Day 197: Roaming Charges May Apply

Today we left the Walmart of Barstow, CA at 8:30 in order to arrive at Fort Irwin at 9:30 for our tour of the Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex.  After clearing security at Fort Irwin by showing drivers licenses, registration, and proof of insurance, we had to do the same thing at the NASA checkpoint.  Goldstone is entirely surrounded by Fort Irwin, so I’m not sure why we had to be checked again.  For security reasons, they insisted that we not take the RV into Goldstone.  By the time we had unhitched, Leslie, our guide for the morning, had come to meet us.  Goldstone is operated by a contractor hired by JPL, and part of the contract is to provide interpretive staff for visitors.  There are two tours a day, and today it was just us and Leslie.

We followed Leslie’s car for 15 minutes or so into Goldstone, and eventually arrived at the Mars Antenna.  It is 230 feet across and like all the Antennas at Goldstone, it’s used primarily to communicate with NASA probes.  Mars was expanded to it’s current size to support the Voyager missions:

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The outbound signal from the Mars Antenna is 250,000 Watts in strength, and it can receive back signals from Voyager which are one-billionth of one-billionth of a watt by the time they reach Earth.

Next to Mars was the 34-meter diameter Uranus Antenna:

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After visiting these antennas, we were taken to the visitor center:

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Aiming the antennas in the ‘50s wasn’t exactly rocket science:

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The visitor center is adjacent to the Echo Antenna, which like Uranus has a 34-meter diameter:

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After our tour, we had lunch in the RV.  Outside our window, an armored column of 50 or so vehicles thundered by:

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We headed into “downtown” Fort Irwin to visit the museum there.  The tanks outside carried OPFOR Russian livery:

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There was an exhibit dedicated to Hi Jolly, whose grave we saw in Quartzsite:

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From Fort Irwin, we drove to the BLM campground at Afton Canyon, the “Grand Canyon of the Mojave”.  We are overnighting here for $6 because I’ve read that dispersed camping is not allowed in the Afton Canyon BLM subdistrict.  I’ll be calling the BLM office in the morning to confirm.

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See the trip map for driving details.

Day 196: In a NASA holding pattern
Day 198: Spooky Canyon and Abandoned Mines

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