I’ve just started Nick Lane’s book The Vital Question and I was struck by his description of the SETI radio telescopes, scanning the sky since the 60s for alien life:
To my mind the venture is a poignant symbol of humanity’s uncertain sense of our place in the universe, and indeed the fragility of science itself: science fiction technology so inscrutable that it hints at omniscience, trained on a dream so naive that it is barely grounded in science at all, that we are not alone.
This photo, taken in 1969, shows the telescope as it was around the time of the first manned Moon landing. CSIRO’s Parkes radio telescope was officially opened on the 31 October 1961 by the Governor-General, Viscount De L’Isle forty years on, it is still one of the most advanced telescopes of its kind. A gigantic structure of steel and concrete, the telescope soars nearly 55 metres into the sky near Parkes NSW. It played a crucial role in receiving signals during the Apollo 11 Moon landing in 1969, relaying them for broadcast to an audience of 600 million around the world.