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Published March 7th 2019
Celebrate all things lunar and space this year
On July 21, 1969, a momentous event in the history of the human species took place. Two American astronauts - Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin - became the first two people ever to walk on the moon. That event was broadcast live to over 600 million people around the world.
But the 1969 Apollo 11 moon mission was a momentous event for Canberra, too. Because it was here, out at Honeysuckle Creek at the old NASA space tracking station, where the first images of Neil and Buzz's walk on the moon, as well as Neil's famous words ("That's one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind") were first received and relayed around the globe.
However, the Honeysuckle Creek Tracking Station no longer exists. It closed down in 1981 and the dish that captured the historic images of the first moon landing was transferred to the new NASA tracking station at Tidbinbilla.
This year is the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission, and there's no better place to celebrate it than right here in Canberra where history was made. Our city's link with NASA and space is still as strong as ever. Here are six ways that you can celebrate all things space this year!
1. Visit the remains of the old Honeysuckle Creek Tracking Station. Honeysuckle Creek Space Tracking Station was opened by NASA in 1967. It played a vital role in supporting NASA's Apollo Program which succeeded in landing the first humans on the moon between 1969-1972. A 26-metre dish once stood on the site. Following the conclusion of the Apollo program, Honeysuckle Creek tracking station supported NASA's Skylab program which involved conducting scientific experiments in space. It also supported NASA's deep space program including supporting the Voyager and Pioneer missions to the outer planets in the Solar System, the Viking landings on Mars, Pioneer Venus, and Helios around the sun.
NASA closed the tracking station in 1981, and the famous dish was relocated to the Tidbinbilla Deep Space Communication Complex.
There is now a campground on the site of the old space tracking station, but remnants of the tracking station are still visible on the site, in particular, its concrete foundations. An outdoor display commemorates the site and provides a very informative background to its once glorious past.
The old Honeysuckle Creek space tracking station is located at Honeysuckle (Apollo) Road, Namadgi National Park, Tharwa. To find out more about the old space tracking station, go here.
2. Visit the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex at Tidbinbilla.
The Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex (CDSCC) is located at Tidbinbilla. It's part of the NASA Deep Space Network, an international network of antennas that supports interplanetary spacecraft missions and radio and radar astronomy observations for the exploration of the Solar System and the universe. The Deep Space Network consists of three deep-space communications facilities placed around the world: at Tidbinbilla; Goldstone, in California's Mojave Desert; and near Madrid, Spain. How lucky are we Canberrans to have these big dishes in our own backyard!
Located within the grounds of the CDSCC is the Canberra Space Centre where you can learn all about the role that Australia plays in the exploration of space. You can take in the magnificent views of the largest antenna complex in the southern hemisphere, see a piece of the Moon that's over 3.8 billion years old, check out the latest images from across the Solar System and beyond, check out spacecraft models such as the Mars Rover, discover the foods that astronauts eat on the space shuttle and space station, and have a bite to eat in the Moon Rock Café.
The CDSCC and Canberra Space Centre are located at 421 Discovery Drive, Paddy's River District (off Cotter & Paddy's River Rds, Tidbinbilla). For more information, visit the CDSCC website here.
3. Visit Mount Stromlo Observatory. Mount Stromlo Observatory has been carrying out astronomical observations for over 100 years. It has weathered two devastating bushfires and earned one Nobel Prize. It is now the headquarters of the ANU Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics, a world-respected community of researchers exploring the heavens.
Mount Stromlo Observatory is open to the public, with a Visitor's Centre with its fascinating science exhibits, kids zone, and information about Mount Stromlo's rich history of tragedies and triumphs as well as a café. The Observatory also holds special public astronomy nights where you can see the rings of Saturn, the craters of the moon as well as beautiful star clusters and nebulae. On the night attendees are taken on a 'tour of the universe' with talks by astronomers from Mt. Stromlo Observatory and observations on several telescopes. For further details on the public astronomy nights, please go here. You are also invited to join a Mount Stromlo Observatory Site Tour.
Mount Stromlo is located at Cotter Road, Weston Creek.
4. Come and see the moon at Questacon!
You can see the moon up close at Questacon's new The Moon exhibition. Moon gaze from every angle, count all the craters (there are over 30 000!) and find where the Apollo missions landed.
5. Join in National Science Week 2019.
National Science Week is from August 10-18, 2019 and this year's theme is Destination Moon: More missions, more science. There will be lots of moon-related events during this time so check the National Science Week website for updates.
6. Join in the Apollo 11 50th Anniversary celebrations organized by ex-Apollo workers.
A group of mainly Ex-Apollo workers – ex-engineers, technicians and managers have formed a committee to organize celebrations for the 50th Anniversary of humanity's first steps on the moon. The committee is organizing a massive program of celebrations spanning over four days in July. Keep up to date with their planning here.