“Remember that happiness is a way of travel -- not a destination.”
Another one of the roads we meander along on our way to Harties. This one goes through Hartebeesthoek (a Hartebeest is a type of Gnu, and "hoek" means corner), where the Radio Astronomy Observatory (HartRAO) is situated, and it is the only major radio astronomy observatory in Africa.
The Observatory began as Deep Space Station 51, built in 1961 by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) of the United States of America. The station tracked many unmanned US space probes. These included the Ranger, Surveyor and Lunar Orbiter spacecraft which landed on the Moon or mapped it from orbit, the Mariner missions which explored the planets Venus and Mars and the Pioneers which measured the Sun's winds. The station was handed over to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in 1975 and was converted to a radio astronomy observatory. In 1988 the observatory became a National Facility operated by the Foundation for Research Development (FRD). In 1999 the FRD was restructured as the National Research Foundation (NRF).
The observatory is equipped with a single 260 ton radio telescope with a main reflecting surface diameter of 26 metres. The telescope is equipped with radio receivers operating in the microwave band at wavelengths of 18cm, 13cm, 6cm, 4.5cm, 3.5cm, 2.5cm and 1.3cm.