Last Updated: Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Tananarive Madagascar (LTAN) Page 2

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

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Fig 57: Another blast from the past. This is the certificate we got after finishing project Gemini. In addition we got our choice of a tie tack or lapel pin. Ken Parrish's web site has a copy of one too.

Fig 58: Oct67: Miskatoosk. Sign just before turning off to the station. Imerintsiatosika. I will never forget the time I missed the bus and got a taxi to take me to the station. I asked the driver what the charge was for a trip to Em-erim-sia-toos-sika. He looked at me funny and repeated back what I had said to him. I said yes and he still looked perplexed. Then he said with a smile, Miskatoosk in one sweeping short word. I said yes hoping we were both on the same page. Seems the Malagasy found the original pronunciation too long as well.

Fig 123 I found this on Ebay and thought it would add a little more to the NASA experience.  It has Chet Cunningham's signature in the top left corner.  Here is the information received from the person who collected the "cover".  "Hello Dave,  Thanks for the additional information about your being stationed at that NASA station in Madagascar, and about Chester Cunningham's position there and with the American Embassy. As a space cover collector (space philatelist) I sent covers to the different tracking stations and NASA facilities around the world prior to each Apollo mission to document/commemorate the particular mission via the dated postmark. This is one of the covers I sent at that time for Apollo 12. Chester Cunningham was kind enough to sign the cover. His signing the cover was definitely an unexpected bonus, and added to the collectability of the cover.  Thanks again for the purchase. Glad to be of assistance.  Best regards,  Bill"


Fig 54: Handing out Gemini certificates. I don't remember the names of the astronauts but on the left is NASA Director Chester Cunningham

Fig 55

Fig 123

Fig 56: Gemini Tie


Fig 57: Gemini Certificate

Fig 58: Miskatoosk

Fig 59: Oct 67: The Supermarche super market where we did some of our grocery shopping. It was always a place that amazed me with blue colored fish in open freezers and butchers shooing flies away from meat before we said "tranche s'il vous plait". For those that don't remember that's "sliced please". It was also a place where we bought things like Nescafe instant coffee which in my opinion was an awful substitute for the real deal. "Lait avec sucre". Remember that? It was a plasticFig 59: Supermarche bag of what was claimed to be milk with sugar added. You could also buy it without sugar but I don't think it changed the taste one bit. There were many things not available at the market like peanut butter (a little odd since they had manual peanut processing), ground coffee and ketchup. Some big events among folks at the station was the "departing family auction". When folks were ready to leave the station to go home or to another station they would have an auction of all their household items and all the station folks were invited. I remember at one auction a partial jar of peanut butter went for several dollars and the remaining half of a 3 pound tin of coffee had a VERY competitive bidding war.

Fig 60: Oct 67: Avenue de l'independence. In the springtime the city took on a whole new appearance and the fragrance of the Jacaranda blossoms filled the downtown area. The Jacaranda trees would actually drip with a fragrance and the spring time flowers decorated the middle of the street.  We had a rainy season about that same time and I loved it!! About 3 or 4 in the afternoon it would rain. Not a ground pounding rain like we have here in Oklahoma but was quiet and lightly fell on those old black umbrellas that we all used. I had forgotten about ALL the umbrellas but I remember ours was not completely water proof and seemed to develop a little mist in the very top during heavy downpours. Yes, it did lightening and bang sometimes but I still remember thoseFig 60: Main Street soft rains.

When we first arrived at Tananarive they didn't have mercury vapor lamps on main street but just large incandescent bulbs that put most everything in shadows. I don't know why we didn't worry about running around in a major city with darkened streets but it didn't seem to bother anyone. Maybe it was the fact that Malagasy people were so quiet and easy going. But we learned early on that America was the land of bright lights. I remember flying out of Paris late at night and having a hard time seeing anything on the ground because the streets were so dimly lit.

Fig 61: As I knew BFEC when I signed on.

Fig 62: The OAO (Orbiting Astronomical Observatory) computer system, one of the U.S. support people and one of the Malagash assigned. We had lots of Malagash trainees that came from one of the local schools. I'm sure everyone remembers that Hubble wasn't the first orbiting telescope. It was just the first orbiting telescope that worked. If I remember it, the first OAO that this system was to support failed after just a few revs. I found a link on Gary Schultz BFEC site that points to some information on the OAO project from Gene Smith who worked on the project.  I wasn't there for the next OAO launch so don't know it's outcome.

Fig 63: Getting ready to use the 40 foot for a pass.  Just got a note from Gary Schulz who thought the gentleman in the checkered shirt might be John Classen who was a 2nd shift supervisor.

