U.S. Army Map Service site ‘links us to the past while moving us into the future’
By Carling Uhler, Ctr., NGA Office of Corporate Communications

Historical marker dedicated at The Turner Farm in Great Falls, Virginia


At The Turner Farm in Great Falls, Virginia, June 24, The Virginia Board of Historic Resources dedicated a historical marker to commemorate the work of the U.S. Army Map Service.

The Turner Farm is a former Nike missile site and satellite tracking facility, used by the U.S. Army Map Service, a National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency predecessor organization.

It is also an observatory park with several celestial telescopes. The Analemma Society, a non-profit organization, has a partnership agreement with the Fairfax County Park Authority to develop recreational and educational astronomy programs at The Turner Farm.
The new roadside marker stands side by side with the Great Falls Nike Missile Site marker that details how the radar and other control equipment at The Turner Farm defended Washington from Soviet air attacks in between 1954 and 1962.
At the dedication ceremony, Aimee Vosper, emcee for the event, spoke about the significance of the former Nike missile site’s contribution to the Global Positioning System, or GPS. Beginning in 1961, the site served as a support facility for geolocation and navigation, establishing precise geographical reference points on the Earth’s surface.
“It’s fitting that the pioneers of the Global Positioning System get credit for their work,” said Vosper. “While we all know GPS as the voice that guides us to our destination, its use extends far beyond our cars and walking apps – this worldwide net connects us all.”
The historical marker is placed at a site that carried on a strong scientific tradition, said Vosper, imploring students of all ages to continue such important scientific work, with eager curiosity.
“It began with the wonder of the stars and the love of the night sky,” said Vosper. “[And now,] new generations are looking to the heavens, broadening their knowledge of science and perhaps receiving the spark that will lead to our next big technology leap.
“Fortunately the members of the U.S. Army Map Service put their trust in science – just look where that has taken us,” said Vosper.
Rep. Barbara Comstock and Sen. Barbara Favola also encouraged scientific exploration in their respective remarks.
Closing the event, Jack Fahey, a former NGA and Army Map Service employee, further spoke about the historical and scientific connection at the historical site, and about the advances made at The Turner Farm that keep geospatial technology going forward.
“Nearly 25 years ago, the people of this facility formed an important link in the GPS chain that almost all of us became dependent on, not only for commercial navigation, but also finding directions to our favorite coffee shop,” said Fahey. “This site links us to the past while moving us into the future.”

One of the telescopes available at The Turner Farm and a look at the observatory that still stands on the site.


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