The Theodolite: 4 Facts You Didn’t Know

If you are an engineer, a surveyor, a meteorologist or a navigator, you may use a theodolite frequently. These handy instruments can measure both vertical and horizontal angles with extreme precision, and while you probably are well aware of that particular fact, you might be unaware of the following facts.

1. Theodolites & NASA
You might know that theodolites are used for rocket launches, but did you know that NASA has used theodolites to boost our capacity for deep-space communication? Theodolites were used to ensure that the huge 70-meter reflectors on the Deep Space Network were measured correctly. Initially, NASA used holographic measurements for this project, but this simply was not precise enough, so engineers were brought in to help and these professionals used theodolites.

As a side note, the Deep Space Network (DSN) includes three ground stations spread 120 degrees apart. One is located in California, one is located in Australia and the third station is located in Spain. This ensures that, at any given time, one of our deep-space satellites is able to communicate with at least one of the ground stations. The DSN is used to support various spacecraft and earth-orbiting missions as well as to explore our solar system and universe beyond.

2. Theodolites Disprove The Flat-Earth Theory
We all know that hundreds of years ago, many (if not most) people believed that the earth was flat. As technology and science progressed, it became apparent that the earth was not flat, but there is still a segment of society that believes that the idea that the earth is round is nothing more than an elaborate hoax.

Flat earthers believe that because the world looks flat, then it is flat. Furthermore, they also believe that space exploration has been a hoax. So, how does one convince a person that the earth is round if they believe that spacecraft are not real and that the world looks flat, therefore it is so?

First of all, it is important to note that will the earth might look flat to us, but the naked eye is incapable of truly viewing the horizon as it is, which is curved. By using a theodolite, you can measure the difference between the horizon line, or line of sight, versus a level horizontal line. With a theodolite you can measure the surface of the earth far more precisely than humans can see, and thus prove that the earth is a curved surface.

3. Theodolites Save Lives
Every time you cross over a bridge, be sure to thank a theodolite. Actually, you should probably thank the engineers and surveyors who used the theodolites, but we digress. Theodolites are essential tools for both bridge construction and bridge maintenance. A theodolite can ensure that the ground is at the proper elevation and slope for construction and a theodolite can be used to gauge the movement of a bridge over time. Of course, theodolites also are used for many other construction projects, such as the building of skyscrapers, homes, schools and much more.

4. Theodolites Make An Artistic Statement
While you might not think about art and theodolites as a matching pair, we’ve seen some beautiful prints of antique theodolites, and have even found a few antique theodolites for sale that would look lovely displayed on a desk or shelf. If you are searching for a gift for that surveyor, navigator or engineer in your life, these might be just the ticket. We even discovered one of our own “antique” theodolites for sale on Etsy, a 1940s version of our theodolite transit with the original wood tripod, which is quite attractive if we say so ourselves.

Of course, at Warren-Knight, we provide more than just interesting facts about theodolites. We have several different types of theodolites available on our website. This includes telemetering theodolites, pilot balloon theodolites, observation theodolites and meteorological theodolites. Our theodolites are suitable for many applications, including calibrating MLS, VOR, VORTAC and TACAN, as well as observational and meteorological purposes.

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