In the week of the 40th Anniversary of the lunar landing CIO brings you five great Australian achievements in space, courtesy of Dr Miriam Baltuck, director of the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex (CDSCC).
1. 50 years of space tracking and co-operation (1960-2010)
With the first the first co-operation treaty between Australia and the US signed in 1960 we are very quickly moving towards our grand 50th anniversary celebration in February 2010.
Since the 1960’s the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex (CDSCC) has enabled solar system exploration from the earliest Pioneer and Voyager missions in the 1970s, all NASA’s Mars missions, Galileo’s trip to Jupiter and Cassini’s to Saturn, through to the New Horizons missions which is on its way to Pluto for a 2015 encounter. Australia’s role has been critical to all the solar systems exploration missions.
We are the only southern hemisphere site and with the outer planet configuration moving to the southern hemisphere we are this coming decade all the more important. That’s why we have the lead for the New Encounters mission when it gets to Pluto.
Anything that goes 30,000kms from the earth is something that depends on our support. There are currently 40 plus missions we have a role in supporting.
2. Moon Landing (1969)
Australia’s role in the Moon landing is well-known, but we really did get a special treat when the astronauts on their landing said “Heck no, we’re not taking a nap, we’re getting out.” That put us in the spotlight to get the first steps of Neil Armstrong on the Moon.
The film, The Dish, is the story of the Parkes telescope, but it was the tracking station at Honey Suckle Creek which actually captured the first 11 minutes of Neil Armstrong on the Moon. But the movie did serve to highlight Australia’s critical role in the success of the Apollo mission.
3. The Galileo mission to Jupiter (1989)
During the Galileo mission the high gain antenna on the spacecraft failed to deploy properly, and because of the configuration of the planets at the time, the bulk of the tracking fell on CDSCC here in the southern hemisphere.
CDSCC did an arrangement with the Parkes antenna which meant we could provide a downlink. Even though the data couldn’t be streamed at the high rate you’d get with a high gain antenna, we were able to capture the data in sufficient quantities.
It was a hugely successful mission and without the that linkage between CDSCC and Parkes, Galileo would have achieved only a fraction of what it did accomplish.
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