Last updated: Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Tananarive Madagascar (LTAN) Page 1

RVTreasure Home Page 

Page 1: Some names and photos of a few people who were at the site, color pictures of the site and the start of some LTAN stories. Page 2: More photos of the station and people. Black and Whites of the 40 Foot Dish build out. Page 3: Photos of the station, people and some of the memorabilia from LTAN and Madagascar like the Money, Lychee nuts, Gitane cigarettes, etc. Page 4: A sad day in the network. A copy of twx announcing the loss of Apollo astronauts. Page 5: Additional pictures and scanned in images. Page 6 Recently uploaded pictures. Page 7 Recently uploaded pictures

Pictures start a little further down the page.

            This is a small tribute to all those folks who worked on NASA and other projects that were so important during this technological period.  Many of them, and their families, lived in areas that were dangerous and certainly not healthy. 

           Jack Mengel, the first Director for Tracking and Data Systems at Goddard Space Flight Center said "The excitement of the space program became a virtual magnet which attracted the very best people to handle the many new functions which had been assigned to the Goddard Center. This, of course, included tracking, data processing, computer operations, and worldwide communications which were needed to tie the system all together. Fortunately, we were able to assemble a truly priceless team of very dedicated and talented people.

           So this is for the "Range Rats" who made many of today's technological advances possible.

      I received an email from Walter Silva who is trying to restore a telemetry system used for guidance control monitoring for the Titan  4 launch vehicles.  He is trying to get information on a printer used in the console.  I have attached his photo's of the console and a couple of the pictures I took at Tananarive that has the printer installed.  Titan 4 console photos.  If you have any information he can be reached at  Sorry for the odd looking email address.  Trying to keep the spammers down you know.  I will clean it up later.

         Gary Schulz has a great web site covering a lot of the NASA and Bendix Field Engineering history.  I'm so glad that people like Gary have taken the time to preserve a lot of history.  Here's a link to the Bendix Field Engineering  site run by Gary.  Incidentally, Gary tells me that his stay at Tananarive was for three years then on to Quito, Ecuador for six years, then back to the USA for 21 more years, retiring in Dec 1996 with thirty years and six months continuous service.  Holy moly, 30 years and six months continuous service!  That's quite an accomplishment.

Gary also provided a link to a book named "Read You Loud and Clear" that's a history of the NASA Spaceflight Tracking and Data Network.  The book can be purchased for $25 and you can preview it at this link.  Loud and Clear.  This book has some great stories in it that took me back to some of the most interesting times of my life in Owings Mills Maryland, Ft. Myer Florida and Madagascar.

      Here's something you'll really like.  I ran into this Google Earth link that shows some of what's left of the old station near Imerintsiatosika.  Old NASA station 

      Gary just put up a four pictures on his web site he got from Karla Rohland, Clyde and Carmen Rohland's daughter.  Madagascar photo's.

       Yea!!  More news!  Just heard from Charles Hairell's son John.  He has provided another piece of the missing LTAN history.  Read further down and you can find Mark Manning and others.

Here is some fun stuff from John Hairell;

      I was just checking out your Tananarive tracking station pages and saw the name "Manning" on the first page along with one of the photos.

      My father (Charles Hairell) worked at the station in Tana and when we first moved to Madagascar in December 1966 we lived next to the Mannings.

      We later moved from our original place to Ampefilaho and I don't know what happened to Mr. Manning and his wife. I went to Switzerland for school in 1969 and when I came back in 1970 I think they had left Madagascar. I later heard that he had gone to work for Disney in Florida when they first started setting up Disney World.

      We were in Madagascar from 1967 to mid-1972. Your pictures and stories bring back a lot of memories. There's a photo of Joe Gruenthal on your page - I went to school in Tana at the BFEC school with his younger sons - they lived out on the road to Ivato. Like us they had come from Goldstone to Tana the year before we had, I guess late 1965 or early 1966. They had also left Tana when I got back from Switzerland in 1970. I have a faint memory that they might have gone back to California.

      My father is retired from BFEC and living in Houston.

