On the 13th April, 1973, then Prime Minister Gough Whitlam officially opened the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex’s (CDSCC) new 64-m wide antenna, Deep Space Station 43 (DSS43).  On Saturday 13th April, 2013, we celebrated the now 70-m antenna’s 40th anniversary in style.

People sitting for the ceremony

Past and current CDSCC Staff at the 40th anniversary of DSS43

DSS43 has played a part in many a famous moment in space history.  While it wasn’t officially opened until 1973, it was online in time to support Apollo 17 – the last manned mission to the Moon, an amazing start to a fabulous career that has included communicating at mission-critical times with the Voyager spacecraft throughout their encounters with the largest planets in our solar system, and rovers such as Spirit, Opportunity and Curiosity landing on Mars.  As of mid-April 2013, DSS43 is finishing up the last of its 6 months worth of massive maintenance with a wash and a new paint job, preparing the antenna for the next 40 years of spacecraft tracking.

CDSCC Director Ed Kruzins speaking at ceremony with three other guests sitting

Dr Ed Kruzins, CDSCC Director speaks at 40th anniversary of DSS43. Also on stage are US Ambassador Jeffrey Bleich, CSIRO Deputy Chief Mike Whelan and NASA SCaN Operations Manager Jon Walker.

On the day of the 40th anniversary, just under a hundred former and current tracking station staff gathered beside DSS43, where the original opening ceremony took place, to celebrate.  The US Ambassador Jeffrey Bleich, CSIRO Deputy Chief Mike Whelan, NASA SCaN Operations Manager Jon Walker and CDSCC Director Dr Ed Kruzins spoke, not just of the accomplishments of this antenna, but also of the dedication of the hundreds of men and women who have worked at the tracking station, and the others like it that once were found throughout Australia.  We were incredibly honoured that some of those men and women could join us on such an important anniversary, including staff who started working at the Complex when it opened back in 1965.

The 13th of April, 2013 was a day to not only honour DSS43, but to honour all our staff, past and present.  After all, without them, DSS43 is just metal, servos and electronics.  Our staff have made it possible for us to accomplish amazing things with this wonderful antenna over the last 40 years… and will continue to well into the future.

Happy 40th anniversary, Deep Space Station 43.

Antenna behind people sitting

Deep Space Station 43 on the anniversary day