All Pages © MMSSI 1953

The Mount McCaber Space Science Institute

The Heusen Radio Telescope - Keep This Frequency Clear!

A later addition to the Institute, the  Heusen Radio Telescope, or HRT, was commissioned in 1961, just in time to be the first facility on Earth to receive radio signals from Yuri Gargarin’s historic first manned space flight, albeit accidentally. The subsequent national defence “flap” was of potentially huge embarrassment to the MoD and the whole incident was quite effectively covered up at the time, this being an area in which Government was particularly skilled during that era.

Details only leaked out in 1992, after the break-up of the Soviet Union, when a US historian, researching for a study of international cooperation and competition during the early years of the space age, discovered transcripts in a Moscow archive which recorded a mysterious conversation between Gargarin, orbiting Earth in the Vostok capsule, and a foreign-sounding English speaker on the ground who gave his name as “Ron” and was, apparently, just trying to call for a taxi.

Due to the surprisingly low demand for dangerously irradiated scrap steel throughout the 1950’s and early 60’s, the HRT was also able to benefit from the demise of HMS Thunderer, just as its companion, the ECT, had several years earlier.

Installed in an unmanned outstation further up the slopes of Mt. McCaber, the HRT is remotely operated from within the main Institute building, with all power and control cabling being routed through the ECT dome for data security purposes.

Like most radio telescopes the HRT is capable of both sending and receiving signals and thus, throughout the 1960’s it served as a key part of the international collaborative network of radio relay stations engaged to maintain permanent communications contact with the many and varied missions of the manned US space programme. Sadly, due to budget cuts linked to the economic down-turn at the end of the ‘60s, this programme was abruptly terminated by the UK government in 1970, shortly after the HRT had transmitted the last message that was received by the ill-fated Apollo 13 command module mere seconds before it was crippled by an unfortunate explosion in one of its oxygen tanks. Still, the crew all got back safely, so what was all the fuss about?

Despite persistent rumours in the local village the MMSSI authorities have always maintained that there is no evidence that operation of the HRT interferes with the microwave ovens in Mrs McNulty’s tea room, and continue to publicly refute any suggestion that it is in any way responsible for, or connected with, the tribe of mutant badgers allegedly living above Mt McCaber’s snow-line.

HRT on a typical Highland Day