second one. (A ham in Scotland recorded most of the contact in MP3 format too). I found out later that it was this scheduled contact with a school in Warwickshire. The man they were talking to was Richard Gerriott - the latest space tourist.
You can watch his launch and his docking. Watching that launch just made me think that if anything went wrong from about 10 metres off the ground, it would probably be the end - it's basically a slightly controlled bomb with a human payload.
I've been trying to catch them when they pass overhead, but they are mainly transmitting images down to earth, with is fairly dull, as you can see.