Australia’s NFSA Receives Copy of Moon Landing Broadcast
CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency, has donated one of only three known official copies of television film footage of the Apollo 11 Moon landing to the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia. It is the only copy held outside the United States.
The donation comes as the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing approaches. It falls on 21 July 2019, Australian Eastern Standard Time.
NASA has also prepared a digital restoration to ensure that the original TV broadcast will be preserved for future generations.
The CSIRO donated Australia’s copy of the broadcast to NFSA at an event at Parliament House, Canberra, today (3 July 2019). NASA officials, including Badri Younes, Deputy Associate Administrator for Space Communications and Navigation, were present.
After the moon landing, NASA gave the footage to CSIRO in recognition of Australia’s role in the Apollo 11 mission. Ground stations in Australia received and relayed data to the world about the location of the spacecraft and the astronauts’ health.
When the landing came, NASA’s tracking stations at Goldstone, California and Honeysuckle Creek near Canberra, Australia’s capital city, and CSIRO’s Parkes, New South Wales, radio telescope made it possible to communicate with the Apollo 11 lunar module Eagle. For the first nine minutes of the broadcast, NASA switched from Goldstone to the signals from Honeysuckle Creek, which captured the first footstep on the Moon.
The strong signal that CSIRO’s Parkes radio telescope received with its large surface area and sensitive technology was then used to share the remainder of the two-and-a-half-hour broadcast an estimated 600 million viewers around the world.
Jan Müller, CEO of the NFSA, said of the moonwalk broadcast: “The world came together to watch these images and celebrate a landmark human achievement. The broadcast had a huge impact, inspiring others to follow their passion in science and engineering.”
Among remarkable aspects of the broadcasts was that a small, low-powered radio dish on top of the lunar module transmitted the images of the moonwalk. The 66cm dish used just 20 watts of power, the same energy output as two LED light bulbs of today, which is why they look a little like they were concocted by Ed Wood in a backlot studio in La La Land, California. The faint signals then travelled 384,000 kilometers (about 239,000 miles) to Earth where they were received and converted to a signal that normal TVs could receive. TV audiences saw those converted images, not the comparatively high-quality video direct from the Moon that engineers at Goldstone, Honeysuckle Creek and Parkes witnessed.
Footage: courtesy of NASA
Decades later, NASA worked with Hollywood film restoration specialists Lowry Digital to enhance and preserve the footage.
The Executive Director of CSIRO’s space programs, Dave Williams, said Australia continues to assist NASA’s Deep Space Network. The Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex, CSIRO manages on NASA’s behalf, and CSIRO’s own Parkes radio telescope track more than 40 spacecraft engaged such missions as Voyager 2, which recently entered interstellar space.