To the Moon and Back

Every Saturday morning there is a craft and produce market at the Carnarvon Civic Centre. We had only a relatively short drive to Coral Bay ahead of us, so we wandered over to a cafe for breakfast before spending some time at the market. There weren’t many stalls, but Marg found a couple of ladies selling handmade knitted and crocheted items, so she was happy to chat with them for a while. The market didn’t attract a huge crowd, but Carnarvon is a very quiet, sleepy little town, so I wasn’t really surprised.

On a ridge just out of town is a large satellite dish, which played a key role in tracking the spacecraft from the Gemini and Apollo missions during the 1960s. This included the historic Apollo 11 mission when Armstrong and Aldrin became the first men to walk upon the moon. It played a key role in the first live television transmission between Britain and Australia back in the days of black and white TV. The dish was decommissioned when NASA ceased its lunar missions and today it towers over the Carnarvon Space and Technology Museum, along with some other smaller tracking devices which are also no longer in use.

It’s an interesting museum, run by volunteers. There are a few games for the kids and gimmicky amusements for adults, but there are also some informative videos and information panels. The museum features a lot of the technology used during the space missions of the 1960s. It essentially consists of large grey metal boxes full of valves and transistors and wires, with lots of dials and buttons and instrument panels on the front. The equipment looks so ancient and unsophisticated now, that you can’t help but wonder how it was efficient and accurate enough to provide the critical information required to put men on the moon and bring them safely back home again.

There was also a full-sized replica of the Apollo 11 landing module and a simulation ride in the nose cone where the astronauts were seated during lift-off. Several of the astronauts from the NASA program had visited the museum over the years and there were lots of mementoes of their visits.

It was a couple of hours well spent, as it brought back memories of the era of space exploration that we baby boomers lived through, particularly the day Neil Armstrong first walked on the moon. The museum visit also filled in some of the gaps in the understandings I had initially gained from watching ‘The Dish’ and ‘Apollo 13’.

I have to admit I have always been in awe of the astronauts who went to the moon. There have only ever been twelve of them. I had already collected signed books by Buzz Aldrin and Charlie Duke, so today I added a signed copy of Eugene Cernan’s autobiography to my collection. He was the last human being ever to set foot on the moon. I look forward to reading it when I get home.

After lunch we left Carnarvon and headed north to Coral Bay. We turned off the main highway for the final 90km drive to the coast. A section of this road was dotted with large ant hills on either side of the bitumen. We saw four large wedge tailed eagles on this stretch of road as well.

We’re staying at the Ningaloo Reef Resort directly across the road from the sandy beach. Other than a short walk along the water’s edge, we didn’t venture far this afternoon as there will be plenty of time to explore Coral Bay over the next two days and also because it was so relaxing sitting at the outdoor tables enjoying a drink and a meal and watching the sun go down over the reef.

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