45 year anniversary of historic flight

Parkes Visitor Centre Manager at the radio telescope, Glen Nagle reflects on the Appollo 11 moon landing.It’s funny the things you remember from your childhood.
Nanjing Night Net

For one local person, his one outstanding memory is of Neil Armstrong taking those first steps on the surface of the Moon and a bright orange carpet.

Today marks the 45th anniversary of Apollo 11’s landing on the surface of the Moon.

At 12.56pm on the 21st of July 1969, an estimated 600 million people around the world were transfixed to their black and white television sets as astronaut Neil Armstrong placed his booted foot on the grey lunar soil.

The grainy images relayed around the world through the CSIRO’s Parkes Observatory – the Dish.

One of those 600 million viewers was Glen Nagle, then seven years old, but today working as the visitor centre manager at the radio telescope.

“I still remember that moment like it happened yesterday” Glen said.

“Our school in the southern suburbs of Sydney didn’t have a television set and I was determined to watch the astronauts walking on the Moon, so I nagged my parents to let me stay home and see it.

“They agreed to let me stay ‘home alone’ as long as I didn’t move from this bright orange carpet mat they placed in front of the TV, along with some milk and biscuits.”

“Needless to say, I never moved. I sat glued to the screen watching those amazing images.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I think that 45 years later I could sit in my office and look out the window to the very dish that was helping to bring those images into my lounge room.”

Not just the Parkes Dish of course was involved in Apollo 11. Glen also recounts the role of the dish at his other workplace, the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex at Tidbinbilla, which is run for NASA by the CSIRO.

“At my ‘other’ office, I can look out its window and see the original antenna dish from the old Honeysuckle Creek Tracking Station which captured the first 8½ minutes of the moonwalk,” he said

“Honeysuckle was closed a few years after the end of the Apollo program and its dish moved to Tidbinbilla.

“That dish along with the Parkes Dish took me on the voyage to where I am now.”

To mark the anniversary, the Visitor Discovery Centre at the Dish is holding an exhibition of images from the Apollo lunar missions that occurred between December 1968 (Apollo 8) and December 1972 (Apollo 17).

“Lots of people forget that there were other missions to the Moon.” Nagle said.

“We all remember the black and white TV pictures but the astronauts had these fantastic large format Hassleblad cameras with them and took incredibly detailed colour images on the lunar surface and from orbit.”

The exhibition is a great opportunity to look back on those incredible days as humanity took its first journey out into the universe and to ponder on what the future might bring.

NASA is currently working on the next generation rocket that will once again take humans beyond Earth orbit.

A mission to an asteroid and back to the Moon is being planned for the mid-2020s.

“I can’t wait to take that next magic carpet ride, be it orange or any other colour,” Glen says with a smile on his face.

“I’d like for a new generation to have its own ‘moon landing’ moment, probably as we take our first steps onto the surface of Mars.

“I hope that memory will take them from their childhoods and on a journey to places they never thought possible.”

The Visitor Discovery Centre at the CSIRO’s Parkes Radio Telescope is open every day from 8.30am to 4.15pm. Entry is free.

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