Sunday, 21 July 2019

Where were you during the first moon walk?

Image result for moon landing 1969
Man walks on the Moon July 1969 - National Geographic (July 2016)
Lunchtime on July 21 1969 (Australian time) Neil Armstrong was the first person to step on to the surface of the moon. This event was televised and watched by millions of people throughout the world.

NASA had three tracking stations prepared to monitor and record images of the moon walk - at Goldstone in California, Madrid in Spain and Honeysuckle Creek in New South Wales. These Apollo tracking stations were spaced at equal distances around the globe and between them could cover what was occurring on the moon. Also in New South Wales was the Tidbinbilla tracking station which had the role of tracking the lunar module while Honeysuckle Creek tracked the command module when they were being operated separately. Later the radio telescope at Parkes was added to the Australian network by NASA. Although the radio telescope could not transmit information it had a much larger dish - 61 metres compared with 26 metres - making it useful for receiving information from space.

There had been much discussion as to whether the moon walk would be televised, particularly as cameras were heavy, but in June it was decided that the event should be filmed. A lighter camera had been produced and was stored in an external tool locker. The position of the camera meant that images were filmed upside down, however NASA had an inexpensive device that allowed them to invert the images before transmitting them to the world.

Just before 1 pm (AEST) Neil Armstong made his way to the capsule door and began the slow descent to the surface of the moon. At this time the camera began to film the historic event. Honeysuckle Creek began relaying images to Houston and Goldstone also had images. NASA wanted to transmit the images from Goldstone but there was a problem so they had to use the images from Honesuckle Creek. There was an initial delay but then the world received images of Neil Armstrong nearing the final rungs of the ladder before stepping on the moon and making the famous statement - One small step for man. One giant leap for mankind. Shortly afterwards the clearer images from Parkes were used for the remainder of the moon walk.

Meanwhile people throughout Australia (and the rest of the world) were watching the events on television. I was working at Civic Branch Library in Canberra in Civic Square. We did not have access to television but a shop in a nearby street had put a television set in its front window allowing people passing by to view what was happening on the moon. Needless to say there was quite a crowd watching.  Fortunately it was quiet in the library so staff took it turns (usually two at a time) to join the crowd watching the moonwalk. We could therefore say, 50 years later, that we had seen Neil Armstrong walk on the moon.

Last week I asked my husband where he was during the moonwalk. He was a science student at Melbourne University and the university had organised screenings of the event in several lecture theatres so that students and staff could watch .

National Geographic article 19 July 2016 - One giant leap for mankind

'The real dish story' in The Age 20 July 2019

1 comment:

  1. I was in year 7 at a country high school. We had one small b&w TV. So the out-of-town kids like me were sent home with the townie kids to watch in their homes. No parental consent sought or needed in those days!