Earth–Moon–Earth communication

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Earth–Moon–Earth communication (EME), also known as moon bounce, is a radio communications technique that relies on the propagation of radio waves from an Earth-based transmitter directed via reflection from the surface of the Moon back to an Earth-based receiver.


The use of the Moon as a passive communications satellite was proposed by W.J. Bray of the British General Post Office in 1940. It was calculated that with the available microwave transmission powers and low noise receivers, it would be possible to beam microwave signals up from Earth and reflect off the Moon. It was thought that at least one voice channel would be possible.[1]

The "moon bounce" technique was developed in parallel by the United States military and the Hungarian group lead by Zoltán Bay in the years after World War II. The first successful reception of echoes off the Moon being carried out at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey on January 10, 1946 by John H. DeWitt as part of Project Diana.[2] It was followed by Zoltan Bay's group on February 6, 1946.[3] The Communication Moon Relay project that followed led to more practical uses, including a teletype link between the naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and United States Navy headquarters in Washington, DC. In the days before communications satellites, a link free of the vagaries of ionospheric propagation was revolutionary.

Later, the technique was used by non-military commercial users, and the first amateur detection of signals from the Moon took place in 1953.

Current EME communications[edit]

Amateur radio (ham) operators utilize EME for two-way communications. EME presents significant challenges to amateur operators interested in working weak signal communications. Currently, EME provides the longest communications path any two stations on Earth can utilize for bi-directional communications.

Amateur operations use VHF, UHF and microwave frequencies. All amateur frequency bands from 50 MHz to 47 GHz have been used successfully, but most EME communications are on the 2 meter, 70-centimeter, or 23-centimeter bands. Common modulation modes utilized by amateurs are continuous wave with Morse Code, digital (JT65) and when the link budgets allow, voice.

Recent advances in digital signal processing have allowed EME contacts, admittedly with low data rate, to take place with powers in the order of 100 Watts and a single Yagi antenna.

World Moon Bounce Day, June 29, 2009, was created by Echoes of Apollo and celebrated worldwide as an event preceding the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing. A highlight of the celebrations was an interview via the Moon with Apollo 8 astronaut Bill Anders. He was also part of the backup crew for Apollo 11. The University of Tasmania in Australia with their 26m dish was able to bounce a data signal off the surface of the Moon which was received by a large dish in the Netherlands - Dwingeloo Radio Observatory. The data signal was successfully resolved back to data setting a world record for the lowest power data signal returned from the Moon with a transmit power of 3 milliwatts - about 1,000th of the power of a strong flashlight filament globe. The second World Moon Bounce Day was April 17, 2010 coinciding with the 40th anniversary of the conclusion of the Apollo 13 mission.

In October 2009 media artist Daniela de Paulis proposed to the CAMRAS radio amateur association based at the Dwingeloo Radio Observatory (NL) to use Moonbounce for a live image transmission performance. As a result of her proposal, in December 2009 CAMRAS radio operator Jan van Muijlwijk and radio operator Daniel Gautchi made the first image transmission via the Moon using the open source software MMSSTV. De Paulis called the innovative technology Visual Moonbounce and used it in several of her art projects. in particular a live performance called OPTICKS during which digital images are sent to the Moon and back in real time and projected live.[citation needed]

Echo delay and time spread[edit]

Radio waves propagate in vacuum at the speed of light c, exactly 299,792,458 m/s.

Propagation time to the Moon and back is therefore 2d/c

  • d is distance (average distance at any given time)
  • or about 2.4 s at perigee
  • or about 2.7 s at apogee
  • or about 2.56 s on average, but for message coding 2.25 s is used

The Moon is nearly spherical, and its radius corresponds to milliseconds of wave travel time. The trailing parts of an echo, reflected from irregular surface features near the edge of the lunar disk, are delayed from the leading edge by as much as twice this value.

