In the Beginning
Is this a scene from a corny science fiction movie of the 1950s? This 1951 image actually is of scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) who were working on missile development for the U.S. Army.
In order to receive data signals from missiles in flight, JPL also developed telemetering ground equipment. The system included these helical antennas as well as receivers, recording equipment, gas-powered generators and batteries for power, and telephones for communication between primary and secondary telemetering sites. All the equipment, including a control room, was installed in trucks so it could be easily transported and set up in the field. The directional antennas were mounted on top of 35-foot telephone poles. During testing, each antenna was steered using a small wheel, like a ship's wheel, near the bottom of the pole, attached to the antenna by rope.
Research from this project was instrumental in the development of the Deep Space Network.
Image credit: NASA/JPL