Academic Commons

Theses Master's

Reinterpreting Pioneer Deep Space Station

Ray, Alex

This project argues for the interpretation of NASA’s historic space probes. Robotic space exploration programs have permanently transformed humans’ understanding of Earth, but the probes at the center of NASA’s first pioneering missions to deep space in the 1960s and 1970s will never return to their origin. Today, the historical significance of these objects is embodied in a network of resources that reflect triumphs of human curiosity, not just advancements in technology. The widely unrecognized contributions that women and men made to the history of “unmanned” space exploration reveal themselves on Earth through the enduring infrastructure that humans built and the data that humans rendered in their pursuit to understand the Solar System.
After a review of the existing literature on outer space preservation, I outline the historical significance of space probes and establish interpretive themes designed to articulate the perspective that probes help generate, the human ingenuity underlying the development and operation of probes, and the impact of discoveries that robotic space exploration has enabled. I argue that by relying on the data returned to Earth by space probes and by considering a significant site at which these data were historically received, space probes can be meaningfully interpreted for public audiences. The project concludes with a proposal for reinterpreting the Pioneer Deep Space Station radio antenna site at Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex, based on analysis of current interpretations and effective case study methods.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Historic Preservation
Thesis Advisors
Williams, Jessica Lee
M.S., Columbia University
Published Here
July 5, 2017