Australia’s Apollo 11 “trackers” have reunited with their American colleagues to celebrate the anniversary of the Moon mission takeoff.
Mike Dinn and John Saxon were working at the NASA facility at Honeysuckle Creek, outside of Canberra, in 1969.
Honeysuckle was one of three major tracking stations following the Apollo as the Earth turned and the spacecraft sped towards the July 20 lunar landing.
The actual footage of astronaut Neil Armstrong setting foot on the Moon came from the Australian facility.
Today the two trackers beamed into the Kennedy Space Centre to be part of a panel of people involved in the Moon missions.
Mr Dinn had a message for Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins, who piloted the module in orbit while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked the lunar surface. It was about United States President Richard Nixon, who reportedly didn’t care about space.
“Mike, we looked after you really carefully,” he said.
“It’s just a shame that your President didn’t seem to remember you were there.”
The former astronauts shared jokes about Swan Lager with the trackers, and the trackers reminisced about the role Australia played in the Moon landing.
“If we did our job well, no one knew we were there,” Mr Dinn said, adding that there were hundreds or even thousands of Australians involved in the historic moment.
“How lucky can you be to score a job like that?” Mr Saxon said.
Mr Dinn said the Australian signal of the “one small step” moment was picked for broadcast because it was slightly better than the others.
“We’re really proud of the fact we happened to be in the right place at the right time,” he said during the cross, which used Cisco Webex technology.
Overnight on Tuesday night Australian time Collins went back to where it all started.
He said it was a “wonderful feeling to be back” at Apollo’s launchpad at the Kennedy Space Centre’s Launch Complex 39A in Florida — although he felt the urge to chat to Armstrong and Aldrin.
Now 88, Collins told NASA TV that the Apollo 11 crew “felt the weight of the world” on their shoulders.
“We knew that everyone would be looking at us, friend or foe, and we wanted to do the best we possibly could,” he said.
Collins said he didn’t want to back to the Moon.
“I want to go direct to Mars,” he said.
Celebrations of the Apollo 11 takeoff started on Tuesday morning in the United States, and will culminate in the 50th anniversary of the landing on the weekend.