I've just returned from a 1950km (1211 mile) road trip up to central New South Wales for Lydia's graduation at the Charles Sturt University. Since we were in the neighbourhood, I thought a visit to the Parkes Radio Telescope was in order :)

The Parkes Radio Telescope was built in 1961, It's a 64 meter antenna, making it the second largest radio telescope in the Southern Hemisphere. (The largest is the 70 meter antenna at Tidbinbilla near Canberra) It's known locally as "The Dish"

When Buzz Aldrin switched on the TV camera on the Apollo 11 Lunar Module, three tracking antennas received the signals simultaneously. They were the 64 metre Goldstone antenna in California, the 26 metre antenna at Honeysuckle Creek near Canberra in Australia, and the 64 metre dish at Parkes.

In the first few minutes of the broadcast, NASA alternated between the signals being received from its two stations at Goldstone and Honeysuckle Creek, searching for the best quality picture.

A little under nine minutes into the broadcast, the TV was switched to the Parkes signal. The quality of the TV pictures from Parkes was so superior that NASA stayed with Parkes as the source of the TV for the remainder of the 2.5 hour broadcast.

How could I not take the opportunity to visit this piece of space history!

Here's some photos I took of the dish.

(Click to embiggen)

More after the jump.... (or see the full set on Flickr)

More on Flickr