day 152
very large array, new mexico

"This is quite possibly the nicest cattle guard we've ever driven over." -k.
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Array of Hope:
Completed: 1982
Cost: $78,600,000
Antennas: 27
Antenna Diameter: 82 ft.
Antenna Weight: 235 tons
Max Distance Apart: 13mi
Max Speed: Fast walk

Claim to Fame: Featured in the movie Contact where Jodie Foster deciphers a message from outer space using the VLA. Also has the distinction of being the only government project ever to be completed on time and under budget.

Steve Irwin Moment of the Day
The Shortcut:
Why cut across the New Mexico desert instead of going back to the highway? We both have a serious aversion to heading back the way we have already come. Once we've seen it, it's onward and upward.

There's only a slim chance that either one of us would return for the other if it involved backtracking in any way.
Movies I can think of right now that feature the VLA:
1. Contact
2. The Arrival
3. My Stepmother is an Alien

Your Tax Money
Jan 25 - Every now and then the government takes your money and builds something wicked-ass cool with it. Even rarer is when they let you see it.

We found ourselves giddy with excitement to see the 13 miles of antennas the size of swimming pools. Just think what research the government is conducting here, listening for any and all radio frequencies from space. That's Outer Space, folks. Where aliens come from.

Our government (Actually, your government. The only thing our government makes in relation to Outer Space is the Canadarm.) is actively searching the sky 24 hours a day for signs of intelligent life.

How the VLA Works:
Antenna: Receives and amplifies the cosmic radio signal.
Wave Guide: Transmits the signal to the control building.
Electronics Room: Filters the signal.
Correlator: Combines the signals of each antenna with all the others - 560 billion such combinations take place each second.
Computers: Produces images from combines signals.
Video Display: Provides the astronomer with a way of "seeing" the radio sky.
Now we must ask ourselves, in the spirit of Space Week, would the government be so interested in such things if they didn't already have some evidence of extraterrestrial life? Hmmm...

Some may stop me at this point in my ranting to say that the VLA is not just used for searching for signs of intelligent life. Hogwash. If they are using it for anything else, it's not nearly as interesting and doesn't warrant knowing about anyway. And it doesn't fit into Space Week nearly as well.

Why are all the antennas painted white? It's not because they look nice that way. Think you're clever?
So, back to talking about aliens and tax money... how cool is this area? When I fill out my taxes, I'd like a section that allows me to choose what I want my money to go towards. I'd give half of it to the search for green men and the other half to perfecting the frictionless toilet. Hey, why not?

Another deep thought (you may want to consider this while stuck to your toilet seat): If this is so cool, and the government is actually showing it to us, just think how much cooler stuff they've got that they're not showing us...


Handy Carrying Case

Gotta have a Plaque

Mutilation Point

The Intricacies
more photos in the archive...

Current Location
(get out your push pins)

Madgelena, NM

Next Stop: Truth or Consequences

see the full map...

Today's Weather:
Getting warmer

Daily Stats

Sleeping Quarters
Elephant Butte S.P.

Ridge Site. Despite this being an incredibly confusing campground, we got a great night's sleep. But we're starting to find that as we go south, more campgrounds are open, which means we actually have to pay.

Cost: $10.00

Abbie & Mark's Place
Santa Fe
Tina's Restaurant
K's Order:Chicken Fajita
A's Order:Tamale Plate
Elephant Butte
K's Order:Pretzels
A's Order:Tortillas

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© 2002. Kevin Beimers and Aimee Lingman. K'aplah!