Canberra’s Space History: At the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex | HerCanberra

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Canberra’s Space History: At the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex

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NASA astronaut's suitOn July 21, 1969, the whole world watched as American astronaut Neil Armstrong took humanity’s first steps on the moon. Those famous black-and-white television images of Armstrong were received and relayed around the world for the very first time by a big antenna right here in the Australian Capital Territory, at Honeysuckle Creek.

Did you know that for over 50 years, the Bush Capital has played a vital role in space and space exploration? Today, Canberra continues to support the work of the leading space agency in the world- NASA (the National Aeronautics and Space Administration)-through the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex (CDSCC) located in Tidbinbilla.

CDSCC is part of NASA’s Deep Space Network, an international network of antennas that support interplanetary spacecraft missions and radar and radio astronomy observations for the exploration of the Solar System and the universe. The Deep Space Network has three deep space communications facilities placed approximately 120 degrees apart around the world: at Tidbinbilla; at Goldstone, in California’s Mojave Desert, and near Madrid, Spain.

CDSCC was opened in 1965 and has been involved in tracking high profile deep space missions including the famous Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 missions (these missions captured the very first images we have of the planets Saturn, Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune), the Mars Rovers missions, the Cassini mission to Saturn, the Galileo mission to Jupiter, and the Messenger mission to Mercury.

The CDSCC currently has three active antennas supporting over 45 NASA missions, but there are also several other antennas here that have either been dismantled or decommissioned. The most famous one is the antenna called Deep Space Station 46 (DSS46). It’s the first antenna you see as you arrive at the CDSCC. This 26 metre antenna was originally located at Honeysuckle Creek Tracking Station between 1967 and 1981, and is most famous for being the dish which received and relayed to the world the first historic TV images of Neil Armstrong setting foot on the Moon in July, 1969. DSS46 was relocated to the CDSCC after Honeysuckle Creek Tracking Station was closed in 1981. DSS46 was eventually retired in 2009 and remains at the CDSCC as a celebrated and recognised historic monument.

Visit the CDSCC!

The public is welcome to visit the CDSCC where you can view the big dishes, learn more about Canberra’s and Australia’s important roles in space exploration at the Visitors’ Centre, and relax with a coffee at the Moon Rock Cafe.

Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex

The Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex

The Visitors’ Centre features many exciting exhibits including spacecraft models, astronaut gear, the foods astronauts eat on the space shuttles and space stations, and a piece of Moon rock that’s over 3.8 billion years old. You can also watch a movie on the history and future of space exploration, and check out the latest images from across the Solar System and beyond.

The CDSCC also has a playground for kids, toilet facilities, picnic areas, and a gift shop. It’s a terrific place for the whole family to enjoy, and is certainly one of the Bush Capital’s hidden gems.

the essentials

What: Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex
Where: 421 Discovery Drive, Tidbinbilla (off Cotter and Paddys River roads)
When: 9am-5pm every day, including school and public holidays except for Christmas Day. On Christmas Day the CDSCC is closed.
How much: FREE
Phone: 02 6201 7880



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