The historic "Mars antenna" at NASA's Deep Space Network site in Goldstone, Calif. has finished a major, delicate surgery that lasted seven months. The operation on the giant, 70-meter-wide (230-foot) antenna replaced the hydrostatic bearing assembly, which enables the antenna to rotate horizontally, and the elevation bearings, which enable the antenna to track up and down from the horizon.
We're here at the signal processing center of the Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex.
It's a big day for us here. We're getting our big antenna, the Mars antenna, the 70m back on service after over 6 months of rehabilitation work."
There were several different things done for this antenna this time. The biggest job was replacing the azimuth bearing.
This whole antenna floats on a film of oil about 5 to 10 thousandths of an inch thick.
It's about the thickness of a sheet of paper. We had to replace the entire assembly that allowed that to happen.
In addition we also replaced the elevation bearings, which is what enables the antenna to rotate up and down.
For the elevation bearing replacement, we had to jack up a little over 2 million pounds to get the old roller bearings off and the new roller bearings back in.
This antenna is over 40 years old. This is the first time that we've replaced this hydrostatic bearing on it. This new bearing should last another 40 years.
By putting in the new bearing we hope to reduce the amount of maintenance effort that goes in there.
Again, less maintenance time means more tracking time. More tracking time means more scientific discoveries for the projects.
Now we are going to acquire the signal, which we are three-way with station 25.
So we're acquiring the signal. We should see the signal level over here.
They ended up locking on the spacecraft. Great signal level.
We have a number of missions that are relying on the Big Dish.
Juno is coming up.
Mars Science Laboratory, when it lands.
We have a number of critical activities planned for this antenna. So that's why we want to keep it running.
And it should be in tip-top shape.
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology.