Space Apollo Moon landing 50th anniversary


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Apr 13, 2019

'Backup dish' in the Darling Downs made high-quality Moon landing video the world never saw
ABC Southern Qld
By Peter Gunders

All that remains of the Cooby Creek Tracking Station is a slab of concrete in a quiet paddock, 20 kilometres north of Toowoomba on the Darling Downs.

But 50 years ago, the site was home to more than 100 technicians experimenting in pioneering satellite communications.

"We made a lot of history out there," said Patrick Hetherman, a controller who worked at the base in the late 1960s.

"A lot of the things we did were super technical, but as far as TV was concerned, we watched the first colour television come into Australia in 1967, eight years before colour TV was launched across the country."

Employee Veda Finlay remembers watching US television programs in colour years before colour TV was broadcast in Australia.

"I remember walking into the control room and saw I Dream Of Jeanie in bright colour on a small screen," she said.

"It was a fascinating time."

While dishes at Parkes and Honeysuckle Creek take the credit for beaming the vision of the first steps on the Moon to the world, staff known as 'Creekers' at Cooby Creek say it was the work they did that made the whole project possible.

"I was on duty that day," recalled Professor John Grant-Thompson, a technician who went on to receive an Order of Australia for pioneering biomedical engineering work.

"We were doing a lot of the work in establishing for NASA what sort of configuration they needed to receive all these signals.

"Part of that was used for reconfiguring the Parkes dish, which was a radio telescope — it wasn't designed to pick up signals from a lunar module on the Moon — but it was possible to reconfigure it.

"On the day, our station prepared to receive the signals from the lunar module. We were a backup, but we did record what came through onto a tape machine."

When the time came, NASA chose to take the feed from the small station at Honeysuckle Creek for the first eight minutes before switching to Parkes for the next two hours of the historic event.

The grainy vision showing Neil Armstrong taking the historic first steps on the Moon are now part of history.

But while it may sound like another Moon landing conspiracy, the retired technicians are adamant they all watched the Moon landing in much higher definition in the Queensland bush — than the other 600 million people who tuned in to televisions around the world.

"One of our guys had experience with all the latest TV equipment — and we had a lot of the latest equipment out there — he used two machines to create an interlaced version which we all watched, much better than the US version," Professor Grant-Thompson said.

"He had a friend at the ABC and was going to give it to him.

"But NASA was pretty annoyed and the tape was confiscated.
"So all we ever saw, even to this day, is that poor, grainy US 425-line version."

The tape never resurfaced, but Mr Hetherman said legends of the high-quality recording, and many other yarns, will be shared when retired technicians gather for a reunion in Canberra this weekend.

"There are still arguments to this day over which tracking station actually did what," he said.
"Parkes always gets the glory because of the movie," he laughed, referring to the 2000 film The Dish starring Sam Neill.

"But we all know they never played cricket on the dish, and they never did it on their own at Parkes either.

"Hollywood has taken some poetic licence in retelling the Australian involvement in the space race."

But the retired technicians are realists.

"Did the people who mined the sand on Rainbow Beach that made the titanium for the legs on the module get enough credit?" he asked.

"Everybody played a part.

"I guess our input ended up being one small job for a technician, but it was one amazing broadcast for the world."
He has the photos to prove it.

"After the mission NASA sent everyone involved a set of six photos from the Moon. I've kept mine all this time," Mr Hetherman said.

Mr Hetherman said the 'Creekers' were proud of the role they played, not only during the Apollo mission years but for global communications since.

"We did the first trans-Pacific TV experiments, and all sorts of things like that, purely for the good of mankind," he said.

"Everybody today on this planet who uses satellites — or spacecraft as we call them — or the internet, does so because of what we did at Cooby."
A good mate of mine was born 50 years ago tomorrow. His middle name - Armstrong!
It's also the day that Franky kicked a mine the day that mankind kicked the moon. Although it wasn't Frank Hunt who kicked the mine, it was Peter Hines, but Frank was wounded in the subsequent blast.

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Best to click on the link on this one, it has embedded audio and video that pops up as you scroll.

As Apollo 11 Commander Neil Armstrong approached an uncharted world, as far from home as any human had ever travelled before, he transmitted vital data back to Earth.
Monitors showed his heartbeat at a steady 110 beats per minute, ridiculously low for someone hurtling in orbit around the Moon.

But the closer the crew got to the Moon, the more problems they encountered.
Alarms they’d never seen before were going off.
Fuel stores were running perilously low.
And as the world tuned in to the final moments of the descent, Armstrong’s pulse skyrocketed.

Same again, best to go to the link.

It’s 50 years since humans first walked on the Moon. Can you point out where Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed?
Join astronomer Fred Watson on a guided tour of the Apollo sites, stunning lava plains and craters that dot the lunar surface.
Put your headphones on and let’s go. There’s something to see almost every night if you know where to look.
Today's google doodle is Apollo themed.

the moon landing was a year before i was born, i don't think i'll see it in my life time if man ever again steps foot on the moon or even set foot on Mars the cost alone will rule it out same goes for space tourism ... it's a dream nothing more but a nice dream all the same

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