Messages on the closure of Island Lagoon

Island Lagoon’s last operational track was on 22 December 1972. It was the end of an era – and the end of the first DSN station outside the United States.

In addition to the local farewells documented on the Island Lagoon Last Days page, here are messages from, and to, the staff –

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DSS41’s Last Christmas – a message to other stations of the NASA Networks. Click the image for a PDF file.

This copy was apparently sent back by Bob Stevens at Goddard.

Preserved John Heath, scan by Colin Mackellar.

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A message of appreciation from Richard Mallis, Deep Space Network Operations Manager.

Richard had spent a good deal of time at Island Lagoon integrating the electronics into the station. (2009 interview here.)

Here is the text of the TWX:

It is with a strong feeling of nostalgia that I observe the final closure of DSS 41.

Over a decade ago, I was assigned as Project Manager for the implementation of DSS 41. This station broke the pattern of a single station tracking network and established the foundation for the DSN as we know it today.

Its first assignment was Ranger I and it has seen many spacecraft since.

In those early days there existed only a loose confederation of organizations and people. This was exemplified by the JPL personnel on my project team. This has now evolved into a well-defined and integrated organization capable of accomplishing much larger and more complicated projects.

There were some fine Australians also associated with the project: including Bill Mettyear, the first of several exceptional station directors. From its inception, DSS 41 has performed in an outstanding manner. Never once did JPL have to admonish the station to improve performance. In fact, on many occasions, we were able to use the performance of DSS 41 as a goal for other DSN stations to aspire to.

I can only attribute this to a long succession of station personnel whose capabilities and attitude were outstanding. This has continued right to the end, at which time it would have been so easy to let down.

I wish to all those personnel who have served the station in the past and those few who are left, success in their continuing careers. I am speaking for everyone in the JPL DSN organization when I say that we have been proud to be associated with those who have been a part of the DSS 41 staff. An era has ended.


Richard Mallis
02 Jan 73.

Preserved John Heath, scan by Colin Mackellar.


Earlier, when the Minitrack Station at Island Lagoon closed down in late 1965 (the equipment was transferred to Orroral Valley in mid-1966), this TWX was composed and sent to the Network –


The last Post Pass Calibration

Silent, deserted, no longer alive,
With the bustle of former days:
Standing listless in the sun
The intruders have gone their ways.

Nearby, the stands for antennae rise
In testimony of the time,
When metal fingers probed the sky
At the satellites in their climb.

Kangaroos gaze with soft brown eye
At the station that used to be
And the salt lake stretches dazzling white
Like a shimmering timeless sea.

Within the building silent stands
The equipment deadly mute:
Tape recorders spin no more,
The silence is acute.

No more to hear the SCAMA call
Nor the birds’ unearthly note
“That’s station 18, finished now”
You’ll hear the knowing quote

But across the country to the east
There grows a like creation
Within it holds the traditions of
Old number 18 station.


With thanks to Ashley Booth, at Winkfield STADAN in the UK, for preserving this copy. Keith Aldworth (Island Lagoon Minitrack and also Tidbinbilla) recalls that the poem was written by Harry Holthouse (also at Island Lagoon Minitrack and then Tidbinbilla). Keith writes (September 2020):

“I know for certain that it was written by Harry Holthouse, who was a tech at Miintrack at the same time as I was there. Harry showed me the poem one morning when we were on the way out to Island Lagoon on the shift mini bus and asked me what I though of it. I think he gave it to Tony Keilor, who was our shift supervisor and I guess Tony passed it on to others.”

The ‘like creation’ that is growing in the east is Orroral Valley.

This poem was also reproduced on page 6 of Goddard News, November 15, 1965.