The 50 Years Old Dish Can Still Detect Signals

It’s generally known as “The Dish,” and it soars above a nondescript paddock in rural Australia. Without it, hundreds of millions of individuals would never have seen all of the generation-defining footage of Neil Armstrong walking on the moon 50 years ago.

An estimated 600 million individuals around the world held their collective breath as they watched their television screens on July 20, 1969, ready to see Armstrong step out from the Apollo 11 lunar module and into the history books.

Back on Earth, it began out as just another day at work for David Cooke, the senior receiver engineer on the radio telescope at the Parkes Observatory in southeast New South Wales state, about 360 km (225 miles) west of Sydney.

The Parkes Observatory was one of three monitoring stations, with Goldstone in California and the now decommissioned Honeysuckle Creek station within the Australian capital, Canberra, tasked with beaming live photos of the moon walk to the world.

Cooke was only involved in doing his job properly and ensuring that the signal was not lost.

In the USA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) control room switched the signal between the three monitoring stations and got to the Parkes signal eight minutes into the broadcast.

“I’ve come to realize that really it was the time that I began thinking about astronomy,” stated John Sarkissian, now the operations scientist of the CSIRO telescope.

“I had no idea on the time that 50-something years later, I’d be actually working at the place that received those television pictures,” he stated.