Saturday, February 20, 2010

Space archaeologists search for hidden heritage

A group of space archaeologists are investigating the material culture (remains) of space exploration at the Orroral Valley NASA Tracking Station in the Namadgi National Park thanks to an ACT Government Heritage grant.  Dr Alice Gorman, archaeologist from Flinders University, and her research team will map the site from Saturday 13 February to Monday 15 February 2010, using electromagnetic induction techniques and differential GPS to find out exactly what remains below the ground.

"Australia has had a long involvement in international space exploration, and while not widely recognised, Orroral Valley was involved in many major NASA projects and played a critical role in Australia's early ventures into space," Dr Gorman said. "Our project aims to not only map and document material culture of space exploration from the site, but to raise awareness of the site's heritage significance.  We will be using electromagnetic induction to identify the location of cables, tanks, and construction trenches and rubbish dumps at the site. The remains of the tracking station cover approximately 40 hectares.

"Electromagnetic induction measures the electrical properties of objects below the surface. These instruments are not invasive and do not require direct contact with the ground. They are also easily integrated with a GPS unit allowing us to survey large areas. During the survey, former employees of the tracking station are invited to visit the site to contribute to an accurate interpretation of the data.
Following mapping of the site there may also be opportunity to excavate materials which would further assist in the interpretation of how people lived and worked at the tracking station."

Chief Minister and Minister for the Arts and Heritage, Jon Stanhope, said the Orroral Valley Tracking Station is currently nominated on the ACT Heritage Register. "I am pleased the ACT Government has been able to contribute to the understanding of this site's heritage through a $9000 grant to support the investigation," he said.

The research team consists of Dr Alice Gorman (lecturer in archaeology, Flinders University), Ian Moffat (geophysicist), Rob Koch (surveyor), and graduate student Julia Garnaut from Flinders University.

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