Astronaut Edwin Aldrin poses beside the US flag on the surface of the moon in July 1969.
Astronaut Edwin Aldrin poses beside the US flag on the surface of the moon in July 1969.

Dishing dirt on the other moon landing myth

A QUEENSLAND space dish was the first station that transmitted the iconic moon landing images that were watched by billions around the world.

While our southern relatives at Parkes, NSW, and Honeysuckle Creek, ACT, claim to have received the first signal from Apollo 11, it was Cooby Creek Tracking Station that turned the signal into the iconic television images that were aired on July 20, 1969 (US time).

The station 20km north of Toowoomba was the first place that had the necessary technology to convert the signal into American-standard pictures that were needed to transmit footage to NASA.

Patrick Hetherton 82, was one of the scientists working at the experimental tracking station that was set up to test and develop spacecraft and satellite communication technology.

The then 30-year-old scientist was working the nightshift the day of the landing, but came back into work after breakfast to help air the historic moment to the world.

'It was incredible," he said.

The Queensland space station was an integral asset to the space community in producing communication technology that we rely on today.

The scientists of Cooby Creek station laid the blueprints for our current mobile satellite and GPS tracking technology.

 

Patrick Hetherman with models of Cooby Creek Tracking Station near Toowoomba. Picture: David Martinelli
Patrick Hetherman with models of Cooby Creek Tracking Station near Toowoomba. Picture: David Martinelli

 

Mr Hetherton said Cooby's achievements and innovative breakthroughs were often kept secret in an attempt to be ahead of space race competitor Soviet Russia.

"It was Cold War time," he said.

"On the scientific side of communications and the development of space flight, we were still competing with the Russians."

At the time, Australia had the largest number of space stations outside of the United States and was an integral part of NASA's golden era of space exploration.

The station also claims to be the first place to broadcast an overseas television signal from Australia, broadcasting footage of a group of Toowoomba boy scouts talking.

In 2016, Mr Hetherton and ex Cooby staff members formed the Cooby Space Tracker Association to help celebrate the 50th anniversary of the station.

Referred to as the Creakers, the group reconstructed the tracking station with white caravans and commissioned a replica satellite dish to help commemorate the historical legacy.

"It was quite an emotional turnout," he said.

Memorabilia and history of the Queensland station can be found at the Cobb and Co Museum in Toowoomba.



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