They never issued any instructions for no reason, so when the message that came through about heading into the sticks said “bring comfortable clothes,” there was no reason to think it was anything but serious.
It was serious too. They were working on an abandoned SETI site. Someone who thought the middle of nowhere was too crowded would have moved to this place to get away from it all. Whatever these dishes were supposed to do when they were up and running again was up to the bosses, but in the mean time, there was a metric ton of dust and rust to wade through.