      Best wishes,

      John Hairell

Received an email from Mike Andrews who provided more information about what is was like for him during these historical time.  I am pretty sure lots of us felt many of these same emotions.  Good job Mike!;

Thanks!  I was one of the folks back at the MSC in Clear Lake who got the telemetry tapes from Tananarive, Guaymas, the Rose Knot Victor, and other places with wonderful names.  I was in the Data Reduction Complex in Building 12, second floor.  We'd get range tapes, dupe them on our Ampex FR-1400 setup.  We had 4 of the beasts, plus Astrodata IRIG time code generators/decoders and other stuff. Then the originals would go to the Central Metric Data Facility for storage, and we'd go A-to-D on a CDC 3200, then crack the data on CDC 3600 and, later, CDC 3800 computers.  I was very involved in every aspect, from operating (and fixing and tweaking) the FR-1400 stuff and all the ancillary gear through running the CDC 3200, 3600, and 3800 stuff.

We also used a string of Ampex 300s (master and 6 slaves) to dupe astronaut debriefing tapes and other 1/4" stuff.  We never let a debriefing tape get out of the facility without it going through a very careful multiperson QC.  Those guys were anything but inhibited when it came to expressing their displeasure.  I was there from July 1 1965 through the end of February 1967, working for Lockheed.  After that, I went into the USAF to avoid being drafted and sent to Nam as an M-16 operator.

I remember losing Grissom, White, and Chaffee, too.  I was at work when it happened, and again, the next day, when we got the tape from Canaveral with the biomed data on it. I had to run the data out to stripchart for the NASA bigwigs.  The pulse and respiration data just dwindled down to three pairs of flat lines, and I cried.

I'm 63 now; I was 18 when I started, and it was My Very First Job.  Can you imagine a better first job? I've tried to, and I can't.  As I write in my website, I'd have _paid_ to do the work.

I found your pages looking for images of the FR-1400 to show a friend.  I'd love to put the FR-1400 image up on my site with a credit to you.  I wish I had one, and space to put it, and something to do with it, darn it.

Very best regards (we ham radio types would send "very 73"), from --

Mike Andrews, W5EGO

Tired old sysadmin

      Point to any picture and click to see the full size image.

      By the way, here are a very few of the names that come to mind and I really hope they are correct.

         Jim Marchant:  On the right in (Fig 10) June 67:  and his wife was Guinn:  Jim and I worked together and he was really a talented guy.  If I remember correctly he previously worked on a university project that was quite uptown technologically.  Maybe it was a Cyclotron or Linear Accelerator project?  Don't know why he gave that up unless he just liked the excitement and challenge like the rest of us.  I know there were also some very educated technical people at Tananarive just enjoying the projects.  One I remember most was a gentleman with a EE degree who taught me how to write programs for the Packard Bell 250 computer that did interpolations for the 40 ft. dish.  He and I didn't know it at the time but he launched me into the computer industry where I stayed for the rest of my career.

          Don't remember most of the names of these folks hanging out at the Brasserie - Fig 9 blond crew cut guy with head to the back of the picture is Ralph Blankenship and Fig 11 Dick Farrow and wife. (thanks Gary Schulz!)

          Patrick Newman and new wife:  One of the folks I trained with at Fort Myers (closed in 1972).  He married a French girl while we were in Tananarive.  Can't remember where Pat was working, but I think it was Minitrack.

          Leland (Lee) McDaniels (Fig 7):  I think he was from Cherry Hill New Jersey?  Lee, Patrick Newman and I trained at Fort Myers and traveled to Madagascar together.  Lee was writing training programs at the station when I left.

          Lee, Pat and I traveled together from the US to Paris, Entebbe Uganda (building where the Israeli hostages were held by radicals some years later), Nairobi and then on to Tananarive.  The stopover in Paris was a hoot.  We had enough time to tour the Eifel tower, the Louvre and a lot of the sights and sounds of Paris.  I remember walking down the Champs Elysees one evening among the bright lights and four lane traffic that ran up the middle.  The four lane with divider ran right up to the Arc de Triumph and was lit up like Las Vegas.  We heard a commotion behind us one evening with horns honking, traffic slowing down and cat calls galore.  When we looked behind us there were about four gals introducing Paris and the world to the micro skirt.  The gals were the typical wispy model types with skirts that were in florescent colors.  They immediately jay walked across the Champs Elysees bringing traffic to a complete stop and the French guys to their knees.

           The whole trip from the US to Tananarive wore us out even at that young age.  I swear I felt like I was moving up and down and back and forth for three days after that long flight.

          Steve Reed and wife.  Steve and I worked together at the station.  Ran into him again in New York training at an IBM school.  Apparently he and I both came back and went to work for IBM.  In retrospect, I can't remember if he was working for IBM or if he was working for a third party company and just training at an IBM facility.

