Astronomer Dave Reneke reflects on 50 years since man first walked on the moon

MOON LANDING: Dave Reneke at the Parkes Radio Telescope (The Dish) at the 40th anniversary of man's first steps on the moon.
MOON LANDING: Dave Reneke at the Parkes Radio Telescope (The Dish) at the 40th anniversary of man's first steps on the moon.

Fifty years ago men, women and children gathered around black and white television screens at schools, supermarkets and on the street to watch the fuzzy image of astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walk on the moon.

A huge feat at the time, Mid-North Coast's astronomy expert, Dave Reneke says it was - and still is - an extraordinary moment in history.

"In my opinion it was arguably one of the greatest achievements humans have ever made. It was so significant because it was the moment humans emerged as potential multi-planet species," Mr Reneke said.

"Everyone has a moon landing story; what they were doing, where they were, who they were with. It was a moment in history that changed the world forever.

"The modern day iPhone has one million times more memory and 100,000 times more processing power than the technology used to send man to the moon and yet we were able to do it.

"These days that is almost unimaginable to think about, but we did it.

"To put it in perspective it took 10,000 years between the creation of the wheel and the Wright Brothers and then only 66 years to walk on the moon."

Mr Reneke said there was so much interest in the 50th anniversary because it changed our world forever.

"For the 12 hours surrounding the moon landing there was very little crime because even the criminals were watching the landing. The whole world was galvanised," he said.

"When the astronauts returned to earth they had to fill out a customs form and they were asked if they were bringing anything back into the country with them. They all put moon rock and moon dust samples on their forms.

They also had to spend three weeks in quarantine to ensure they didn't bring back any diseases.

Dave Reneke

"They also had to spend three weeks in quarantine to ensure they didn't bring back any diseases."

Mr Reneke refutes the criticism that since man walked on the moon very little has happened in the world of astronomy.

"We have come an incredibly long way since that first moon walk," he said.

"We have launched a space program, built the International Space Station, sent astronauts into space, developed a range of new technologies and built a space shuttle.

"We have also significantly advanced communications satellites which also help in everyday life on earth. Not to mention how much we have learnt about living in low gravity environments and in the space vacuum.

"There are also more than 1000 things that have been made easier living on earth because of what we know living in space and items which were created for space travel.

"Micro cameras were first invented for space travel and firefighters' clothing has been significantly improved after modelling them on space suits.

"The International Space Station has also been using a water purifier which treats grey water and even urine and turns it into drinking water. When you think about that kind of technology being used in the developing world, the possibilities are endless.

"So we definitely have not done nothing."

He said that looking towards the future, the 2020's will be decade we push the next frontier.

"I predict big things for the 2020 decade, I think we will again walk on the moon and have the capabilities to have a colony of people living there.

"I think the next person who will walk on the moon will probably be a female which will be terrific and I think in the next decade tourists will visit the International Space Station.

"I also expect the first human footprints on the red planet will happen in the next decade.The future looks bright."

Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon at 12.56pm AEST on July 21.


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