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Sunday, May 16, 2021

Remembering region’s rich space history

Most people remember where they were when man first walked on the Moon. For ACT Minister for Heritage, Mick Gentleman, that was at his father’s side.

Mr Gentleman’s father was a super tech for PMG (Postmaster-General’s Department) and was in charge of fixed lines.

“I sat at the console with him for the Moon landing at the central telephone exchange at the back of East Block,” he recalled. “I think we were all really excited. I was 14 at the time and loved going into work with Dad.”

While the experience provided a lasting memory, he also has mementos associated with the time. His father was given an Apollo pin, which Mr Gentleman wears every July, as well as an Apollo Achievement Award from NASA.

The Award reads: “In appreciation of dedicated service to the nation as a member of the team which has advanced the nation’s capabilities in aeronautics and space and demonstrated them in many outstanding accomplishments culminating in Apollo 11’s successful achievement of man’s first landing on the Moon, July 20, 1969.”

With a personal connection to the lunar landing, Mr Gentleman is well aware of the role Canberra had as man walked on the Moon. Now, he said, it is time for the community to immerse themselves in the rich space history of our region.

“The images of Neil Armstrong’s extraordinary first steps and his immortal words were broadcast from right here in the ACT,” he said. “We played a vital role…. Honeysuckle was in the right spot but had done the work so the vision was correct.”

Commemorations for the Moon landing have featured in the Canberra and Region Heritage Festival, which this year had a space theme; Lights!Canberra!Action!, which had the theme ‘one small step’; and will feature at Floriade with programming and entertainment celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Moon landing.

Mr Gentleman said the ACT Government also invested $391,000 towards commemorating the anniversary with funds allocated in the 2018-19 ACT Budget. This includes the installation of ‘One Small Step’ anniversary memorial signs at Honeysuckle Creek and the Trail Hub Welcome Signs artwork by local Ngunnawal artist, Lynnice Church.

“The ACT Government commissioned new signage and facilities to be unveiled this weekend (20 July). Everybody can experience these new installations from Saturday afternoon including a ‘star lounge’ for visitors to lay back and look at the stars, signage about the cultural connection between Ngunnawal people and the stars, and signage that links Canberra’s three space sites (Orroral Valley, Honeysuckle Creek and the Geodetic Dome) with engaging walking trails,” he said.

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