Back to Home Page

2004 Red Canyon Reunion

organized by Ron Pickinpaugh
writeup by Ed Thelen

Ron Pickinpaugh organized a wonderful four day 2004 Red Canyon Reunion starting Sunday October 17, 2004

The Set Up
A word about organizing a function for say 60 people living in about 20 different states - it is not for the faint of heart. Even though Jim Eckles of the WSMR (White Sands Missile Range) Public Relations office provided much of the touring and entertainment, the rest is a bit like a wedding - name tags, posters, handouts, getting the word out, getting the money in, getting the meeting room for days, the banquet, the pictures, the reminders, the - oh - my head hurts.

And Ron did it with a smile, style, and flair :-))
Some typical reminders are below

Here is some reminders about things for the reunion.

  1. Bring pictures and memorabilia

  2. WSMR security issues
        If you plan on taking your car to WSMR for the base
        tour day (Wed.), you will need three things for 
        security checks: Current drivers license, 
                current insurance card,
                current registration
         I would advise car pooling as much as possible, 
         to the base, on the base tour day, as it takes 
         5-10 minutes to check in and another 5-15 minutes 
         to get your car through the inspection. 

         Everyone should bring picture ID's.
         For our long tour day on Monday we will be 
          picked up at the hotel by the WSMR buses.

  3. Hilton address:  705 S. Telshor Blvd.
                              Las Cruces, NM 88011,
      Directions: Take exit 3 East off of I-25 
         to Telshor Blvd (1 blk),
         then South (1 blk), 
         then east to hotel entrance.

 Sunday(Oct. 17th) - Everyone get together in the 
       meeting room on the 1st floor. Jim Eckles, WSMR, 
       will give us some of the details about our tours.  

 Monday(Oct. 18th) - Range tour day at WSMR, starts 
       at 7:30 A.M. at the Hilton Hotel. The box lunches 
       will be picked up prior to loading on the buses. 
       We hope to finish by 5:00 P.M., 
          so this will be a long day on the buses. 

    Tuesday(Oct. 19th) - Free day, go see the sights

    Wednesday(Oct. 20th) - Everyone going on the WSMR 
        base tour needs to meet at the WSMR Museum 
        at 9:00 A.M. If you are driving to the base 
        make sure you have all the necessary insurance, 
        registration and drivers license. We will be 
        escorted on the base tour in buses and then have 
        lunch around 11:30 A.M., for those that want to 
        stay for lunch on the base, at the Frontier Club. 
        You will be free to leave after lunch. 
        I suggest you car pool as much as possible.

        Banquet: (6 - 10 P.M.) at the Hilton Hotel

    Thursday(Oct. 21st) - Departure day

Ron Pickinpaugh
And ordering forms Attachment1 and Attachment2.

Sunday - Initial Get Together


Ron & Jim
Ron Pickenpuagh -
Organized the reunion.
Jim Eckles -
Was WSMR host & tour guide

CLICK HERE for about 100 of Ron Pickenpuagh's pictures of the 2004 Nike Reunion and its various tours

Ft. Bliss - My side trip to Ft. Bliss with old classmates Tuesday October 19, 2004
1st 2 images from Norman Paik
This was our final barracks at Ft. Bliss, stayed there about 6 months. For the first 6 months we were in separate standard 2 story wood barracks. The first floor in now offices and the other floors are abandoned. Left to right are:
Norman Paik, Ed Thelen, "Mac" McCabe, Thomas Lundregan.
And here we are in front of the new ADA museum (large but mostly empty), with Nike Ajax and the Franklin mountains in the background. There are no Nike related artifacts inside the museum.
This was the only reference to the Nike antiaircraft system in the museum. They had some old horse drawn wagons, a half track with quad 50s, and a lot of empty space.
The new ADA Museum gift shop has a number of pins for sale.

War Eagles Air Museum - Side trip to Ft. Bliss with old classmates Tuesday October 19, 2004

There was lots to see, but I was really struck by the old P-40.
The founders of the museum
The Mustang, successor of the P-40?
As we were leaving (closing time) we noticed a tight flight of bi-planes far in the east, approaching rapidly. As they approached the field by the museum they did a loop in the same tight formation and landed in a tight stream. This image is 2 of the 4 touching down.
Wednesday PM -

New Mexico Museum of Space History Alamogordo, NM - Side trip Wednesday PM, October 20, 2004

There was lots to see,
but I was really struck by the several inertial guidance systems.
My first job after leaving the Army was as a technician for Minneapolis Honeywell, Aero Division where I was supposed to help with the HIG gyros developed at the Draper labs at MIT. I nearly got fired the first week for bitching that the servos controlling the temperatures of the HIG gyros under test never settled, were always driving in one direction. I was transferred to a different gyro group.
(I had the last laugh - I found out later that the gyros failed incoming test at Cape Canaveral, presumably because they were out of calibration due to bad temperatures.)
The gyros (and related accelerometers) here were made by A.C. Delco Division, General Motors.
Atlas Guidance Platform

The Atlas Intercontinental Ballistic missile (ICBM) used a platform like this for guidance. Accelerometers and gyroscopes in the platform sensed acceleration and movement to determine the rocket's altitude and velocity. This data was relayed to the on-board computer. The computer controlled the stabilization and control systems to correct any variations from the required flight path. The same guidance system was used during the manned Mercury orbital missions which utilized the Atlas missile.

Gift of the Guidance Test Division, 6585th Test Group, Holloman Air Force Base.

