Winter 2010 Issue

Echoes of Apollo 2009/2010


Last year’s Echoes of Apollo EME event was a worldwide success.
Here AA6EG provides a bit of history associated with the large dishes, summarizes some of the main
operations, and announces the
year’s EOA event.


By Pat Barthelow,* AA6EG

CSIRO’s Parkes Dish was the focal point of the 2000 movie The Dish, which was about its involvement in the reception of
Apollo 11’s transmissions. (Photo credit: David McClenaghan, CSIRO)

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times . . .” Charles Dickens wrote. As I recall, from my limited perspective, the journey taken by so many that helped in the success of Echoes of Apollo 2009, I settle into some warm and fuzzies, also accompanied by a few more stress wrinkles here and there that appeared on me during the journey. However, if feedback is any indication, EOA 2009, aka World Moon Bounce Day, an EME/Science outreach event and a concept for future EME events, did very well.

Most folks involved had a very enjoyable time. For EOA to have happened, a huge amount of new ground had to be learned, by me in particular, as I am a newcomer to EME and approach it from an unusual background, in which my non-ham big-dish experiences encouraged me to apply big dishes to EME in a way not commonly done before. From my experiences with EOA I have learned that today, more than ever before, there are under-utilized or even abandoned large dishes eminently suitable for EME applications that can be sought out and used by the amateur radio community.

EOA Moonbounce Origins and Objectives

Fundamental to the EOA event origins was the realization that EME has a certain snap and pizzazz to up-and-coming technophiles that could attract them to modern ham radio, and maybe if experienced by the very young, could set a waypoint in their educational development and life experience leading them to science, space, and technology careers. In addition, the seasoned veterans of EME, a rather small but technically astute group of the amateur radio community, could have a bunch of fun with the unusually strong SSB signals provided by the commercial dishes—such as SRI near Stanford University; the dish at the University of Tasmania at Mt. Pleasant; and Dwingeloo in The Netherlands—which were brought in to participate along with the big dishes already out there custom built by so many in the EME community.

For details of early events leading up to EOA, get a copy of the Spring 2009 issue of CQ VHF. My chance cyberspace meeting with Robert Brand and his colleagues of On-Time Virtual Assistant (OTVA, see <http://www.otva.org> and <http://exotc.com/wordpress/?p=254>) formulated the basis for creating EOA. OTVA has a lot of seasoned individuals with history and experience in the Apollo program and was looking to celebrate the coming anniversaries of the Apollo Moon missions. I suggested to Robert that a world moonbounce event might dovetail nicely with their celebrations, especially if we could get the Parkes or Tidbinbilla (Honeysuckle Creek) dishes to participate. Those two dishes in southeast Australia provided critical capability of ground-station connectivity with the Apollo Moon missions and still exist.

Apollo 11’s Moon Landing, Moon Walk Video

The initial Apollo 11 Moon landing video was received from the moon by the 26-meter Honeysuckle Creek Dish, part of the NASA space tracking network, Australia, which, by the way, was moved in the 1980s to Tidbinbilla at the Canberra Space Complex and very recently retired.

Speaking of those under-utilized or even abandoned large dishes mentioned above, here is an opportunity for some local Australian ham clubs. Perhaps they could propose to use the historic Honeysuckle Creek Dish for EME and science outreach.

CSIRO’s Parkes Dish had a movie made about it called The Dish. Much creative license was taken in the movie details of how Parkes operated during the Apollo 11 mission. However, the movie was very entertaining, and the real shots on/at the dish were spectacular.
There is another very accurate story of the Parkes and Honeysuckle Creek coverage of Apollo 11 on the web. One of the best technical write-ups available is entitled “On Eagle’s Wings” by John Sarkissian of Parkes (see <http://www. publish.csiro.au/?act=view_file&file_id=AS01038.pdf>, <http://www.parkes.atnf.csiro.au/news_events/apollo11>, <http://members.tip.net.au/~mdinn/TheDish/>,  <http://www.honeysucklecreek.net>. See a great walk through videos of the Parkes dish at: <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VsoIeojQCcc&feature= related>. In retrospect it is astounding to note that NASA initially did not plan to have a camera aboard Apollo 11 to record the momentous moon-landing event.

 

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