          Don Cates and wife Heather.  Don worked with the telephone systems, was my flying buddy and we lived in the same apartment building with us and Reverend Cobb and family.  Don and Heather are no longer together but I did get to visit with Heather just this summer (2007) in Baltimore.  She has retired from the Social Security Administration and is enjoying spending lots of time with the grandkids.  She told me that Don is in Thailand working with missionaries (WHAT!?).  Apparently Don got away from the electronics field.  Heather said that Don had actually crossed paths with one of Reverend Alvin Cobb's kids who are also missionaries somewhere in Thailand.  What a small world huh?  I have been searching for Don over in Thailand but have not been able to locate him.  And here is the latest, thanks to Rev. Cobb I have made contact with Don.  He has been really really busy over the years.  According to Don he married a wonderful gal while in the Philippines (nope he didn't give up electronics) and he went for duty in Guam, the Azores and back to the Philippines.  Then they got involved in mission work and served in places like Guatemala, Uganda, traipsed around East Africa and Thailand.  I just have one thing to say to Don and Olivia,,,, I'm jealous.    

          Clyde West:  African-American guy from Nowata, Oklahoma that worked in the Goddard Range and Range Rate system (Mr. Speed and Distance).  The only person on the island that owned an Alpha Romeo convertible (which he ran into a Zebu herd late one night going back to town from the station).  Clyde and his Alpha were chick magnets. Oh and the speed and distance thing,, while Clyde was working at R&RR he would answer the phone with "speed and distance, this is Clyde".  It was rumored that the site manager frowned on this phone greeting and wanted us to say "Range and Range Rate".

          Joe Gruenthal (Fig 12) and wife.  Manager for the power house, generators and anything hydraulic.  I swear he looked just like Richard Reed who played Paladin on TV.  Seems like they had one or more children with them.

          Chester Cunningham and wife.  NASA director who's office was in the American Embassy.  Chester and his wife would always invite all of us to his house for a Christmas celebration.  I always thought it was funny to have Chester playing the piano, everyone singing Christmas carols, glancing outdoors to watch people swim and to see those beautiful green palm trees swaying in the summer breeze.  I have located a great piece of Chester Cunningham memorabilia (a signed card) and posted it on page 2.

          John Laverty and wife.  BFEC station manager.  I think John is the one that had one of those giant green spiders fall on him and bite his neck.  If I remember it didn't make him sick but his neck swelled up and got red.

          Arlin (something) and wife.  He was in the French hospital Gerarde et Robique(sp?) at the same time my wife Sue was there.

Fig 10

Fig 9

Fig 7 Lee McDaniels


Fig 11

Fig 12 Joe Gruenthal

Heather Cates (2007)

Photos of The NASA station and Madagascar

Fig 10:  The road turning off to the station.

Fig 1:  Just in front of the chow hall facing the direction of R&RR. R&RR was to the front right and MSF was pretty close to the right and back over my shoulder.

Fig 10

Fig 1

Fig 2 and Fig 3:  Range and Range Rate Trailers and Antenna.  I will have to tell the story about the reported UFO in the logs.  This was really a fun system to work with and had some great challenges.  Like those of IMP-F where the signal was so weak that you had to tune the vernier dial to where you thought it would be and then move it slowly back and forth until lock was attained.  You probably remember IMP-F.  It's orbit was VERY elliptical and went a long way out.  Very hard to acquire when it was out at apogee.

          We were working launch operations one night for a bird that was to eject a canister on the first orbit and almost directly over our head.  At near apogee directly over us the bird stopped sending information about the canister status and everyone was duly concerned.  One of the Goddard engineers got on the line with us and said, "just go outside and look up".   We looked at each other with a lot of doubt but did what the engineer asked.   As we looked up at the sky low and behold a small dot appeared like magic.  Obviously the canister had ejected and the object was blowing up.  Everyone was elated at the application of this low tech telemetry solution, especially the Goddard folks.

          Need to tell the story about one of our folks getting whacked by the S-Band transmitter magnetron.

Fig 2

Fig 3

Fig 4:  The two cherry pickers.  The one on the left is the old one which had a nasty habit of letting you down when you didn't want down and sometimes it let you down rather quickly.

Fig 5: The old cherry picker.

