Apollo 13@50: The Parkes Observatory’s support of NASA’s finest (Online)

Presented by John Sarkissian, CSIRO Parkes Radio Observatory

Following the successful support of the Apollo 11 and 12 missions, expectation were high that the CSIRO Parkes Observatory would be supporting the Apollo 13 mission, also. However, owing to the northerly declination of the Moon in mid-April 1970, the Parkes Observatory would only have had about 2 hours coverage of the Moon during the critical days of the mission, and those were at unimportant times. Consequently, Parkes was not required for the mission. All this changed on 14 April, when the Apollo 13 Service Module’s number 2 oxygen tank exploded, when the spacecraft was 300,000 km from Earth, crippling the spacecraft, and aborting the lunar landing. Parkes was immediately called in to assist in the reception of the incredibly weak signals. Over the next 3-4 days, a heroic effort was undertaken at Parkes, and across Australia, to assist in the rescue effort. As we all know, the effort succeeded and the astronauts defied all the odds to return safely to Earth. This talk will detail the Australian tracking effort with emphasis on the Parkes Observatory’s support and involvement in NASA’s finest hour.

BIO: John Sarkissian OAM, is an Operations Scientist at the CSIRO Parkes Radio Observatory. His main responsibilities are the science operations at the radio telescope, and the support of remote astronomers with their observations. In addition, he is involved in pulsar research - an exciting field of radio astronomy.

John is a member of the ATNF Science Operations Team which provides the front-line support for the CSIRO’s Australia Telescope National Facility (ATNF) telescopes. Since 2003, John has been a member of the small, informal team searching for the missing Apollo 11 slow-scan TV tapes. From 1998-1999, John acted as a technical advisor for the feature film, "The DISH".

John came to Parkes, in 1996, on an 11-month contract to support the Galileo Mission to Jupiter. He managed the Galileo spacecraft tracking operations at the observatory and performed 1/3 of the daily tracking duties. John has received NASA Group Achievement Awards for his work on "The Parkes Radio Telescope X-band Upgrade Task Team" in 2004, "The Huygens Probe Earth Detection Team" in 2005 and "The DSN-Parkes MSL EDL Support Team" in 2013. John has also received official NASA commendations for his Galileo support in 1997 and for the search of the missing Apollo 11 SSTV tapes, in 2010. He is now 24 years into his 11 month contract.

This will be a live, interactive broadcast on YouTube. 

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Wednesday 01 Jul 2020

8:00 PM - 9:00 PM

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