Powerful Exhibition Of Our Greatest Adventure

When we conjure up images of each century, there are a few defining moments and without doubt the Moon landing was one of those moments in the 20th century.

And like so many milestones in human history, it was one of the greatest scientific achievements of all time.

For the curator of Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum’s Apollo 11 exhibition, Dr Sarah Reeves, what continues to amaze her is so much was achieved with such early technology.

“They were using computers millions of times less powerful than the smartphones we have in our pockets today and a lot of the calculations were done by hand. But that technology was able to take three men to the moon and land them back on the Earth safely 50 years ago,” says Reeves.

Museum of the Moon at Powerhouse Museum.
Image Credit: Nick Harriott

Moreover, many Australians don’t realise much of that technological achievement was down to the critical role Australia played in the mission.

“Australian dishes right around the nation acted as tracking stations and received radio communications right through the eight-day mission,” Reeves says.

“Two stations – one outside Canberra at Honeysuckle Creek and CSIRO’s Parkes Radio Telescope - were transmitting when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin first walked on the Moon and the Parkes telescope transmitted the signal to over 600 million people around the world,” Reeves says.

It was a visit to the CSIRO’s Parkes Radio Telescope as a child on a family holiday that sparked Reeves’ own interest in space and she has been captivated by the sky ever since.

Parkes Radio Telescope.
Image Credit: NASA

The passion ignited on that family trip led to Reeves studying the evolution of galaxies and she worked for several years as a research astronomer and as a guide at Sydney Observatory before moving into her current role at the Powerhouse Museum.

The Apollo 11 exhibition she curates features over 200 objects from the Museum’s extensive collection and from around the world including a feed horn used on the iconic Parkes Radio Telescope; parts of the Redstone Rocket that put the first American into space; and an Olivetti Programma 101 computer, the type used by NASA to calculate the launch and landing.

Programma 101, designed by Mario Bellini, made by Olivetti, Italy, 1965–71.
Imgae Credit: Marinco Kojdanovski, MAAS

In a new virtual reality experience, developed in partnership with UNSW’s iCinema and using innovative 3D modelling from the Smithsonian Institute, visitors can watch the Moon landing from the unique perspective of Michael Collins, the third astronaut who remained in orbit aboard the Command Module.

For Reeves, choosing her exhibition highlight is like being asked to pick a favourite child but “the full-size replica of the Mercury Capsule or Friendship 7 spacecraft which put America’s first astronaut into orbit is quite special.

“NASA also generously loaned us a piece of Moon rock which is around 4-billion years old and is a genuine sample from the Moon’s surface.”

Another highlight is Luke Jerram’s Museum of the Moon installation. The installation, which has toured internationally, combines detailed NASA imagery of the lunar surface, alongside moonlight and surround sound composition created by BAFTA and Ivor Novello award winning composer Dan Jones.

Measuring seven metres in diameter, at an approximate scale of 1:500,000, each centimetre of the internally lit spherical sculpture represents 5km of the moon’s surface.
For Reeves, “sharing these stories of space is something I love.”

Event website: https://maas.museum/event/apollo-11/ 


Lead Image: NASA spacesuit and Museum of the Moon at Powerhouse Museum.
Image Credit: Nick Harriott

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