Andrew P Street is the author of The Short & Excruciatingly Embarrassing Reign of Captain Abbott, The Curious Story of Malcolm Turnbull: The Incredible Shrinking Man in the Top Hat and the forthcoming The Long and Winding Way to the Top: 50 (Or So) Songs that Made Australia. He lives in Sydney.
As you pass the “turn off all phones” sign and set off on the 4-kilometre drive to CSIRO’s Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex (CDSCC) at Tidbinbilla, the first thing that catches your eye is the radio telescope looming above the rolling green fields.
Deep Space Station 43, whose mighty dish is 70 metres in diameter, is the largest steerable radio antenna in the southern hemisphere. With support from the other CDSCC dishes, it is Earth’s sole link with far-off probes like Voyager 2, situated at the edge of the solar system, and New Horizons, which photographed Pluto and is now deep in the Kuiper Belt. DSS-43 was also the telescope that picked up the final transmission from the Cassini probe as it vaporised in the atmosphere of Saturn in September.
It’s therefore easy to miss the much smaller telescope near the car park, its 26-metre dish pointed permanently...
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