Published in The Coast Star on July 17, 2003
Page 19 continued on page 30
By Fred Carl
When one drives down Marconi Road in Wall Township, a small two-acre site with a security fence can be seen with a large satellite dish and two support buildings.
This little site played a large role in the history of space exploration and will have a new future in education.
One day soon, every Wall Township student will visit the site to learn about the space exploration history that took place right in their own backyard.
The old 100-foot tall and 60-foot diameter satellite dish located on the Diana site is a vestige of the days before the creation of NASA, when Camp Evans played a major role in America’s space program, Many people refer to this as the Diana radar, it is the “Space Sentry.”
It is the fifth major radar unit installed at the site from the hectic days of World War II until NASA took over space research in the 1960s.
During World War II, the site had three antennas and one building. The small wooden equipment shack was painted in camouflage colors in case Nazi bombers reached our shores. Near the shack were three experimental radar antennas, a 100-foot tall SCR-271-D, a 60-foot SCR-271 and the MPG-1. The MPG-I was a harbor defense radar to guard Belmar inlet.
The site was used to improve American radar during the war and, more than once, was used to search for Nazi battleships when Allied intelligence had reports of Nazi ships heading for our shores.
The site made international history in 1946 when Camp Evans scientists did what was once thought impossible. They modified the World War II radar equipment on site to send a radar signal powerful enough, and also modified reception equipment to be sensitive enough, to transmit a radar signal toward the moon.
The breakthrough was they detected the faint radar reflection returning to earth. This proved space communications was possible. The feat was named Project Diana. The space age was started and the new science of radar astronomy was born in Wall Township at the Diana site.
The United States and the Soviet Union began satellite development programs. At the Camp Evans, in the main area, engineers created plans and models for our first satellites.
Special test facilities were created to make sure the satellites would, not fail after a blast off into space. The near-vacuum of space would cause electronic components to fail when they would work fine on earth. Better they fail in the Camp Evans space test chambers than after being launched. Engineers could then improve them and test them again until they had a design that would survive.. An example of a satellite design tested at Camp Evans was the Vanguard cloud cover satellites.
In the mid-1950s the old World War II radar units were removed from the Diana site and were replaced with a 50-foot satellite dish. Named the Diana dish, it was an experimental German radar captured during World War II. With new electronics, the dish would help track every American and Soviet satellite launch. In 1957 the Diana dish was joined by a 60-foot dish, the Space Sentry.
World politics would take space research away from the Army and centralize it into a new civilian agency. NASA was created in 1960 and responsibility for space projects was transferred to the new agency.
An example is TIROS, Television and Infra-Red Observation Satellite, the first television satellite to take pho-tographs of cloud movements. The project was too far along to be completely transferred to the new agency. The Diana site with its two satellite dishes was used as the TIROS I and TIROS II ground station. The first images of cloud movements from space were developed in Wall Township and shown by a proud NASA to the world.
Next time you watch the weather channel and see satellite images of forming hurricanes remember Camp Evans helped begin the technology and played a major roll in early space exploration. The 60-foot Space Sentry is still there. The U.S. Army Tank and Automotive Command has given the giant dish to Wall Township for education. A gift to help educate Wall’s families and children of their heritage and the possibilities in their future.
Infoage and the Ocean Monmouth Amateur Radio Club have begun the preservation work on the Diana site. You and your organization are invited to help change this unique historic site into an educational asset.
[Fred Carl is the director of the Infoage Science-History Center at Camp Evans.]
page created August 29, 2003