PARI History – Mission One

Mission Number One: Early Space Exploration

PARI's 26M East Radio Telescope

PARI’s iconic 26m East Radio Telescope, one of two on the campus, was commissioned in 1963 as the first parabolic dish in NASA’s Spacecraft Tracking and Data (Acquisition) Network (STADAN).

Twenty-one such dishes were constructed around the world to receive data from orbiting satellites. In 1964 this instrument received the first pictures of Earth from space (Nimbus-1 satellite) and in 1967 received the first TV transmission from space (ATS-1 satellite).

Today, PARI astronomers use the telescope in tandem with its twin, 26 West, to monitor pulsars and probe the deepest reaches of outer space.

PARI is the site’s third mission. During the infancy of the U.S. space program, the site hosted one of NASA’s first satellite monitoring stations and then was an important link in the national security grid for the U.S. Department of Defense.

In 1962, NASA recognized the intrinsic value of the location (protected from man-made electronic and light interference) when it was conducting a worldwide search for sites to host its network of satellite tracking and data collection stations. At the current PARI site, NASA built the Rosman Satellite Tracking and Data Acquisition Facility to be the nation’s primary east coast satellite-tracking facility. The facility was dedicated Oct. 26, 1963 in ceremonies attended by a Who’s Who of North Carolina elected officials: Gov. Terry Sanford, Sen. Sam Ervin, Sen. B. Everett Jordan and a host of others.

During the NASA era, the Rosman Tracking Station played a vital role in the space program, communicating with satellites and manned space flights as they passed over the East Coast. The Rosman facility also played a key role in the research and development of modern conveniences taken for granted today, such as weather satellites, GPS systems and coast-to-coast transmission of color TV signals. Eventually, satellite communication technology evolved and the Rosman Station was not as critical to NASA, but it was of growing importance for another important mission.


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