Author: Phil Temples
Kenny just finished making his sixth and final call for anyone to talk to on his ham radio. He wasn’t surprised at the lack of a response. There was no “skip” on the band at this time of the night. It was deader than a doornail. Kenny finished his coffee and reached for the controls. But just as he was about to turn off his set and go to bed, an amazing thing happened. He heard his own voice coming back over the headphones.
“Calling any station, calling any station. This is KR1ZYC in Lewiston, Maine. Over.”
The signal was weak and “watery-sounding,” as though it was being reflected off the aurora borealis. Making contacts off the aurora or even an ionized meteor trail was not uncommon. Nor were “echos.” Radio amateurs had reported hearing their own signals skipping around the earth—even multiple times. What was unusual, however, was the extremely long delay. He was sure it was his first transmission from almost seven minutes earlier. Most long-delayed echoes were typically one or two seconds long—the time it takes for the signal to bounce repeatedly between the ionosphere and the Earth’s surface before arriving back at its point of origin.
This is crazy, he thought.
Kenny heard his voice again. He was pretty certain that it was his second attempt to elicit contact.
Seven minutes? It’s only three-to-four seconds to the moon and back. It would take seven minutes for a radio signal to travel to Mars!
Kenny turned on his signal analyzer and recorded the next incoming signal, comparing it to earlier recordings of his transmitter’s waveform characteristics. They were practically identical. It would be extremely difficult to spoof a waveform on the fly unless you worked for a three-letter agency. It was clearly his signal!
He timed his last transmission. This time, the echo took only six minutes and forty seconds to arrive.
“Earth to Mars, Earth to Mars. Come in, Mars,” Kenny said, jokingly. He waited the requisite period of time for his voice to appear. That’s when he got another surprise. His signal arrived in only six minutes, thirty-two seconds—almost six seconds earlier.
“Come in, come in, whoever you are. Red rover, red rover, send the aliens right over!”
Kenny waited. Six minutes and twenty-four seconds later, instead of hearing his own voice, he heard:
“Thank you for the invitation. We will see you soon, Earthling.”
The next morning, there was a knock on his door.