A chance reading of a "for sale" advertisement in a weekly newspaper has launched a group of 30 space history buffs on a mission to save the 30-meter Jamesburg AT&T/Comsat satellite dish about an hour from Monterey, Calif.
Built in 1968
The dish was built in 1968 to support the Apollo 11 moon landing a year later. Besides its commercial duties, it also played a role in capturing and distributing images of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, says Pat Barthelow, an avionics technician from Sacramento who first noticed the ad in the Carmel (Calif.) Pine Cone and quickly put out the word.
The weekend restorers worked over the past four months to get the dish running. The 10-story high dish is housed in a 20,000 square foot building, both of which are in excellent shape, Barthelow said.
But the restorers were cautious about commanding its huge drive mechanism until they understood the computer code of its Vertex-RSI 7210 drive system. Now that they do, they use their own moon tracking software loaded onto a PC that commands the Vertex.
Late last month, the fruits of their efforts were demonstrated by bouncing 20 radio signals off the moon. The dish sits on a 160-acre site that's been subdivided for residential sale, so the restorers feel some urgency in trying to preserve it. Ideally, they'd like to see it returned to service, perhaps to support scientific and deep space missions. But they also think of it as an ideal location for a space camp for star-struck students. Images are available at http://www.jamesburgdish.org.