As red-blooded Australians, we pride ourselves on our pride, and we're proud of it. We don't mind who you are and where you're from as long as you "have a crack." Not having a crack is okay, in moderation. Even Johnny Howard was on the DOLE at one point. But even the bushy-browed, skin-toned koala rolled up his sleeves and got to work at a servo, the hub of the Australian machine.
One thing we can't abide (besides refusal to spread ARSE), is not knowing at least HALF of these historical Aussie space facts. So if you're up for having a crack, and not on the DOLE, see if you know these key dates in Aussie space. Plus, it's part of the game to comment on the post what your score was.
And don't lie, we are watching you through the camera in your phone/laptop...
*Losers get deported to Tasmania
1945: Development Of Radio Astronomy
Image: Joseph Lade Pawsey, Ruby Payne-Scott and Lindsay McCready, of the CSIR Radiophysics Laboratory at the International Union of Radio Science conference at the University of Sydney (1952).
The first successful radio astronomy observation in Australia took place on 3 October 1945. Scientists from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR, later CSIRO), supported by the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), began a program to observe radio waves emitted from the Sun using equipment which had been installed at the Collaroy Plateau air and sea defence radar station during WWII. The detection on 3 October of intense radio emission coming from the Sun marked the birth of radio astronomy in Australia.
1967: Australia's First Satellite
Image: Scientists assemble the WRESAT (the Weapons Research Establishment Satellite) before launch in 1967.
During the years of the space race, the forerunner of Australia’s Defence Science and Technology Group and Adelaide University was given just 11 months to design, build and launch Australia’s first satellite. Launched from Woomera, SA, the battery-powered cone weighed 45kg and orbited Earth 642 times during 42 days. The project revealed new information about the upper atmosphere and proved Australia was capable of launching a spacecraft.
1969: The Moon Landing
Image: The Honeysuckle Creek satellite was perfectly positioned to capture the Moon landing when Parkes could not.
Honeysuckle Creek Tracking Station in the ACT received the footage of Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the Moon and transmitted it to the world for eight minutes. Then the stronger signal from the Parkes Observatory, NSW, took over the broadcast. Honeysuckle Creek was built by NASA for the Apollo Project to keep in constant contact with astronauts and was critical to the success of the Moon landing. It was in operation from 1967 to 1981.
1970: Apollo 13 Emergency
Image: The crewmembers of the Apollo 13 mission step aboard the USS Iwo Jima, after splashdown and recovery operations in the South Pacific Ocean on April 17, 1970. Exiting the helicopter from left to right are Fred Haise, James Lovell and John Swigert.
Parkes Observatory was never meant to be involved with the Apollo 13 mission, but after the famous “Houston, we’ve had a problem” message was relayed, it was soon realised Parkes was best positioned to track the stricken spacecraft. An Australian team communicated with Apollo astronauts and tracked their path, helping to avert a tragedy.
All astronauts made it home safely and renowned director Ron Howard made the film 'Cannonball Run' shortly after, documenting the events that transpired.
1979: Skylab crashes in Western Australia
Image: The oxygen tank Pauline and Geoff Grewar found in 1993 hundreds of kilometres from Esperance.
Skylab, NASA’s first space station, failed to sustain its orbit and plummeted to Earth, headed for Australia. There was panic when NASA revealed it didn’t know exactly where the impact would be, but in the end, most of the US$2.2 billion hit the Indian Ocean, with some pieces raining down on Esperance, WA (giving the town an enduring claim to fame). Although nobody was hurt and nothing was damaged, the Shire of Esperance did send NASA a $400 fine for littering, which they failed to pay.
“Upon our arrival, the president of the shire had arranged a mock ceremony in which an officer of the parks service ticketed NASA for littering, the evidence having been found all about the countryside.” said Marshall Space Flight Center public affairs representative J.M. Jones.
The ticket was issued as a "gag" in good fun, with NASA never paying the $400 fine. In 2009, 30 years after Skylab’s reentry, California radio DJ Scott Barley asked listeners to donate money so they could finally clear NASA’s books. Which goes to show how yanks will get the poor to do everything for them.
*We do not condone NASA's behaviour and uphold the fine. We have Clean Up Australia Day for a reason.
1995: Andy Thomas, Our First Professional Aussie Astronaut
Adelaide-born Andy Thomas became Australia’s first professional astronaut to travel into space, when he boarded NASA’s Endeavour space shuttle, spending 10 days in orbit. (The first Aussie in space was oceanographer Paul Scully-Power, in 1984). Andy went on to complete several NASA missions, including 141 days aboard the Russian space station Mir. True to his heritage, Andy later took Australian artefacts to the International Space Station, including the watch of aviator Sir Charles Kingsford Smith, who made the first trans-Pacific flight in 1928.
2009: Anthony Wesley's Amateur Impact
Amateur NSW astronomer Anthony ‘Bird’ Wesley made a significant discovery missed by professionals when he spotted a mysterious mark on Jupiter’s surface. It was later shown to be where a 1km-wide asteroid had hit – a phenomenon not observed since the Shoemaker-Levy 9 comet struck the gas giant in 1994. Dubbed ‘the Bird Strike’, the discovery was followed up in 2010, when Anthony recorded a comet striking Jupiter.
