Desert Research Station Report
THE CENTER’S DESERT RESEARCH STATION, near Barstow, California, supports the organization’s activities and projects in that region, the desert beltway around the hinterlands of Los Angeles. The DRS opened in 2000, as part of the Museum of Contemporary Art’s exhibition Flight Patterns, and continues to be an asset to the CLUI and its community.
Exhibits inside the Visitor Hall at the DRS are open to the public year around, using a combination keypad on the front door (call the CLUI’s information line to get the current code). These exhibits depict and describe features of the built landscape of the Mojave region. An experimental walking trail and other features of the grounds are open during announced programming periods. Additional structures and facilities on site are available for researchers conducting operations with the CLUI.
Several programs are under way at the DRS, including research and production of sound projects related to spatial dynamics of the ground. Steve Badgett and artist and sound experimentalist Deborah Stratman produced the Desert Resonator, a 75-foot long aeolian harp that translates the movement of the wind over the ground into sound, using a spherical acoustic resonator.
Another related ongoing research program at the DRS, led by the Center’s Steve Rowell, explores the phenomenology of sonic booms, which link sky, sound, and ground in curious ways. The DRS is under an Air Force skyspace for sonic boom research, and the DRS is used as a collection point for these sounds. More sound/space projects are planned for 2012, and people interested in submitting proposals are encouraged to do so.
Another program area, supported by the DRS, studies the development of experimental aircraft in the region, which includes Edwards Air Force Base, Plant 42, and Mojave Airport, where commercial passenger spacecraft are being developed. Also nearby are a number of aviation boneyards, where surplus civilian aircraft are stored and scrapped, encouraging the continued application of the region’s moniker “the cradle and grave of aerospace.”
A group of curatorial students from the University of Southern California, led by the CLUI, visited the Antelope Valley and the DRS to study crash sites of experimental and exotic aircraft. The group met with aviation historian Peter Merlin at NASA’s Dryden Research Center on Edwards Air Force Base, the nation’s historic aviation development site. Many of the most unusual aircraft ever produced were developed at this facility. Some led to the development of future aircraft, including the Space Shuttle, others proved that breaking the sound barrier, and then surpassing it several times over, was possible. The planes leave for test flights from the runways here at Rogers Dry Lake, but some never return. ♦