When travelling, I sometimes get the impression that Australia is regarded quite fondly, but as something of a technological backwater. Few realise what a major role Australia has played in support of America's (and some other countries) space programs. Actually it is more than just support - because of the high quality of Australian space communications (and sometimes accidents of celestial mechanics), many critical mission activities have been planned to occur "over" Australian tracking stations.
Hamish Lindsay is an ex-tracking station technician who has written a book called "Tracking Apollo to the Moon" which documents much of the Manned Spaceflight history (Mercury through Apollo-Soyuz) from an Australian perspective, and particularly from the point of view of those who have worked in the industry here (some are still involved). Actually, the book also includes personal comments by many of the Astronauts, and ground personnel from NASA and others. Hamish has been kind enough to allow me to publish sections from his book in the following pages. Incidentally the book includes much of the politics and USSR manned spaceflight history and is stunningly illustrated with many pictures (many never published before) which cannot be included here due to storage and bandwidth restrictions. Unfortunately the book is now out of print - but "Google is your friend" there are bound to be copies about.
Australia has also made major contributions to the exploration of the earth's environment and the solar system, and some of these are documented in the Canberra Deep Space Communications Complex homepage. CDSCC . The Canberra site is involved in the support of many operations including deep space, earth and solar orbit and radio astronomy projects. But when manned flights to the moon (or mars and beyond) take place, it is certain that CDSCC will be involved as it was during the Apollo project.
A movie called "The Dish" has been released with great success in Australia and lesser success around the world. It is a nice gentle comedy full of nostalgia for the 60's with good music and photography. The advertising says it is "based on fact" and it is - but rather loosely! Unfortunately it perpetuates a local myth that Parkes Radio Telescope brought the world Neil Armstrong's first steps on the moon. Actually the first fuzzy pictures were relayed via the Honeysuckle Creek tracking station here in the ACT. For a full exposť - visit The Dish - The Truth!
Australian staff (along with many other nationalities in the NASA team), supported all the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Apollo-Soyuz, and Skylab flights with distinction and some memorable "firsts". For example - during the Apollo series alone:
The picture is of the Honeysuckle Creek tracking station Operations console during a simulation before one of the Apollo missions. I'm the handsome one second from the left! Well it was nearly 40 years ago....