NASA knows its stuff

OTC site, Carnarvon WA.
OTC site, Carnarvon WA. Pic by Steve Woodhall.

By Tracy Sorensen

The 1969 moon landing is close to my heart. I grew up under the beneficent gaze of a giant communications dish in Carnarvon in the north west of Western Australia. At the time of the moon landing, my town did not yet have television but we were also at the very cutting edge of the space race. A NASA tracking station, built in collaboration with the Australian government's Department of Supply, provided tracking and ground support for the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo missions. Astronauts flew into town and walked our dusty streets; people from all over the world made Carnarvon an extraordinary place to be for a decade from the mid '60s to the mid '70s.

Overseas Telecommunications Commission equipment, sitting on a red sand dune not far from the tracking station, was rigged up to allow townspeople to watch the moon landing live. An ordinary household TV was set up on a small table in the local theatre. School children who had never even seen television were about to see men walking on the moon. Local shooters aimed their rifles at the screen so they could use their telescopic sights to see the tiny screen from the back of the room. It sounds like something out of the movie The Dish, and yes, it was like that.

But what I really want to say here is that NASA knows how to do science. In the few short years after Kennedy made his famous promise to land a man on the moon by the end of the decade, they'd done it. It was an exercise in chutzpah but it was also an extraordinarily rigorous test of scientific theory and knowledge. And it all held up. The astronauts' splashdown at the end of the mission occurred within one second of the master plan.

So when Senator Malcolm Roberts airily says on ABC TV's Q&A program that NASA has "corrupted" the science of climate change in some sort of giant conspiracy, it's a little bit of a melt-down moment for me. It's out there with the people who suggest the moon landing was a fake.

This would be laughable if it were not utterly, devastatingly serious. NASA scientists have just revealed that July 2016 was the hottest on record. They also remind us that human activity such as burning coal is causing temperatures to rise. They sent men to the moon. They know their stuff.

Tracy Sorensen is the Secretary of Bathurst Community Climate Action Network.