A tribute to Charles Draper in the museum
Charles Stark Draoer Dr. Charles S. Draper (1901-1987), born in Widsor, Missouri, was educated at Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Draper earned his doctorate from MIT in Physics in 1938. As a member of the faculty at MIT, Draper founded the Instrument Laboratory in 1939. In 1973, the laboratory became independent and was named the Charles Stark Draoer laboratory. Dr. Draper evolved the theory, invented and developed the technology, and led the effort which brought inertial mavigation to missiles and space vehicles. Under Draper's direction, the MIT Draper Laboratory developed guidance systems for the Atlas and Titan rockets. In 1961, Dr. Draper's laboratory developed the Apollo Guidance and Navigation System.

Very Large Array - Thursday Oct 21, 2004
Very Large Array - 50 miles west of Socorro - Visitor Center opens 8:30

In the ideal world, a well made 6" amateur telescope can approach the resolution of 1 arc second, 1/3600 of a degree. Not bad you say, you can see the fuzz on a bear at say 50 meters - but there are applications in astronomy where better resolution is very useful.

Theoretical resolution (angular ability to resolve to adjacent stars or lines) is a function of (wave length)/(diameter of the collector). If you want a small angle of resolution, a shorter wave length is "good", a larger collector (lens) is "good".

Oddly, optical astronomical telescopes dealing with the vagaries of the earth's atmosphere struggle to obtain resolutions (pixel size if you will) better than the one second of arc resolution obtainable with a 6 inch amateur telescope. The bigger ones indeed collect more light, but resolving smaller angles is a problem due to the earth's atmosphere :-((

The struggle for better resolution caused us to go above the earth's atmosphere with the various space telescopes (Hubble currently the largest). This has worked well to get the angular resolution down to about 0.1 arc second, but is hideously expensive and inconvenient. Intensive recent work with adaptive and active optics is permitting ground telescopes to approach the resolution of the Hubble telescope.

We have all been WOWed by the high resolution obtainable by the radio telescope people. One would think that radio telescope people using waves of say 0.05 meters (6 gigahertz) would be at a disadvantage compared with the optical folks dealing with wavelengths of say 0.5x10^-6 meters - 10,000 longer -

Currently the largest radio telescope, operating daily as a single unit, is the Very Large Array (VLA) located on some ranch land 50 miles west of Socorro, New Mexico. The 27 dishes can be arranged to act as one antenna having an effective diameter of 36,000 meters. For about the same price you can make a 10 meter optical telescope (Keck on Mauna Kea)

Receivers Available at the VLA
  P Band L Band C Band X Band U Band K Band Q Band
Frequency (GHz) 0.30-0.34 1.34-1.73 4.5-5.0 8.0-8.8 14.4-15.4 22-24 40-50
Wavelength (cm) 90 20 6 3.6 2 1.3 0.7
Primary beam (arcmin) 150 30 9 5.4 3 2 1
Highest resolution (arcsec) 6.0 1.4 0.4 0.24 0.14 0.08 0.05

However, to solve special problems, it is practical to make radio telescopes with an effective aperture of continents using atomic clocks to retain phase during recording (again using interferometry and fancy computing). VLA is frequently used as part of these efforts.

About three miles south of U.S. Highway 50, near the center of the Very Large Array, there is the administrative and technical center. There is also a visitors center and gift shop - lots of info, not very fancy. (No attempt to inform you on the complex operation of converting the radio wave fronts into maps of the radio sources. That seems to be a serious task with corrections required for everything.)

From the visitor's center you can go to the 1/4 mile self guided walking tour.

Here are some of the very helpful placards placed in strategic places on the trail.

And some scenes from the self-guided walking tour
Very Large Array - this is one arm stretching off north into the distance. Just past the second antenna is US Highway 60, about 3 miles away, heading east/west. This is ranch land - you are warned against hitting cattle.
In the foreground note the double railroad tracks. The antenna transporter rolls along on these.
These antennas are huge by human standards. That is Mitch Allies, about 5 ft. 10 inches tall standing there.
Look, you can hardly see Mitch. OH - Note that the antennas are pointing in different directions. We came on a maintenance day. They were even arc welding in one of the maintenance buildings. Normally they don't even allow you to have your cell phones on.
Here is a telephoto of the prime focus of the parabola. You could put a feed-horn/receiver, but that is inconvenient, so a hyperboloid reflector bounces the radio waves back down into the feed-horn/receiver at the center of the parabola.
This is a display feed-horn in the visitor's center. I have no idea why the grooves are cut into the inner surface.
This is the text with the feed horn. It does not tell about the grooves either. Any hot microwave guys out there? Please inform
Ok, the above feed horn and receiver have converted the incoming signal into a frequency suitable for shipping around the area in wave guides. Here is the wave guide connecting the antenna system to the local microwave network. There are hints that each antenna position has its own wave guide into the central processing building, as opposed to possibly frequency multiplexing into a single wave guide with say directional couplers.
This is an empty stand, three massive footings, and the wave guide in the middle.
This is the massive elevation control gear. Note the counterweights along side to help balance out the weight of the paraboloid and prime focus mechanisms.
As we were walking to the assembly building in the background, two cars drove up, see foreground, and each grabbed what looked like oscilloscope from his vehicle and went quickly up the ladder *into* the yoke of this antenna. One went in to a door on the left and the other into a door at the right. They just disappeared. After a little while they reappeared and headed toward the cars. I asked what they were doing. One said "looking for noise" and the quickly drove off.
This red colored transporter moves the 235 ton antennas around the complex on the double railroad tracks seen in one of the above pictures. The transporter is arranged to handle changing directions by 90 degrees, like to go from a "main line" into an empty stand or this assembly building. I bet they are careful to select a very quit (no wind) day!!
The assembly building, for construction and major repair/overhaul of antennas. Imagine replacing the azumuth or elevation bearing. Visible is the red transporter. Double tracked railroad behind me.

What a day!! What a grand life. :-))