Australian pioneer of moon bounce dies

Silent Key

An early VHF enthusiast and moon bounce experimenter, Ray Naughton VK3ATN of Birchip in Victoria has died aged 83.

In early 1965 he started planning to enter the moon bounce ranks. After many long talks via HF radio with W6YK, K6MYC, W3SDZ, W1FZJ and others, the decision was to try it first on 144 MHz.

In QST magazine at the time are reports of Ray VK3ATN. Based on his contesting achievements from VHF though HF, and achieving the first VK/W1 160 metre SSB contact with W1BU, moon bounce was the next challenge.

He was the first in the southern hemisphere to contact stations in the northern hemisphere, by bouncing signals of the surface of the moon.

The Sunraysia Radio Group has its VK3ATN Technical Merit Award named in honour of the man for his contribution to Amateur Radio.

A feat achieved when most equipment used valves, was largely home brew and without the aid of computers.

Ray VK3ATN was at Birchip northwest of Melbourne, with surrounding land around Birchip flat and ideally suited for the use of ground-mounted beams.

The results obtained and the techniques employed by the first amateur moon bouncers, W3GKP and W4AO, impressed him, but in working continental USA only a couple of hours of common moon is available.

The final decision was to aim at points which are visible to USA stations in the path of the moon at least three or four days a month. This allows the use of large, fixed arrays and eliminates the problems encountered in tracking.

The aerial chosen for use in the Birchip efforts consisted of four rhombics achieving about the performance you might expect from a 150 foot diameter parabolic reflector.

The stacked rhombics had been completed and tuning of both the beam and the equipment resulted in the first recorded echoes by Ray VK3ATN of his own signals.

VK3ATN was ready for a 144 MHz EME contact. After a number of tests he is listed in 1964 making the first ever moon bounce QSO on 2m with Mike Stahl K6MYC.

His exploits were famous and inspired many. Ray Naughton VK3ATN passed away at Birchip on September 15.

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