Fig 64: Looks like more 40 foot activity. The guy with the pipe, Dave Prawdy, was either from Johannesburg or his wife was from Joburg...I don't remember which.  Maybe they were both from Joburg.  He and I worked together and our supervisor was a really nice guy from Norway or Sweden.  Dave and I went in to see the supervisor at his request due to some problem.  After we got through talking to this really nice Swede who had left the room, Dave turned to me and said "I think we just got our ass chewed".  The Swede was so nice and polite that we had to pay attention to find out if he didn't like what we were doing.

Fig 65:  Patrick (Pat) Newman

Fig 66:  Dave Prawdy at the 40 Dish Console

Fig 67:  BFEC and NASA hired some of the local young men who were attending a higher level Malagasy school and provided the equivalent of "on the job training".

Fig 70: I found a golden retriever that was ill and this gentleman, Ray Ellis, took it to a vet for treatment.  When I left Ray still had the dog. Gary Schulz tells me that Ray is now deceased.

Fig 67 OJT

Fig 61: BFEC

Fig 63: 40ft console

Fig 65: Patrick Newman

Fig 68

Fig 62: OAO

Fig 64: Dave Prawdy

Fig 66: Dave Prawdy on the right

Fig 69 The back of this picture says "telemetry position #3 in the middle with #2 facing it"

Fig 71:  This gentleman is getting ready to do some minor adjustments on an Ampex tape drive.  Gosh!  Just found his first name in my notes.  Jerry (Corbin? Corbet?).  From Phoenix or Tucson I think. Another really nice guy.  I think these were Ampex FR1400's.  I remember I discovered noise on the analog channels of most of the FR1400's and Goddard sent a guy out to help us track the problem down.  Another fellow named Don...REALLY!  He tracked the problem down to noisy bearings and we replaced most of the bearings in Ampex FR-1400's on the site.

Fig 72:  Can't remember this guys name either but he was the resident expert on the digital decoder.  Stan I think.  Another nice guy.  Working hard on a paper tape punch.  Remember those?  It seems like we had every variation of paper tape punches and readers in the world.  The whole station was full of great folks to work with.

Fig 71

Fig 72

Fig 73 - 81 and 87:  Building the 40 Foot Dish.  You know I thought I had a picture of these guys squeezing the dish through a narrow bridge while it was loaded on the train.  But I can't seem to locate it.

Fig 73

Fig 74

Fig 75

Fig 76

Fig 77

Fig 87

Fig 78 Malagasy who worked on the build

Fig 79

Fig 80 I am pretty sure Lee McDaniels shot this

Fig 81 Setting the keyhole and washing off the footprints

Fig 82:  These are the folks that did the build on the 40 foot dish.  I think they were all Philco employees but I am not certain.  Unfortunately I can't remember any of their names.  The fellow second from the right taught us the 40 foot dish Philco computer logic and repair. The computer was built with Philco's "building block" technology where little white plastic covered rectangular cubes contained logic circuits and plugged into a motherboard.  The little cubes had holes along the top sides where you could use a scope probe to analyze signals. Seems like there was a diagram on the top as well with the function of the block.  Like inverter, and gate, or gate, etc.  There was also a Packard Bell 250 computer in the fourth rack to the right of the console (in 53) that was used for doing predict interpolations for the 40. The PB250 was the machine I cut my programming teeth on.  If I remember it had a serial delay line memory with a whopping 256 octal bits.  That's a long way from 4GB desktops of today huh?  A fun fact about the 40: during the build and at a point where it was almost finished one of the guys dropped a big wrench down the access hole on one of the arms and they couldn't fish it out.  The only recourse was to take down the arm again which was out of the question.  So,,,, sometimes when you rolled the dish over you could hear that big wrench bang around in the arm.  I guess the dish still had the big red Zebu painted on the pivot point of the arms in its later life??

Equipment:  Does anyone remember the equipment we had on site??  I have vague memories about some of it.  Electrax Phase Lock Antenna Controllers,  seems like we had General Dynamics (or GE) receivers.  Whoever made them they were the first synthesized tuning receivers we had installed on the site.  We ended up buying a seat on one of the commercial flights to get a spectrum analyzer sent in so we could tune them.  They used the VERY small coax cable and connectors that took some getting accustomed to.  They were so small that we bent the center conductors over.  The MUX.  Who's were they??  The Sanborn strip chart recorders.  Later in my tour NASA decided to buy a cheaper model (lowest bid you know) and they just had one difference.  The heater bar would wear out twice as fast as the Sanborn's and it cost twice as much to replace them.  IRIG demodulator?? The switch bars used to switch data from one position to another.  Southwester Bell??  We learned early on to not mess with them.  The more you tried to fix them the worse the problem got.  More on this as I remember it.

Fig 82

Fig 83:  Zebu herd.  This was very typical of trips to and from the station.  Lots of Zebu on the road.  These "cowboys" were always on foot, carried whips and drove these cattle for miles and miles.  To my knowledge there was not a single cattle truck on the island. It's no wonder our beef was lean and mean!!

