REAL AUSTRALIA

Voice of Real Australia: A small step, a town rivalry and screaming in the jungle

Voice of Real Australia is a regular newsletter from Australian Community Media, which has journalists in every state and territory. Sign up here to get it by email, or here to forward it to a friend. Today's newsletter is written by ACM group content editor Joanne Crawford.

Buzz Aldrin steps from The Eagle lunar module on to the moon. Here, on Australian TV sets, we watched in glorious black and white. Picture: NASA

Buzz Aldrin steps from The Eagle lunar module on to the moon. Here, on Australian TV sets, we watched in glorious black and white. Picture: NASA

People of a certain age - OK, I could be talking about myself - will be reminiscing this weekend about grainy black and white TV images, crackly commentary in American accents and watching in awe as astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin took their "one small step" on to the moon's surface.

I was nine when I watched the Apollo 11 moon landing with my classmates, crowded into the lounge room of a family who lived a short walk from the school in the country town where I grew up. They had a TV. There was nothing like multimedia projectors or video streaming devices in the Australian public education system in 1969.

I can't remember what kids in the other classes did that Monday lunchtime. Maybe there were other TV sets in other families' homes. But I can remember the sense of wonder, of knowing at that tender age that this was something significant for the world.

Graeme Baker is the proud owner of a copy of the watch Neil Armstrong wore during the moon landing in 1969. Photo: Darren Howe

Graeme Baker is the proud owner of a copy of the watch Neil Armstrong wore during the moon landing in 1969. Photo: Darren Howe

Watchmaker Graeme Baker is a few years older than me. He was working as an apprentice in Melbourne at the time of the moon landing. "It was a working day and I remember walking around the corner to where there was an electrical store," Graeme says. "They had the television set up in the window of the shop and we were all standing around watching it."

Graeme was so enthralled by the Apollo 11 mission, he bought a replica of the watch the astronauts wore in space - and it still works today.

Ed DeLong can go one better. He spent years based at NASA, reporting on the space program in the 1960s as a journalist with United Press International. "When I came along it was in the middle of the Gemini program. We were still basically shooting astronauts into space on military rockets then," Ed told Mudgee Guardian editor Ben Palmer.

Australian Community Media has published an eight-part series commemorating the Apollo 11 mission, in partnership with CSIRO.

Australian Community Media has published an eight-part series commemorating the Apollo 11 mission, in partnership with CSIRO.

Around the country, Australian Community Media has been telling the history, challenges and achievements of the Apollo space missions through a series produced in partnership with the CSIRO, Australia's national science agency. In case you missed it, links to the eight-part series follow.

But before we get to that, let's clear one thing up. If you still think the whole moon landing thing was a conspiracy, check out this article from filmmaker and lecturer in film post-production Howard Berry, who says the footage would have been impossible to fake.

Convinced? Right. Back to our "One Giant Leap" series (named for Armstrong's words as he reached the moon's surface: "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.") Here's your chance to catch up:

As the stories have unfolded, we've discovered a bit of friendly rivalry between the two Australian centres that played key roles in the Apollo 11 mission.

Ed Von Renouard sits at the video console at the Honeysuckle Creek Tracking Station. Picture: Hamish Lindsay and Colin Mackellar.

Ed Von Renouard sits at the video console at the Honeysuckle Creek Tracking Station. Picture: Hamish Lindsay and Colin Mackellar.

Our colleagues in Canberra like to remind everyone that the Honeysuckle Creek station, on the city's outskirts, broadcast the first eight minutes of the Apollo 11 arrival at the moon, including Armstrong's famous first step.

Over in Parkes - etched into popular culture thanks to the movie The Dish - the townsfolk note that their radio telescope delivered the next two and a half hours of the moon telecast. They're planning a weekend of astronomical proportions to mark the occasion, if you are in the vicinity.

Joanne Crawford

Group Content Editor, Australian Community Media

The dreadful toll on Australian troops from a mine blast during the Vietnam war shared page 1 news with the historic moon walk.

The dreadful toll on Australian troops from a mine blast during the Vietnam war shared page 1 news with the historic moon walk.

PS: Wherever you are this weekend - spare a thought, too, for Bill Wilcox, Frank Hunt and Peter Hines, who on July 21, 1969, were in a Vietnamese jungle with the Australian Army. The line in the Redgum song I Was Only 19 (A Walk in the Light Green) says that "Frankie kicked a mine the day that mankind kicked the moon". In fact it wasn't Frank, but Peter who stepped on the mine and was killed, leaving a young wife and son at home. Frank and Bill were badly injured but survived.

While Peter's home town of Wangi Wangi in New South Wales will hold a memorial service for him on Sunday, Bill will return to the jungle and the scene of that awful day, to remember his mates and what was happening in their world when they heard about the moon landing.

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Other moon-related stuff from around Australia