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The radio signals transmitted by Sputniks I and II have been studied by
various and diverse groups. The general assumption that these signals
must contain the greater part of the intelligence to be acquired from such
space satellites is not necessarily true. This article attempts to point out
methods of data acquisition by other than telemetry techniques, without
minimizing the possibility of telemetry on either the observed frequencies
or frequencies not as yet demonstrated as emanating from the Sputniks.
The hand-keyed dots and dashes came in loud and clear-just a few
groups off-and-on for three days-then they ceased, although operators,
both amateur and commercial, sought to intercept them for
weeks without success. Since these signals were received with about
the same intensity at the various intercept points, the conclusion was
quickly reached that they originated in outer space. A second factor
that added substance to this theory was that the various combinations
of dots and dashes could not be related to any known code.
Due to its proximity to earth at that time (1924), the planet Mars
was given the credit for trying to establish a radio communications
circuit with us.
Many receiving systems were modified to reach the radio spectrum-
miles of magnet wire were wound on cardboard cylinders for
use as loading coils, and unused sections of telephone lines were pressed
into use as long-wave antennas. A high-powered transmitter sent
out the call letters MARS at regular intervals over a period of several
Extraterrestrial DX Circa 1924: "Will We Talk to Mars in August"
Monitoring centered on Saturday night, when the two planets were at their closest. However, strange signals were reported even before the nearest approach of the planet. Radio operators in Vancouver reported on Thursday that they were receiving a series of "four groups of dashes in groups of four". Both the form and origin of the strange signals were unidentified, and a close watch was promised. In London a specially constructed 24-tube set picked up "harsh notes" of an unknown origin. WOR engineers in Newark, New Jersey reported similar sounds at nearly the same wavelength.
Eventually the various mysterious reports were sorted out. The operators of the 24-tube set decided they had heard nothing more exotic than "a combination of atmospherics and heterodyning". (RCA engineers calculated that, for the signals to have originated from Mars, a one million megawatt transmitter, consuming the equivalent of 2.7 million metric tons of coal hourly was required. The engineers suggested that the Martians had better outlets for their talents and resources). The Vancouver signals were identified as a new type of beacon being developed to aid navigation in Washington state inland waterways.