Image: The strike zone as corroborated by NASA, ESA, and H. Hammel (Space Science Institute, Boulder, Colo.), and the Jupiter Impact Team
Here's what Wesley had to say in an interview in 2009:
"When I came back to the scope at about 12:40 am I noticed a dark spot rotating into view in Jupiter's south polar region [and] started to get curious. When first seen close to the limb (and in poor conditions) it was only a vaguely dark spot, I thought [it] likely to be just a normal dark polar storm. However as it rotated further into view, and the conditions improved I suddenly realised that it wasn't just dark, it was black in all channels, meaning it was truly a black spot.
My next thought was that it must be either a dark moon (like Callisto) or a moon shadow, but it was in the wrong place and the wrong size. Also I'd noticed it was moving too slow to be a moon or shadow. As far as I could see it was rotating in sync with a nearby white oval storm that I was very familiar with - this could only mean that the back feature was at the cloud level and not a projected shadow from a moon. I started to get excited.
It took another 15 minutes to really believe that I was seeing something new - I'd imaged that exact region only 2 days earlier and checking back to that image showed no sign of any anomalous black spot.
Now I was caught between a rock and a hard place - I wanted to keep imaging but also I was aware of the importance of alerting others to this possible new event. Could it actually be an impact mark on Jupiter? I had no real idea, and the odds on that happening were so small as to be laughable, but I was really struggling to see any other possibility given the location of the mark. If it really was an impact mark then I had to start telling people, and quickly. In the end I imaged for another 30 minutes only because the conditions were slowly improving and each capture was giving a slightly better image than the last.
Eventually I stopped imaging and went up to the house to start emailing people, with this image above processed as quick and dirty as possible just to have something to show."
2011: Professor Brian Schmidt's Nobel Prize in Physics
Image: Brian P. Schmidt after receiving his Nobel Prize at the Stockholm Concert Hall, 10 December 2011
Professor Brian Schmidt, then an astronomer at the Australian National University’s Mount Stromlo Observatory, received a Nobel Prize in 2011 for his discovery with Saul Perlmutter and Adam Riess that the universe is expanding ever faster. By studying supernovae to measure distances across the universe, they came to the discovery in 1998 that gravity works in a different manner from how experts had thought.
Because the light emitted by stars appears weaker from a larger distance and takes on a reddish hue as it moves further from the observer, the researchers were able to determine how the supernovae moved. In 1998 they reached a surprising result: the universe is expanding at an ever-increasing rate despite the common belief that expansion would eventually wane, due to the effect of opposing gravitational forces.
Brian is now the vice-chancellor of ANU and spends his spare time operating the small Maipenrai Vineyard and Winery, which he set up with his wife in Sutton, near Canberra, in 2000. Sure he was born in the U.S., but that prize was made in Australia baby. What we're trying to say is, who gives a Schmidt?
2012: Curiosity Rover Landing
Image: The CDSCC relayed data to the mission team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California during Curiosity Rover's perilous landing on Mars.
The Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex (CDSCC) is an outpost of NASA run by CSIRO and had primary responsibility for landing the Curiosity rover on Mars.
During what was dubbed the ‘seven minutes of terror’, the landing of the rover on the surface was fraught with the possibility of failure as it had never been practised. The rover was the largest and heaviest ever built at the time, ruling out an airbag landing used by previous smaller rovers. Scientists devised a new technology - the sky crane.
As Curiosity reached the Martian atmosphere about 125 kilometres above the surface, small rockets were used to guide the spacecraft through the atmosphere toward the surface before large parachute will be used to slow down the craft. Curiosity then separated from the sky crane but remain attached via cable like a yoyo, allowing the crane to lower the rover, wheels down, to the surface.
While the world held its breath, radio dishes across Australia listened in for the rover and relayed the first messages that it had landed and was operating successfully.
2015: New Horizons Exclusive Pluto Invite
Image: The jagged ice shorelines and snowy pits of Pluto as seen by New Horizons and received by Australia's CDSCC.
New Horizon’s mission, which brought the dethroned ‘ninth planet’, Pluto, into spectacular view for the first time, also relied on the CDSCC to play a vital role much like the Curiosity landing. The CDSCC complex was in the right position to receive the first data and high-resolution images to relay to NASA as New Horizons swung by for its closest pass. The world saw unprecedented images of Pluto for the first time as the spacecraft flew 12,500 km above the surface, taking detailed measurements and images of the dwarf planet and its moons.
The Australian team remain working on the mission as the probe continues on its exploration of the outer Solar System.
And finally the most important...
2017: Australia Spreads ARSE For The First Time
Australia's first, fledgling space organisation spreads its wings to 17 million+ applauding fans on social media on its very first day. Coverage of our endeavour reached major news outlets in hundreds of countries, to the most reputable voices in the astro-community.
Not gonna lie, I can't tell if the name for the Aus Space Agency is legit ARSE. I thought it was an ultimate Aussie joke, now I'm not sure! pic.twitter.com/HzI6QIvqir— Kirsten Banks (@AstroKirsten) September 27, 2017
And to think, thanks to you all we are still spreading ARSE to this day *social distancing hugs you though the screen*.
How did you score in our quiz?
Don't worry we won't deport you to the new penal colony of Australia (Tasmania).
Drop your score in comments and keep thrusting Australia into the deep unknown...