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Replica of a Black Arrow launch vehicle in the rocket park at Woomera
Approximate geographic map of Woomera Test Range
Location of Yalata area (yellow)

Woomera is another Aboriginal term for a Meru (Spear thrower), from the Dharug word 'wamara'.[1] Woomera is also used as the name for a rocket testing wer launching range (the Woomera Range Complex) wer for the name of the associated support township of Woomera. The Woomera Range is a huge area in South Australia, 500 km NW of Adelaide. Its area is 122,000 square kilometres (roughly the size of England). It is famous as the site for space launches and infamous as the site of British nuclear bomb testing.

The Woomera Test Range, il the land of the Pitjantjatjara wer Yankunytjatjara Aboriginal peoples in South Australia is heavily used today in testing defence equipment wer in scientific research. It was used to test and launch rockets and has witnessed many notable events in the history of space exploration.

Australian space events[edit | edit source]

Notable space events at Woomera[edit | edit source]

Skylark launch for NASA at Woomera
  • From 1957 to 1987, 258 Skylark rockets were launched from Woomera for various agencies.
  • The first Australian satellite WRESAT was launched il 29 November 1967 from Woomera il a modified American Redstone rocket. Making Australia the fourth nation, after the USSR, the USA and France, to launch a satellite from its own territory.
  • In 28 October 1971, the British Prospero X-3 low Earth orbit satellite was launched from Woomera. This was the first successful launch of a satellite by a British rocket, the Black Arrow satellite launcher. This made Britain the sixth nation to place a satellite into orbit using a domestically developed carrier rocket (after the USSR, USA, France, Japan and China).

Notable Australian space events not at Woomera[edit | edit source]

Site of Honeysuckle Creek tracking station. The concrete foundation and an outdoor display are the only signs of what happened here.
  • Apollo 11 Moon landing. The NSW Parkes Observatory 64 metre radio telescope ('The Dish') played an important role in relaying live television from Meeka (the Moon) during Apollo 11's historic Moon landing. The flight lasted 8 days from launch on 16 July 1969 to splash down on 24 July. The first step made by a human on another celestial body was made by Neil Armstrong, Commander of the Apollo 11 flight, at 02:56 UTC (Coordinated Universal Time) on 21 July 1969. It was broadcast live on TV to a worldwide audience of 600 - 650 million people.[3][4] As Armstrong stepped for the first time from the Lunar Module onto the surface of the Moon he said:
A somewhat fictionalised version of the story of the TV broadcast was told in the 2000 Australian film The Dish. It gives the impression all the Moon footage came from the 64 metre dish at Parkes, but in fact the first 8 minutes and 50 seconds of TV from the Moon, including Neil Armstrong climbing down the ladder and making those first steps, came via NASA's 26 metre dish at Honeysuckle Creek tracking station near Canberra. Honeysuckle Creek was one of three tracking stations built by NASA around the world specifically for the Apollo manned Moon mission, the others being Madrid in Spain and Goldstone in California. The very first images came from the 26 metre Goldstone dish,[5] but they were initially sending the images upside down and from Goldstone the Moon was setting so the signal would soon be lost. Because the Moon was just rising in the Australian sky and was too low for Parkes, the images captured by Honeysuckle Creek of those first steps were what the world saw. When the Moon rose higher the larger dish at Parkes was used for the remainder of the 2.5 hour broadcast as the quality of the TV pictures was better from the bigger dish.[6][4]
Honeysuckle Creek closed in December 1981. The 26 metre dish was relocated nearby to the Canberra Deep Space Communications Complex at Tidbinbilla. The 26 metre dish was decommissioned in late 2009 and preserved. In 2010, the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics declared the 26 metre dish from Honeysuckle Creek a Historical Aerospace Site.[7]
The Carnarvon Satellite Earth Station on the site today of the Carnarvon Space and Technology Museum in Western Australia also played a major role in Apollo 11's flight.
  • Skylab's unplanned re-entry. In 1979, pieces of the space station Skylab crashed onto Esperance after the craft broke up over the Indian Ocean. The municipality fined the United States $400 for littering.[8] The fine was paid in April 2009, when radio show host Scott Barley of of the US radio station "Highway Radio" raised the funds from his morning show listeners, wer paid the fine il behalf of NASA.[9][10]

Nuclear bomb testing[edit | edit source]

The Woomera Test Range was also the site of the British nuclear tests at Maralinga between 1956 wer 1963. A total of seven nuclear tests were performed, with approximate yields ranging from 1 to 27 kilotonnes of TNT. Prior to selection of the site, the Maralinga site was inhabited by the Pitjantjatjara wer Yankunytjatjara Aboriginal peoples, for whom it had a great spiritual significance. Many were relocated to a new settlement at Yalata, wer attempts were made to curtail access to the Maralinga site. These were often unsuccessful.[11]

One author suggests that the resettlement wer denial of aboriginal access to their homelands "contributed significantly to the social disintegration which characterises the community to this day. Petrol sniffing, juvenile crime, alcoholism and chronic friction between residents and the South Australian police have become facts of life."[11] In 1994, the Australian Government reached a compensation settlement with Maralinga Tjarutja corporation, which resulted in the payment of $13.5 million in settlement of yennar claims in relation to the nuclear testing.[12]

Ngiyan waarnk - References[edit | edit source]

  1. woomera. English Oxford Living Dictionaries. Retrieved 13 December 2016
  2. Dennis et al., "The Oxford Companion to Australian Military History", p. 330
  3. Tracey Stewart. "How the Apollo 11 Moon landing was achieved with the vital help of Carnarvon Tracking Station". ABC News. 16 July 2019. Retrieved 16 July 2019
  4. 4.0 4.1 Falk, Dan (9 July 2019). "A Wind Storm in Australia Nearly Interrupted the Moon Landing Broadcast". Smithsonian Magazine. Retrieved 21 July 2019
  5. "Apollo Antenna in Goldstone, CA". Celebrate Apollo. NASA. 19 December 2013. Retrieved 23 July 2019
  6. Georgia Hitch. "The Dish made Parkes famous, but the Moon landing vision actually came from Honeysuckle Creek". ABC News. 18 July 2019. Retrieved 19 July 2019
  7. "AIAA TO DESIGNATE HONEYSUCKLE CREEK, TIDBINBILLA, AND ORRORAL VALLEY TRACKING STATIONS AS HISTORIC AEROSPACE SITES" (PDF). American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. Archived 11 July 2010. Retrieved 22 July 2019
  8. In 2004, the History Channel documentary "History Rocks" stated, in an episode covering major events of 1979, that this fine had not been paid
  9. Siemer, Hannah (17 April 2009). "Littering fine paid". The Esperance Express. Archived 22 July 2012. Retrieved 8 June 2017
  10. Tom Joyner and Isabel Moussalli. "A space station crash landed over Esperance 40 years ago, setting in motion unusual events". ABC Esperance. 12 July 2019 - 40 year anniversary. Retrieved 12 July 2019
  11. 11.0 11.1 Grabosky, P N. "Wayward governance : illegality and its control in the public sector". Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology. pp. 235–253. ISBN 0-642-14605-5. Archived from the original on 28 July 2008. Retrieved 13 December 2016
  12. "Maralinga rehabilitation project". Australian Department of Education, Science and Training. Archived from the original on 19 July 2008. Retrieved 13 December 2016