Fig 4

Fig 5

Fig 6:  Our brand new Capri C Band skin tracker

Fig 7:  My old friend Lee McDaniels sitting in front of the brasserie no doubt having a Trois Cheval.  Lee was a really good photographer and taught me quite a lot.  I  later became a certified Professional Photographer (which Lee would get a kick out of knowing).  Lee, Pat Newman and I started lessons on skydiving which is another fun story.

Fig 6

Fig 7

Fig 8:  One of those beautiful sunsets often seen in Madagascar.   And Fig 13 a typical Zebu jam on the road.

Fig 8

Fig 13

Fig 11,14 and 15:  An Air Force C-133 brought us the Orbiting Astronomical Observatory (OAO) hardware and some supplies for the station.  It didn't arrive at the new airport at Ivato but at the old airport near Arivonimam.  It was my understanding that there were some diplomatic issues with letting a U.S. military aircraft land at a Malagasy civilian airport so they took off all the Air Force insignias and put the NASA logo on the tail.  If you look carefully at Fig 15 you can see the outline of the U.S. Air Force name that was left on the side of the airplane and the cargo drops below that.

Fig 14

Scan 11

Fig 15

Fig 16:  The MSN receiving antenna.  Don't know who is standing on the platform.

Fig 17: Oct 67:  My wife and son (who is now 40+) sitting at the console of the OAO computer system.  The OAO computer system was a unique one of a kind system that NASA was famous for acquiring.  Built by General Mills it came with two technicians to operate it.  I always marveled at the printer on the system.  It had a drum about 12 to 15 inches across with a raised font set of alphanumeric characters that rotated at a fairly high speed.  There was a row of print hammers across the front and it printed by firing the hammer when it lined up with the correct character on the drum.  It created such a racket that you could hear it anywhere in the room.  Interestingly when I worked with IBM that was the same concept for high speed printers.  They too were extremely noisy and we were supplied ear plugs to use while working on the systems.

          Don't know if people remember Orbiting Astronomical Observatory but it was a smaller version of the Hubble.  Unfortunately it only made a few revs and failed.  Seems like there was a second OAO on the books but I don't know if was ever launched.  So, Hubble was famous but it really was not the first.  Sorry about the picture quality.  Some of them are really dark.  There is a black and white later on the is a lot better quality than the color one here.

Fig 16

Fig 17

Fig 18: June 67:  Dark picture of some folks working on the decoder.  The guy kneeling on the floor is the one that I think landed a Piper Colt (Victor Oscar) on the road to the transmitter building.  Is this Chuck Edmondson? Remember Gary Schulz may have better copies of these.

Fig 19: Oct 67:  Don't remember the name of the person working on the SATAN transmitter but I heard a rumor later that he was either the station manager or assistant station manager??  I think his last name was Manning??  It was!  It was Manning!  A really nice guy and one of the maintenance "Leads".  Check out the size of those transmitter output tubes sitting on the floor.  What were the tube designations?  Made by Eimac if I remember.

Yes!!!  Just got a note from "the real Manning" and he said his name is Mark, not Fred.  Ooops!  So sorry Mark and it is a real pleasure to hear from you again.  So, the gentlemen in fig 19 is Mark Manning!!  It is so good to hear from you!!

Fig 19

Fig 18

Fig 20: June 67:  Jim Marchant and Chuck McGonigle working on one of the SATAN receive antennas.  They discovered that you could whack the polarization switches with a rubber mallet to fix a jammed switch.  These were pretty advanced antenna systems for their day.  The feed lines back into the building were large diameter cables (4 inches around?)  with a center conductor spiral wrapped with a piece of plastic that kept it centered.  The whole thing was filled with a gas.  Don't remember what type. Nitrogen?  One of the Malagasy folks was doing some backhoe work one day and cut them in half.  That was a lot of work ;).

Fig 21: Oct 67:  SATAN transmitter building and antennas.

Fig 20

Fig 21

RVTreasure Home Page 

Page 1: Some names and photos of a few people who were at the site, color pictures of the site and the start of some LTAN stories. Page 2: More photos of the station and people. Black and Whites of the 40 Foot Dish build out. Page 3: Photos of the station, people and some of the memorabilia from LTAN and Madagascar like the Money, Lychee nuts, Gitane cigarettes, etc. Page 4: A sad day in the network. A copy of twx announcing the loss of Apollo astronauts. Page 5: Additional pictures and scanned in images. Page 6 Recently uploaded pictures. Page 7 Recently uploaded pictures