Fig 84: Oct 67: Guys at the bar? There was this little grocery store in Miskatoosk run by a Chinese guy that had a refrigerator full of Trois Cheval. The guys referred to this place as "the bar".

Fig 83

Fig 84

Fig 85: Oct 67: SATAN Transmitting antenna.

Fig 52: Jul 67: Minitrack Optical Tracking System (MOTS) dome.  I hated this camera. Planning those shots with local hour angle and declination was a chore for me to work out and I definitely had a mental block when it came to the setup. I'm sure everyone remembers that all the pictures were taken on glass slides to eliminate the distortion present when using film. The glass slide holder had a plunger that would tap the slide up and down at a Serial Coded Decimal Time so the satellite track would appear somewhat jagged. This was so the folks at Goddard could determine exactly the day and time we shot the picture. Ah.... and then we used those hand made German star charts to overlay with the glass negative to locate the satellite position in the star field background. That also was a chore sometimes. Can't remember the names of the charts can you? I remember one of the satellites blinked strobe lights at us and you were supposed to see the blips on the plate. Only saw the blips one time although many of the guys routinely got good views of the lights on the slides. Was it OGO or GEOS that did the strobe light thing? Gary Schulz has posted a great picture of this camera at BFEC.  Working with the camera had some other side benefits, the nights were still, clear and really beautiful with the Great Southern Cross visible and if you learned how to do it, you could see the Cloud of Magellan. The nights were very still at the site and it was rare that you would hear much of anything except the hydraulics of the 40 if it was running or the old trios cheval running down the road.

Fig 52

Fig 85

Fig 86: Jun 67: Minitrack antenna's with the MOTS camera dome toward the left center. This building also held our telephone system. The phone systems on the island were so bad that NASA installed our own systems at the site. There was little to no service from the site to town but then again, who are you going to call?? No one had a phone. Seems like John Laverty checked into getting a phone put in his house and it was some astronomical price like $50,000 (in 1967 money) because they had to install phone lines and poles to his house. Just before I left there was some talk about setting up our own radio station so we could at least get messages out to the staff.

Fig 88:  A Malagasy carrying a load in one of those woven bags. A typical scene in the area. If you look in the background to the left of the picture you can see the Rhombic antenna towers. When Collins Engineers were installing these towers, they would sit on the top pad of that swaying tower and eat their lunch. How's that for guts?? We had a great communications system at the site. You could pick up the phone and most of the time it was as clear to Goddard as picking up the phone at home. What the heck was it?? Was it a 40KW single side band??  Went to London and was relayed if I recall.

Fig 86

Fig 88

Fig 22: Oct 67: 40 foot dish. I took this one a little too far away huh? However if you look really close you can see the red Zebu head painted on the left pivot point.

Fig 23: Oct 67: Looking over the top of the 40 foot dish console while the guys work a pass.

Fig 22

Fig 23

Fig 24: Jul 67: We gave tours at almost anytime and this is one of them. They were all dressed very well but as you can see some of them were barefooted.

Fig 24


Fig 89: Jun 67:  The cabbies played this game on one of the cement benches on Avenue de l'Independence so many times that they wore the game board in the cement.  Remember these cabbies??  Dear God how could you ever forget!!  In addition to the speeding they were so accustomed to it always bothered me that they turned off their headlights at night and ran around the streets!!

Fig 90: June 67:  Kids in the neighborhood.  A couple of these kids were standing near an intersection close to my house.  When they discovered I wanted to take pictures they gathered all the kids they could find in the area and more of their friends.

Do any of you remember the little Malagasy guy that dressed up like Hollywood actors and hung out downtown??  He had a cowboy outfit that looked a whole lot like Roy Rogers and one I remember most was a Charlie Chaplin outfit.  Holy cow!!  He even had the walk down pat.  Swinging that cane, tipping his bowler and wiggling that mustache!!  I came home from work late one night and saw him crossing the street in a woman's red silk dress with high heals and the whole nine yards.  I wonder what was up with that getup??

Fig 89

Fig 90

Fig 91:  We rode ATO busses to and from the station.  About 10 miles if I remember.  Seems like we were always telling those poor drivers to slow down or speed up.  "AH-LAY-FA" and "MAH-LAKEY-LAKEY", remember that?  Occasionally the ride would become very exciting depending on who was telling the driver how to drive that particular day.  I noticed on Ken Parrish's site there is the nose of one of the ATO busses on the right side of the picture and one of the Trois Cheval's that we used to run around the site.  The Trois Cheval was a three horsepower little bitty pickup that we used to run around the site!

Fig 92:  Another picture of the guys working hard on a pass in progress.

Fig 91

Fig 93

Fig 92

Fig 94


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