‘There’s a piece of the Gold Coast on the moon’

 

NEIL Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins.

Three men who are universally known and whose deeds are synonymous with greatness.

It was 50 years ago this weekend that the three astronauts of the Apollo 11 mission arrived at the Moon, with Armstrong and Aldrin travelling to its surface.

The crew of the Apollo 11, from left, Neil Armstrong, commander; Michael Collins, module pilot; Edwin E.
The crew of the Apollo 11, from left, Neil Armstrong, commander; Michael Collins, module pilot; Edwin E. "Buzz" Aldrin, lunar module pilot. (NASA via AP)

Hundreds of millions of people watched on as Armstrong climbed out of the landing module, down the ladder and set foot on the moon, uttering the iconic phrase "it's one small step for man … one giant leap for mankind".

Now, five decades on, the events of July 20-21 1969 are the stuff of legends.

Many Gold Coasters will have strong memories of that Sunday and Monday when man landed on the moon.

There are countless stories people's every day lives being interrupted to see that grainy black-and-white footage.

Neil Armstrong steps onto the surface of the moon. (NASA via AP)
Neil Armstrong steps onto the surface of the moon. (NASA via AP)

Business was put on hold, French exams were paused and everyone came together to see the moment once believed impossible.

Excitement for the moon landing reached fever pitch on the Coast in the days leading up to the Eagle's landing in the Sea of Tranquillity.

It was front page news for the Gold Coast Bulletin on Friday, July 18.

Gold Coast Bulletin 1969, July 18. Front page.
Gold Coast Bulletin 1969, July 18. Front page.

The Bulletin reported that the city had "leapt into the moon travel age with the help of vital communication links provided by a Gold Coast radio station and the Southport post office".

The post office was one of network of "nerve centres" through which television signals showing the event would pass before being beamed into local homes.

Radio station 4GG also provided live audio of the landing.

Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong, right, trudges across the surface of the moon leaving behind footprints. The U.S. flag, planted on the surface by the astronauts, can be seen between Armstrong and the lunar module. Edwin E. Aldrin is seen closer to the craft. The men reported the surface of the moon was like soft sand and they left footprints several inches deep wherever they walked. (NASA via
Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong, right, trudges across the surface of the moon leaving behind footprints. The U.S. flag, planted on the surface by the astronauts, can be seen between Armstrong and the lunar module. Edwin E. Aldrin is seen closer to the craft. The men reported the surface of the moon was like soft sand and they left footprints several inches deep wherever they walked. (NASA via

It was also reported that the state Education Minister, Alan Fletcher, requested that schools not keep children back to allow them the opportunity to watch.

Armstrong and Aldrin's landing went off without a hitch and the Bulletin reported that the Gold Coast was "paralysed" by moon fever.

"Examinations were postponed and thousands of children were sent home or stayed in classrooms to watch history," the Bulletin reported.

Gold Coast Bulletin 1969, July 22. Front page.
Gold Coast Bulletin 1969, July 22. Front page.

"As America's space-age Christopher Columbus, astronaut Neil Armstrong took his first shadowy steps onto the desolate lunar surface at 12.54pm and 24 seconds, only a few people continued to walk the city's 'ghost town' streets."

Fever-pitch interest began in the early hours of July 21 as people woke at 3.30am to watch the coverage of the lunar module's landing but were frustrated by interruptions to the signal.

Buzz Aldrin stands next to the Passive Seismic Experiment device on the surface of the moon during the Apollo 11 mission. (Neil Armstrong/NASA via AP)
Buzz Aldrin stands next to the Passive Seismic Experiment device on the surface of the moon during the Apollo 11 mission. (Neil Armstrong/NASA via AP)

At 6.18am they got their wish and saw as Armstrong took manual control of the craft and guided it to the surface.

Throughout the day, schools chose to either send students home or cancel planned exams in favour of watching the coverage together.

At St Hildas, exams were postponed and eight televisions were set up for students and staff to watch..

Principal Helen Granowski said she would not count the day as a proper school day.

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Neil Armstrong, Apollo 11 commander, sits inside the Lunar Module after he and Buzz Aldrin completed their extravehicular activity on the surface of the moon. (Buzz Aldrin/NASA via AP)
Neil Armstrong, Apollo 11 commander, sits inside the Lunar Module after he and Buzz Aldrin completed their extravehicular activity on the surface of the moon. (Buzz Aldrin/NASA via AP)

Meanwhile, at The Southport School (TSS), students watch the coverage at lunch but were forced to sit their exams through the afternoon.

In a perhaps far-fetched story, the Bulletin reported that it was possible that part of the Gold Coast was on the moon.

That was the statement of Mr J Pinter, the managing director of Southport company Associated Minerals Consolidated Ltd.

Buzz Aldrin poses for a photograph beside the U.S. flag on the moon during the Apollo 11 mission. (Neil Armstrong/NASA via AP)
Buzz Aldrin poses for a photograph beside the U.S. flag on the moon during the Apollo 11 mission. (Neil Armstrong/NASA via AP)

"90 per cent of the world's titanium comes from Australia and titanium is a vital metal used in the spacecraft as a harder," he said.

No direct link was ever established.

Now 50 years on, the legacy of Apollo 11 remains strong.

Alrdin and Collins are still alive while Armstrong died in 2012.