It’s All in the Cards! QSLs from the Arecibo Observatory, Puerto Rico

Editor’s Note: Every month, DX Engineering features QSL cards from our team members’ personal collections. Usually we showcase ones from entities that are currently active or will soon be QRV. However, with so many DXers homebound these days and the number of DXpeditions reaching all-time lows, we’ve altered the rules. Until things change, you can expect a bit of everything from our stockpiles of QSL cards, including the rarest of the rare, personal favorites, and recent QSLs of historical significance.

Angel Vazquez, WP3R, Arecibo Observatory, Puerto Rico

In today’s QSL card blog, we honor the storied career of Angel M. Vazquez, WP3R, head of telescope operations at the Arecibo Observatory, where he has worked for more than 40 years in various positions, including senior telescope operator, spectrum manager, PC systems administrator, and RFI manager.

On December 1, 2020, the instrument panel of the observatory’s massive radio telescope (the second largest of its kind in the world) collapsed after a cable broke, sending the 900-ton structure crashing into the telescope’s 1,000-foot spherical aluminum reflector dish below. The telescope, which had been decommissioned in November by the National Science Foundation due to safety concerns, suffered irreparable damage.

During a recent Zoom interview with DX Engineering CEO Tim Duffy, K3LR, Vazquez (a “rock star” of the Ham radio world, in Duffy’s words), discussed the history of the telescope, the events leading up to its untimely end, Ham radio activities at the site, and the outpouring of support he has received since the incident. Vazquez was in the observatory’s control room when the instrument panel plummeted 400 feet, breaking off the tops of its support towers and smashing its Gregorian dome (housed in its azimuth arm).

“It’s been kind of crazy and very enlightening to know you have so many friends, but it’s been very difficult. The observatory has been my family,” he said.

Take a moment to watch the heartfelt and informative interview here. It’s well worth the time.

Moonbounce from Arecibo

From April 16-18, 2010, the Arecibo Amateur Radio Club (KP4AO) went on the air for 432 MHz moonbounce. The telescope’s huge forward gain enabled even small stations to copy the KP4AO signal. Operators Joe Taylor, K1JT, 1993 winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics and creator of WSJT-X; Jim Breakall, WA3FET, longtime researcher and feed designer for the 1,000-foot dish; Vazquez; Angel Padilla, WP4G; Patrick Barthelow, AA6EG; and Pedro Piza, Jr., NP4A helped 242 fortunate stations make it into the logbook on SSB, CW, and JT65.

Though no one at DX Engineering was lucky enough to be pulled from the large pile-ups during this historic EME event, our active operators have been thrilled to make contact with WP3R on other occasions. Among them is Tom, KB8UUZ, DX Engineering technical writer, who reached WP3R on 80 and 15M SSB. The card states that the Arecibo Observatory featured “The Largest Radio/Radar Telescope on Earth!” This remained true until its recent collapse. In 2016, the 1,600-foot diameter aperture spherical radio telescope in southwest China, which does not have transmitters like the instrument at Arecibo, became the largest radio telescope.

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