, , ,

Did you know there’s a Heritage Festival about to kick off in Canberra in a couple of weeks with over 200 separate events? 200! Sort of slips under the radar a bit, this festival.

I’ve just been going through the program to see what’s on: there’s tours and talks, fashion markets, Indigenous events, concerts, dinners, cycling, and even a Jane Austen ball where you get to dress up in your 19th century finest, if in fact you have any of that finery in your wardrobe.

You can tour a late-Georgian residence in Crace (I didn’t even know we had one of those, to be honest), squeeze into a tiny old school house and imagine what it was like in days gone by, learn about star photography, or even take a ghost tour. I did one of those recently, and it was VERY interesting. So many strange stories.

Given this year is the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing in 1969, there’s a few moon-themes events included in the festival. Canberra actually had a pretty big role to play in the 1969 moon landing, as the satellite images of Neil Armstrong taking his first steps on the moon were actually received at Honeysuckle Creek Tracking station, a NASA Earth station, in Canberra. Those images, as well as audio of the infamous “one small step” words, were then transmitted to NASA in the US before they were sent relayed pretty much live to the rest of the world. There are three receivers (one in US, one in Australia and one in Spain) – as the earth rotates the different stations receives signals. When they landed on the moon, we were the ones best placed to receive the transmission.

This story of the Australian role in the transmission was made famous in Australia by the movie ‘The Dish’ although it used some licence in the story telling and set the movie in Parkes in Central NSW instead of the ACT. The actual satellite dish, now decommissioned, has since been moved from Honeysuckle Creek Tracking Station (which closed in 1981) to the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex in nearby Tidbinbilla at the edge of the ACT for permanent display. The communication complex, opened in 1965, is part of the Deep Space Network of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which is managed in Australia by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO).

So there you go – a bit of moon history many of us don’t know.

Back to the Heritage Festival, if you don’t live in Canberra and you like all things heritage, don’t panic as this festival is part of a broader Heritage Festival taking place across the country from 18 April to 19 May. The National Heritage Trust website has information about what other events are taking place in other states.

I’m a little bummed that I will be away for most of the Canberra events, but then again I have some pretty exciting travel plans coming up soon instead.

Who remembers what you were doing when Mr Armstrong took those first steps?