The iconic Carnarvon Dish, located in... Carnarvon, Western Australia funnily enough ... is facing a very real threat of demolition thanks to neglected maintenance costs that have amounted to almost $2 million.
The 30-metre-wide dish played a pivotal role in the historic NASA moon landing more than 50 years ago and has been a beloved attraction for the small town ever since.
Sitting outside the Carnarvon Space and Technology Museum, the parabolic reflector antenna is facing an uncertain future with expected costs to be $1.7 million over the next five years. A structural engineering review found that the dish is not safe in its current state, and would need to be either remediated or demolished.
Even demolition costs are beyond the financial capacity of the Carnarvon Shire, who outlined the situation in a recent report, stating:
"This level of expenditure is beyond the current Shire of Carnarvon financial capacity, and without significant additional funding, the future of the dish is in doubt. A 'do nothing' scenario also represents a financial risk to the shire as demolition costs are likely to be significant."
Space Museum Chairman Phil Youd said the issue of lack of maintenance has been an ongoing concern regularly voiced by himself and others at the museum. Only to fall on deaf ears at the Overseas Telecommunications Commission (OTC). Youd added:
"I think it's great that finally the dish is being recognised that it does need some work. Anyone that goes to look at would think 'gee, it's a bit sad and sorry', and that's basically because it's been neglected for years and years and years and had zero money spent on it,"
"We've been trying, me personally and the museum's been trying for years to get something done. When I was on council I proposed a budget be set for it, even if its 20 grand a year or whatever, just put some money aside because at some point you are going to need to do some serious maintenance on it.
"Unfortunately the money that was originally allocated ended up getting used in a different project. So once again the dish misses out and hey presto, here we are looking at a $1.7 million bill that obviously the council can't afford."
The thought of demolition was not on the cards for Chairman Youd, saying the cost would be "horrendous" not in monetary terms but in tourism also.
Just last month the museum and dish drew 11,000 visitors, thanks to its historic past and iconic location on the skyline of the Shire.
"It is an iconic structure that can be seen for 40 or 50 or 60 kilometres out of town … and it has played a major role in the space industry and the history of Carnarvon," said Mr Youd.
"It came into working just after they landed on the Moon, and basically what it was set up for was all the command and all the main instructions sent via that dish directly back to Houston. NASA realised prior to the landing on the Moon that they needed some better communication … back to Houston and that's what the dish was built for."
"The dish in Parkes, there was a movie based around it, and that's where it's got a lot of focus in the past 20 years."
"Poor old Carnarvon, as normal, misses out on the limelight, even though the base that was in Carnarvon had a far greater role than Parkes ever did. I think once again Carnarvon slips through the cracks of history and something needs to be done about it."
Should ARSE begin a crowdfunding campaign to save this unsung icon of the Aussie space scene?
Let us know in comments and share this with a friend to show awareness for a great cause.
Oh, and if you're looking for Aussie Space Supporter gear, why not grab a Dish style hoodie or some other goodies?
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