Most of the Moon's surface appears relatively smooth at the typical microwave wavelengths used for amateur EME. Most amateurs do EME contacts below 6 GHz, and differences in the moon's reflectivity are somewhat hard to discern above 1 GHz.

Lunar reflections are by nature quasi-specular (like those from a shiny ball bearing). The power useful for communication is mostly reflected from a small region near the center of the disk.

The Moon is nearly spherical, with the reflection differential being the Moon's radius divided by the speed of light, ~5.8 ms (electromagnetic wave travel time).

The effective time spread of an echo amounts to no more than 0.1 ms.

There is one note with respect to antenna polarization: Reflections from a smooth surface preserve linear polarization but reverses the sense of circular polarizations.

At shorter wavelengths the lunar surface appears increasingly rough, so reflections at 10 GHz and above contain a significant Diffuse Component as well as a quasi-specular component.

The Diffuse Component is depolarized, and can be viewed as a source of low level system noise.

Significant portions of the Diffused Component arise from regions farther out toward the lunar rim. The median time spread can then be as much as several milliseconds.

In all practical cases, however, time spreading is small enough that it does not cause significant smearing of CW keying or intersymbol interference in the slowly keyed modulations commonly used for digital EME.

Faster message keying may encounter the Diffused Component as significant system noise.

EME Time Spreading does have one very significant effect. Signal components reflected from different parts of the lunar surface travel different distances and arrive at Earth with random phase relationships.

As the relative geometry of the

  • transmitting station
  • receiving station
  • reflecting lunar surface

changes, signal components may sometimes add and sometimes cancel.

The dynamic addition and cancellation will create large amplitude fluctuations. These amplitude variations are referred to as Libration Fading. These Libration Fading amplitude variations will be well correlated over the Coherence Bandwidth (typically a few kHz). The Libration Fading components are related to the inverse[disambiguation needed] of the time spread.

Modulation types and frequencies for EME[edit]




Other factors influencing EME communications[edit]

Doppler Effect at 144 MHz band is 300 Hz at Moonrise or Moonset. The Doppler Offset goes to around Zero when the Moon is overhead. At other frequencies other Doppler Offsets will exist. The 300 Hz offset is the average Doppler Offset for the 144 MHz band.

  • At moonrise, returned signals will be shifted approximately 300 Hz higher in frequency due to the Doppler effect between Earth and the Moon.
  • In the Northern Hemisphere, as the Moon traverses the sky to a point due south the Doppler effect approaches nothing. As the Moon sets, signals are shifted lower in frequency until at Moonset they are shifted 300 Hz lower.
  • Doppler effects cause many problems when tuning into and locking onto signals from the Moon.

Polarization effects can reduce the strength of received signals. One component is the geometrical alignment of the transmitting and receiving antennas; many antenna produce a preferred plane of polarization. Transmitting and receiving station antennas may not be aligned from the perspective of an observer on the moon. This component is fixed by the alignment of the antennas and stations may include a facility to rotate antennas to adjust polarization. Another component is Faraday rotation on the Earth-Moon-Earth path; the plane of polarization of radio waves rotates as they pass through ionized layers of the Earth's atmosphere. This effect is more pronounced at lower VHF frequencies and becomes less significant at 1296 MHZ and above. Some of the polarization mismatch loss can be alleviated by using a larger antenna array (more Yagi elements or a larger dish). [4]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Pether, John (1998). The Post Office at War. Bletchley Park Trust. p. 25. 
  2. ^ Butrica, Andrew J. (1996). To See the Unseen: A History of Planetary Radar Astronomy. NASA. Archived from the original on 2007-08-23. 
  3. ^ "Bay, Zoltán". OMIKK. Retrieved 2017-01-13. 
  4. ^ Larry Wolfgang, Charles Hutchinson, (ed), The ARRL |Handbook for Radio Amateurs, Sixty Eighth Edition , American Radio Relay League, 1990 ISBN 0-87259-168-9, pages 23-34, 23-25,

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