The Moon and a tiny Namadgi station
Where once a lunar signal was received, there is no mobile phone coverage today.
Instead, kangaroos graze a grassy knoll and campers gaze upon a night sky, reflecting on a moment that captivated the world’s attention. A point in time when a man strolled upon the dusty surface of the moon.
Fifty years ago, beyond the city lights and high on a mountain plateau, free from electronic interference, a signal from the moon reached planet Earth. Broadcast to a worldwide television audience of 600 million, Honeysuckle Tracking Station played a pivotal role in human history.
As the world held its collective breath, a ghostly figure climbed down a spacecraft ladder. Hearts raced as Neil Armstrong took a small step for a man and a giant leap for mankind. Euphoria erupted at the pinnacle moment.
History tells us that this journey started with a bold ambition. In 1962 US President John F. Kennedy announced that the US had chosen to go to the moon.
Inspiring a nation and engaging the world, NASA took tentative steps and reached out to likeminded countries to support the Apollo Missions. Tracking stations were established at Fresnedillas in Spain, Goldstone in California and Honeysuckle Creek here in the ACT. In 1967 Prime Minister Harold Holt visited the majestic mountains of the bush capital and declared Honeysuckle was operational.
On a cool winter morning in July 1969, the Eagle landed on the moon. With an astronaut’s adrenalin racing, resting as instructed was not an option. A date with destiny beckoned.
Back on Earth, highly skilled technicians were ready. With Goldstone images too grainy, Mission Control soon realised Honeysuckle’s video feed was superior. With the flick of a switch, thanks to Honeysuckle Creek, the world witnessed as one a truly momentous moment.
Those immortal words and those incredible images were captured forever. History was made on that remarkable day.
With time NASA’s intergalactic focus shifted and debate began about what to do with the Honeysuckle Creek site. A nature studies’ site, a youth retreat and even a correctional institution were flagged.
Eventually a place to retreat from the grind of daily life prevailed. Nowadays the site is a beautiful campground at a place steeped in history, where a small step leads to a giant connection with nature.
Nestled within the heart of Namadgi National Park the historic site is simply out of this world, a point of reflection. With the Apollo 50th moon landing anniversary looming, why not explore your own piece of outdoor space and head to the hills.
Brett McNamara is with ACT Parks & Conservation Service.
Article also appeared in The Chronicle