Monday, September 9, 2013

Tidbinbilla Deep Space Station

In an attempt to get as far away from election hooplah as possible while living in Canberra, we paid a visit to the Deep Space Station where we saw live footage of a rocket failing to launch. Could this be prophetic?

From 1957-1969, seven deep space tracking stations were built in Australia. There were three around Canberra at Honeysuckle Creek, Orroral Valley and Tidbinbilla. Honeysuckle Creek Tracking Station played an integral role in the Apollo 11 mission, providing the first pictures of man walking on the moon in July 1969.

Orroral Valley was used to support Earth orbiting satellites and supported the cooperative USA-USSR Apollo/ Soyuz project in 1975 when American astronauts and Soviet cosmonauts linked vehicles in Earth's orbit and carried out joint experiments in space.

Tidbinbilla was developed for communicating with deep space probes and to add support to the early manned missions. It is the only NASA tracking station still operational in Australia today.

The Canberra Space Centre not only offers views of the largest antenna complex in the southern hemisphere, but plenty of exhibits about space exploration and memorabilia. Screens show images from the Solar System and the progress of various bits of space hardware as they orbit the earth.

I was particularly interested in the personal effects, such as the tootbrushes and the food. Clearly the basic functions of eating, washing, and cleaning your teeth take on different complexites without gravity. There was an example of toiletry facilities that I was non too keen to experience, and the pea soup didn't look particularly appetising either. I did, of course, try on the space suit though!

They always said I was a space cadet

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