Astronaut Snoopy outshines moon landing

I stayed home from school on the day Apollo 11 landed on the moon and listened to Neil Armstrong on the telephone.

Approximately eighteen months earlier, my mother, brother, sister and I arrived in Australia on an ocean liner. We were greeted in Sydney by my father, Martin Geasley, (photo 1) who had just spent three months at the NASA Goddard Space Agency in Maryland USA. He had completed this training to allow him to take up a position as Ground Communications Coordinator at the soon to be opened Honeysuckle Creek Tracking Station, just outside Canberra. He was one of only three men recruited from overseas to work at the station.

1. Photo courtesy of Hamish Lindsay taken from Colin Mackellar’s website “Honeysuckle Creek Tracking Station My father who was promoted to Communications Supervisor in 1968 is seen in the Comms Room receiving data through the hatch that led to the Ops Room.

My father worked 3 shifts: 7 days on; 7 evening shifts; and 7 night shifts with 3 days off in between before it started all over again. This became the routine around which our family operated. Early morning pick-ups outside our house in the distinctive orange or yellow commodore fleet cars; late-night drop offs; and hushed arrivals from school because we knew our father would be sleeping after his night shifts.

Our house had a lot of memorabilia celebrating each Apollo mission and we made frequent trips to Honeysuckle Creek for a Sunday drive. We would marvel at how big the antenna was (photo 2) and knew that its position was vital in maintaining communications with the astronauts. I loved being given some of the ticker tape from the huge computers that hummed and whirred in the computer room.

2. Sunday drive to Honeysuckle Creek Tracking Station – 1968.

When the big day finally arrived, my father rang us at home so we could share first hand this historic event. We each took turns on the phone and our father told us that we were listening to Neil Armstrong’s voice as he was talking to Mission Control. Being eight at the time, I took it in my stride and it was not until many years later that I realised how special and significant this experience had been. At the time I think I was more excited when my father brought home a Snoopy in an astronaut outfit (photo 3) to celebrate the achievements of Apollo 10!

3. Astronaut Snoopy NASA’s semi-official mascot given out to staff for the Apollo 10 mission.

Patricia O’Neil nee Geasley

My personal backstory of the Apollo missions highlights the tireless efforts of the many unsung heroes in Mission Control like my father. I also wanted to acknowledge the major contribution that Australia’s Honeysuckle Creek played in all the missions and the special relationship Peanuts characters had with NASA.