Here you’ll find stories submitted from our readers which pertain to this era in history.
Charles Martin Lowery, Jr. – Submitted April, 2017
My name is Charles Martin Lowery Jr. I go by Marty. Some of my friends call me Doc JR after my father, Dr. Charles Martin Lowery Sr. He was known as Doc or Dr. Lowery. He worked in the Physics field for the government and was founder and president of (BME Research) Bio-Medical Engineering Laboratories in Bastrop Louisiana in 1973 where he conducted cancer research. Throughout the 1960’s he worked at (LSU) Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge LA, where he oversaw the Science Department. Before his time at LSU, my father had the great opportunity to work in the 1950’s at the old U.S. Atomic Energy Commission at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. He oversaw the development of the Linear Accelerator for a year and a half before transferring to the highly classified weapons division (R&D) Research and Development. During this time, he traveled to many testing sites where the Atomic Energy Commission conducted their experiments. He has worked on projects at the Mercury Nevada Testing site, Los Alamos Testing Site, Red Stone Arsenal and many more. In the summer of 1977, when I was 16 years old, Dr. Lowery was invited to a United States Naval Satellite Tracking Station that is in Hollandale Mississippi. Hollandale is about 20 miles south of Greenville MS. I believe the station is Silver Lake space surveillance station. Dr. Lowery was an Advisor / Consultant for Reece Howard who was the director of the station. He was able to obtain a clearance for me to accompany him to the tracking station. While we were there, Dr. Lowery observed how they tracked and monitored satellites that passed over the United States noting their coordinates. The coordinates were recorded on a device that resembled a Polygraph using a stationary pen to mark their position. That same day when Dr. Lowery and I returned home, he began building his own tracking system, so I can only surmise that the visit to the station was to familiarize him with the equipment and mission so that he could build something similar. Mr. Howard didn’t give my dad any staff, so I was required to assist him. We built a system comprised of two radios, an antenna, and a computer that would track satellites from our home. He built a 50ft radio tower using an old TV antenna. The antenna was in the back of our residence—we put it on top of the tallest tree in the backyard. We connected multiple wires from the antenna to his radios which were in our living room. Over the next several days, I watched him configure the home-made ‘radio station’ to his computer which was an old computer he kept on our dining room table. He could pull up any map or state on his computer. The radio he used was an old dial radio where one had to turn a small knob to locate a satellite signal. He designed this device so it would transfer the signal and data to his computer. The location of the satellite would show up on the computer as a small dot. He would tell me to look on the computer screen and see if I could see a small dot on the screen. Once I located the dot he would say “yes sir, that’s it”. I’m not sure what ‘it’ was—to me, it was just a dot. The information was then put through a calculator to a storage slide, and then it was transferred to a cartridge tape. At one point, we were tracking a satellite and my father heard a different type of signal coming from the radio. He started laughing and said “Martin– you hear that? That’s someone’s else’s radio signal tapping in on me”. He took another radio he built and turned it on. He then hooked a capacitor? up to both radios placing the capacitor in the center. The purpose of this was to scramble or jam the signal and my father laughed again and said, “got cha”. He never told me where the other signal was coming from. After hours and hours of tracking satellites my father would then send the information to Reece Howard. He would call Mr. Howard to confirm the locations of the satellites. After the information reached the station we didn’t know where the data went to. Though the Navy hired my father to track space objects from his home, I believe the tracking station now belongs to the Air Force. My father was an extremely gifted person. He was known all over the world. He was a ham radio operator and he’s even talked to people in Australia and Russia. He spoke to a Russian scientist in Russia over the ham radio quiet often. We both were invited to come to stay with the Russian and his family in Russia for three months. The Russian scientist offered to pay for our plane tickets round trip, but regrettably my father had to decline his offer. C.M. Lowery Jr (Marty)
Howie Althouse – Submitted March, 2017
Howie Althouse is a founder and pioneer in the AF Satellite Control Facility. He started at Annette Tracking Station on Annette Island north of Seattle Washington in the late 1950s that was one of the first AF tracking stations. He commented that the only communications at the tracking station was the only telephone!! They used that phone to send satellite data to the original Satellite Test Center in Sunnyvale California. In the early 1960s, he helped build New Hampshire Tracking Station (NHS) south west of Manchester New Hampshire. For many years, he was part of the Philco Ford, Ford Aerospace, Loral and Lockheed Martin team engineering team responsible for installing and maintaining new systems. After 17 years at NHS, he moved to San Jose California as a program manager with Lockheed Martin until he retired.