Of Moon rocks and rockets

The rules changed a few days ago and many residents of Sydney, including us, can now visit the Australian Capital Territory. It’s barely an interstate trip, but there was small desire to visit.

Unfortunately Alex is suffering nausea as we drive along the Lachlan Valley Highway and we have to make a few stops for him to empty his stomach.

We pull over at Boorowa to use the facilities and end up taking a walk around the historically quaint main street. There are gift shops, cafes and a bakery, along with a nice park where Alex rests. It seems to do the trick and he is much better for the rest of the ride. 

I plan to continue the astronomical trail with a visit to the Tidbinbilla Space Tracking Station. There is a brief stint along the Hume Highway, the first four lane highway since leaving the Blue Mountains. Then we turn off into the Barton Highway, eventually into Canberra. 

Many think the ACT is Canberra, but there is more to it than that. Tidbinbilla sits to the south of the city, accessed along winding roads through grasslands and granite hills. The views are spectacular, though I have to focus on the driving. 

We switch our phones to flight mode as we enter the road to the tracking station. The dishes have to be sensitive enough to receive signals from probes that have reached the edge of the solar system. 

The tracking station is part of NASA’s network and is responsible for transmitting to and receiving signals from both manned and unmanned space missions and probes. 

Contrary to movie history, the first vision of Neil Armstrong’s first steps on to the lunar surface came via the Honeysuckle Creek station further south in the ACT, not Parkes, which took over transmissions a little later. 

The Honeysuckle Creek site is now decommissioned and the receiver moved to its current site at Tidbinbilla, where it too is now out of service. However, there are four other dishes still in service, three 34 meters in diameter, one giant 70 metre, bigger than Parkes. 

All this information and much more is contained within the visitors centre. There are so many great things to see, from old astronaut meals to space suits, information and models of probes, rockets and the space shuttle. The best: A piece of Moon rock brought back by the Apollo missions. 

The attached cafe is great as well. B announces that her beef hamburger is the best she’s had. 

We are all pretty tired after the drive and centre, so we drive straight back to the Deco hotel, where we’ve stayed twice before. There we spend the rest of the afternoon, watching cricket and sleeping. 

Though it has cooking facilities, we can’t be bothered and so drive to the Canberra Centre to eat at PappaRich. It’s not the best Malaysian food in Canberra, but it is convenient for late night shopping. We only buy breakfast groceries. 

Not sure what we will do tomorrow other than head home. 

Filed under: