"Neil Armstrong's first steps on the Moon were watched by six hundred million people," says Dr John Reynolds of CSIRO Parkes Observatory. "And the signals from the Moon were received by the Honeysuckle Creek tracking station in the mountains outside Canberra and Parkes in NSW, as well as NASA's Goldstone station in California."
The signals were relayed to Mission Control at Houston, which initially switched between the sources to try to get the best picture.
Exactly three decades after the TV broadcast of the first Moon landing began, Shuttle astronaut Jim Reilly will unveil a plaque on CSIRO's Parkes telescope commemorating the telescope's role in receiving those pictures and transmitting them to the world.
"Eight minutes after the broadcast started the Moon had risen into the Parkes telescope's full field of view. Parkes was a much larger dish than Honeysuckle, captured more signal and so produced better pictures," says Dr Reynolds.
"Houston switched to Parkes and remained with those pictures for the rest of the two-and-a-half hour broadcast. Using a less sensitive 'off-axis' detector Parkes had also seen the 'first step' six minutes earlier, but those pictures were of lower quality and were not broadcast internationally."
Photo: K. Nash
The then Director of the Parkes Observatory, Mr John Bolton insisted on a one-line contract with NASA: "The [CSIRO] Radiophysics Division would agree to support the Apollo 11 mission".
"While fully tipped over waiting for the Moon to rise, the telescope was unexpectedly struck by a series of severe, 110-km per hour gusts of wind, which made the control room shudder," says Dr Reynolds. "Fortunately these stopped just before the tracking began.
"Parkes staffer Neil 'Fox' Mason, who was seated at the control desk, drove the telescope without being allowed to once turn around and see the incoming pictures on the TV monitor" says Dr Reynolds.
Dr John Reynolds, Officer-in-Charge, CSIRO Parkes Observatory
Tel: (02) 6861 1700
Mr John Sarkissian, CSIRO Parkes Observatory
Tel: (02) 6861 1745 or (02) 6863 4848
More Images and Information from Parkes
Mr Darren Osborne, Canberra Deep Space Communications Complex (Tidbinbilla)
Tel: (02) 6201 7838
Mr Mike Dinn
Tel: (02) 6281 4877
Former Director, Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex (Tidbinbilla);
ran Honeysuckle Creek Manned Flight Tracking Station for Apollo missions,
Mr Neil Mason
Tel: (02) 6862 2439
Dr Miriam Baltuck, NASA representative in Australia
Tel: (02) 6281 8501
Historic betacam footage of Apollo preparations at Parkes available.
Helen Sim, Communications Manager, CSIRO Australia Telescope National Facility
Tel: +61 2 9372 4251
Fax: +61 2 9372 4444
This page is maintained by Sebastian Juraszek