#MoonBuzz: celebrating two giant years for space exploration

Buzz Aldrin on the surface of the moon during the Apollo 11 mission. Source: Wikipedia

Buzz Aldrin on the surface of the moon during the Apollo 11 mission. Source: Wikipedia

By Eamonn Bermingham

From seeing the first ever up-close images of Pluto, to finding water on Mars, to Stephen Hawking teaming up with a Russian billionaire in the search for aliens, 2015 has been a huge year for space exploration. So as we celebrate World Space Week, it seems quite fitting that our minds cast back to another big year for space. In fact, the biggest of them all: 1969, the year Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to set foot on the moon.

But before you settle into your lounge, office chair or ergonomic workspace for our tale of space history, we have got some big news. To celebrate Buzz Aldrin’s upcoming visit to Australia next month, we’ve managed to get our hands on some front row tickets to see the famous astronaut in person. He will be captivating audiences in Sydney and Melbourne with a journey through space and time, from the historic walk on the moon to his vision for a future manned mission to Mars.

We’ve got more details on how you can win at the bottom, but right now we’d like to take a trip down our own memory lane, as we recall our role in one of humanity’s most significant achievements.

At 12.56 pm on 21 July 1969 Australian Eastern Standard Time (AEST), mankind took its ‘one giant leap’ and 600 million people watched as Neil Armstrong walked on the Moon.

Our Parkes radio telescope, along with NASA’s antenna at Honeysuckle Creek near Canberra, played a key role in televising the first moon walk.

The ‘Dish’ famously supported receiving the television signals on that momentous day. Although many people think the Parkes telescope was the only station receiving the signal, it was the 26-metre antenna at NASA’s Honeysuckle Creek space tracking station near Canberra that was the prime station assigned with receiving the initial TV pictures from the Moon and Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the lunar surface. (The Tidbinbillla deep space tracking station, today known as the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex, provided support to the command module in lunar orbit.)

Eight and a half minutes after those first historic images were broadcast around the world, the television signal being received by the larger 64-metre Parkes radio telescope was then selected by NASA to provide the images for the following two hours and 12 minutes of live broadcast as the Apollo 11 astronauts explored the Moon surface.

While the Parkes telescope successfully received the signals, the occasion didn’t go without a hitch. The lunar module had landed at 6.17am AEST. Astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were supposed to rest before the Moonwalk, but Neil Armstrong was keen to get going. The astronauts were slow getting into their suits and when they got outside the Moon was rising over Parkes.

Parkes moon landing

Inside the Parkes telescope control room during the Apollo 11 mission.

The telescope was fully tipped over, waiting for the Moon to rise, when a series of strong wind gusts – 110 km per hour – hit. They made the control room shudder, and slammed the telescope back against its zenith axis gears. Fortunately the wind slowed, and Buzz Aldrin activated the TV camera just as the Moon came into the telescope’s field-of-view. At this time, Honeysuckle Creek was taking the main signal. Eight minutes later the Moon was in the Parkes main detector’s field-of-view and NASA switched to Parkes. The weather was still bad, and the telescope operated well beyond its safety limits.

The signals received by Parkes were sent to Sydney. From there the TV signal was split. One signal went to the Australian Broadcasting Commission, the other to Houston for the international telecast. The international signal had to travel halfway around the world from Sydney to Houston, adding a delay. So Australian audiences saw Neil Armstrong’s historic first step 0.3 seconds before the rest of the world.

#Moonbuzz

To celebrate Buzz’s visit, we’re giving away 3 tickets for both the Sydney and Melbourne events. Entering is simple enough: we want you to take a moon selfie using the hashtag #MoonBuzz. But instead of taking a selfie with the moon, we want you to take a selfie as the moon. All you need to do is get your hands on a camera and a toilet roll (bear with us here, we’re not raving lunar-tics) and follow these steps:

  •  Hold the toilet roll in front of your face so that you’re looking down the cylinder.
  •  Position your camera / phone at the other end, so that your face is framed by the roll.
  • Take the photo!
  • Submit your entry via any of our social channels (Instagram, Twitter or Facebook) with the hashtag #MoonBuzz

To give you an idea of what we’re after, here’s one we prepared earlier:

#MoonBuzz.

And the more creative you can get, the better*. Hurry, entries close next Sunday 11 October. Terms and conditions below.

  • Did I Win?:Winners will be chosen by CSIRO based on images uploaded to our social channels (Instagram, Twitter and Facebook) which include the hashtag: #MoonBuzz. Users should also indicate their city of choice (Sydney or Melbourne) in their post. The image adjudged to be the most interesting, unique or humorous (ie the best) will be declared the winner.
  • When and Where: Sydney: 27 November; Melbourne: 29 November. Visit www.liveonstageaustralia.com.au for more info.
  • Be a Follower:You must be following one of our accounts to be considered (whether it be submitted via Instagram, Facebook or Twitter)
  • Not on Instagram?:Shame on you! But we don’t mind, share your pics with us on Facebook and Twitter and we will include those in the competition, if you include #CSIROgram
  • No, you’re not funny: Trust us, submitting a picture of you ‘mooning’ us will not get any laughs. We’ll just block and report you.

*As much as we’d love to claim credit for coming up with this selfie idea, credit must go to fans of the Mighty Boosh.

For more information on our astronomy work, visit our website.



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