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Desert to Deep Space, a Worthwhile Trip

One of my favorite gems erupting from the Mojave Desert is The Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex (part of the deep space network which includes locations in Madrid, Spain and Canberra, Australia). Located 35 miles north of Barstow on the Ft. Irwin Military Base, The Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex is home to the world’s largest deep space telescope. The thing is truly massive.

Telescope - GSC

Although run by NASA/JPL in a restricted area of the military base, entrance to this fascinating place is fairly simple ~ and free! You must first make tour reservations. The scientist-guides suggest that you call well in advance but I called only a day or so prior and got 2 spots for Ell and I. The program can accomodate bus loads of curiosos but on our tour it was just Ell, myself and a scientist from Lockheed Martin. At first I felt a little out of my element but the tour guides were very friendly, informative and enthusiastic about their telescopes.

Arrive early because you must get a visitor’s permit from the visitor’s center in order to be on the Ft. Irwin Base. Be sure to bring your driver’s license, registration and proof of insurance. You will then drive 20 minutes to the top-secret area where another guard hands you another permit. The tour starts with a quick tour of a big telescope and possible live fire from military exercises that Ell and I missed because we were still waiting for permit #1. After the big telescope, you go into an air-conditioned museum space and watch a video and explore some neat exhibits highlighting some amazingly space-age materials. Next, the science-guides show you NASA scientists at work doing geeky science stuff with a bunch of gadgets. Then you get to see the mega-huge telescopes which are dotted around the top-secret base. The science-guides direct you to the best photo-op areas. So even though the area is highly restricted, photography and videography is highly encouraged. Gotta love the government.

Goldstone Scenescape

Upon tour end you hand in your special permits and once again return to your plebeian life. Perhaps you wonder how many aliens per day the telescopes find or perhaps you’re just looking forward to stopping at Peggy Sue’s Nifty Fifties Diner for a piece of pie. Even though you’re just a plebe you take comfort in knowing that at least you don’t live in C.O.P.S.’ favorite city, Victorville. Unless you do live in Victorville, then, well, you’ve got that pie.


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