In Pictures: 50 years of NASA in Australia

Australia has played a vital role in transmitting images from space for the world to see. Take a look at some of the main technology and cultural highlights of the past 50 years in space

  • This picture of the Earth and Moon was taken by the Galileo spacecraft from about 3.9 million miles away. It was launched in October 1989 and landed in Jupiter in December 1995. The spacecraft was the first to orbit Jupiter and launched the first probe into its atmosphere. In September 2003, Galileo’s mission was terminated and was orbited into Jupiter’s atmosphere at 50 kilometres per second to avoid any chance of it contaminating local moons with bacteria from Earth. Due to Galileo, scientists believe, one of the moons, Europa, has a salt water ocean beneath its surface. Photo credit: NASA

  • The main objective of this mission was to search for and characterise a range of rocks and soils that could hold clues to previous water activity on Mars. It was part of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program which includes the Viking program landers in 1976 and Mars Pathfinder probe in 1997. Total cost of building, launching, landing and operating the rovers was $US820 million. The Jet Propulsion Laborartory designed, built and is operating the rovers. The picture is part of a panorama taken by the Spirit rover in 2004. Photo credit: NASA

  • More than 30 years after their first launch, Voyager 1 and 2 are still returning scientific data. Both are heading towards interstellar space and their ongoing odysseys mark a historic accomplishment. Voyager 2 launched on August 20, 1977 and Voyager 1 about three weeks later. Both continue to return information from more than three times farther than Pluto. During their first dozen years of flight, the Voyagers made detailed explorations of Jupiter, Saturn, and their moons, and conducted the first explorations of Uranus and Neptune. The spacecrafts returned never-before-seen images and scientific data, making fundamental discoveries about the outer planets and their moons. Photo credit: NASA

  • NASA officials broke ground near Canberra, Australia in Feburary this year, beginning a new antenna-building campaign to improve Deep Space Network communications. This is part of a NASA project to replace its fleet of 70-meter-wide dishes with a new generation of 34-meter antennas by 2025. Three 70-meter antennas, which are more than 40 years old are located at the NASA Deep Space Network complexes at Goldstone California, Madrid Spain, and Canberra Australia. The new antennas can be used more flexibly, allowing the network to operate on several different frequency bands within the same antenna. Its electronic equipment is more accessible, making maintenance easier and less costly. They also receive higher-frequency, wider-bandwidth signals known as the "Ka band," which allows the newer antennas to carry more data. In the first phase of the project near Canberra, NASA expects to complete the building of up to three 34-meter antennas by 2018. Photo credit: NASA

  • Deep space station 34 (DSS 34) is the latest addition onsite in Canberra. It was constructed in 1997 with the transmission and reception equipment underground rather than on the surface of the dish. This helps to reduce the weight of the dish and allows for maintenance of equipment while the antenna is tracking. Photo credit: NASA

  • The first picture of the moon taken by a US spacecraft, Ranger 7 on July 31, 1964. The area photographed covers about 360km from top to bottom. The Ranger series of spacecraft were designed to take high-quality pictures of the Moon and transmit them to Earth in real time. The images were to be used for scientific study, as well as selecting landing sites for the Apollo Moon missions. Photo credit: NASA

  • The first deep space station was set in Woomera, South Australia (pictured). During the 1960s up to six stations were set up in Australia. Including Muchea, near Perth in Western Australia. It was opened in 1960 for Project Mercury, the first phase of America’s goal to get man on the moon. The first Australian to speak to a space traveller was Gerry O’Connor, a communications technician at Muchea and he spoke to astronaut John Glenn aboard Friendship 7. Photo credit: NASA

  • New Horizons is on its way to Pluto and is expected to arrive in July 2015. Antennas at Australia’s Canberra Deep Space Centre base, will have the first images of Pluto. Photo credit: NASA

  • The decision to begin construction on new antenna building campaign came on the 50th anniversary of U.S. and Australian cooperation in space tracking operations. NASA's goal is to integrate all NASA communications resources into a unified, far more capable network. Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) manages the communication complex near Canberra for NASA. Photo credit: NASA

  • Buz Aldrin (pictured) was the first Lunar Module pilot on Apollo 11 and the second man to set foot on the moon after mission commander Neil Armstrong on July 20 1969. The Canberra centre was responsible for receiving and relaying the first images. Photo credit: NASA

  • Russian Soyuz spacecraft took off on its pad at a Soviet site carrying three cosmonauts. Seven and a half hours later, US Apollo spacecraft was launched with its astronauts. Rendezvous and docking of the two ships was accomplished on July 17 1975. They remained docked for two days, conducting joint experiments and exchanging national mementos. In this photograph, astronauts Donald Slayton and Thomas Stafford chat with cosmonaut Alexei Leonov during their visit to the Soyuz Orbital Module. Photo credit: NASA

  • Cassini was a joint mission that included NASA, Europe and Italian space agencies dedicated to exploring Saturn. It was launched in 2004 and took this picture of Saturn. Photo credit: NASA

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