CQ Mars

A couple of nights ago I was puttering around the shack and came across my July 1971 issue of QST. (July 1971 is the month I was first licensed.) Just for kicks, I picked it up and started leafing through it.

One of the strays happened to mention the Elser-Mathes Cup, a cup donated to the League that is to go to the first ham to make a QSO from the planet Mars. How very strange, I thought, so I Googled “Elser-Mathes.” Here’s what an item on the ARRL website has to say about the Elser-Mathes Cup:

Visitors to ARRL HQ may recall having seen the unusual trophy on display. It’s intended to mark the occasion of the first two-way Amateur Radio contact between Earth and Mars. (The actual bowl of the cup is borne by images of beings that only coincidentally resemble the large-eyed hominids of alien abduction lore–although that was not the intention.–Ed) The story of the Elser-Mathes cup appeared in the November 1969 issue of QST. In his article, “That Planet Mars QSO Cup,” Col Fred Johnson Elser, W6FB, recalled meeting League founder Hiram Percy Maxim, W1AW, in the 1920s. He learned that Maxim had an interest in Mars and even owned a globe of “The Red Planet.” Later, back in The Philippines–in 1928 under US jurisdiction–Elser was inspired by a visit with Philippines SCM Lt Cmdr Stanley Mathes, K1CY, to offer “a unique trophy” for the first two-way communication with Maxim’s “pet planet,” Mars. The actual trophy selected by Elser and Mathes during a trip to Baguio is an example of Igorot native woodcarving. “The base symbolizes Earth and the seated figures are its inhabitants,” Elser explained in QST. “The bowl is Mars, and the standing men are the amateurs who bridge the gap of space.” The plate fastened to the cup includes space for the names, call signs, and dates of those who will fulfill the cup’s eventual destiny.

How very strange, eh? Here are a couple of pictures of the cup:


  1. I was fortunate enough to take a business trip to CT last summer and had the opportunity to take the HQ tour. This was one of many interesting oddities at HQ that made me chuckle.

    Years ago, when SCI-FI was all the rage, some may have thought that little green men would surely answer a CQ on 20m.

    Now, I’ve got another idea to get the cup… We all know that EME (earth-moon-earth or “moonbounce”) has been achieved by ham radio (since the late 1960s I believe). I wonder if “Earth-Mars-Earth” contacts by hams would be feasible… hmmm.


  2. There you go….:)

    That should keep you busy for a while.

Speak Your Mind