WATCHING live vision of man first set foot on the moon captivated people across Ballarat in what many say remains one of the most remarkable feats in history they have seen play out. The moon landing took place 12.58pm Ballarat time, on July 21, 1969. That moment still evokes vivid memories for prominent Ballarat leaders who spoke to The Courier.
Long-time Ballarat Netball Association coach and primary school teacher Jo Dash said the nuns at St Martin's in the Pines, where she was in form five at the time, were ahead of their time in education in how they approached the moon landing.
"This is history, they told us, and the message was who knows what the future would bring now this step was made. They clearly recognised the importance of what was happening," Ms Dash said. "I distinctly remember the whole of forms five and six, the boarders and day scholars, all gathered with the Sister of Mercy in a big recreation room and watched what was a big television for then. It was quite amazing, everyone crowding around."
That same moment, John Burt was gathering all the students at his one-teacher school into a room to watch history. Fernihurst - north of Bendigo and South of Boort - had no phone but it had a black-and-white television to watch the moon landing live.
It was his first year out teaching with 39 pupils transfixed in this lesson, well before his time as Ballarat mayor and Ballarat Specialist School principal.
"I saw a snippet on the news this morning and can hardly believe it's 50 years ago," Mr Burt said. "How advanced technology-wise were were 50 years ago. It was an incredible feat."
Radio personality Peter Caligari had popped home on his lunch break. Paul, his eldest and only child at the time, was standing in front of the television saying "moon" over and over.
"He was a bit over two years old but I suppose that's the thing my wife Ola and I remember most," Mr Caligari said. "It intrigued us someone so young seemed so fascinated by the moon - He was more fascinated than we were."
For Wadawarrung elder Murray Harrison, the moon landing seemed like his childhood American science-fiction comic strip hero Buck Rogers coming to life.
Uncle Murray said those who worked on the mission were brave to make what was a fantasy into a reality: from creating a rocket that worked in two stages, getting into outer space and getting to the destination, to ensuring there was enough fuel to return back to Earth and to achieve man landing on the moon with little time to play around.
"Timing and calculations were so precise," Uncle Murray said. "People working on the ground were just as important as people up in the air, perhaps more so. To get there so exactly - in my lifetime to witness such an event is totally amazing.
"...To actually see lift-off, then the time it took to get there and preparation before going down to the moon's surface, it really was like from science fiction. This is one of the few really historic events in people's lives."
Ballarat Observatory manager Judith Bailey said it was remarkable "watching someone walking on another astronomical body other than Earth", and such a moment hard to match in space exploration.
Long before her observatory days, Ms Bailey watched the moon landing on a little television at Castle Hill High School, north of Paramatta.
Ms Bailey was a student passionate about science but said this event captivated everyone, particularly in New South Wales with the Parkes radio telescope's role in transmitting data to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in the United States.
On the other side of the world, Janet Dorewas similarly marvelling at such an historic moment on a small black-and-white television at her home in England. The moon landing was in the early morning hours for the United Kingdom but Ms Dore woke up to the major news and vision.
"I just couldn't believe something was happening so far away," the former Committee for Ballarat chairman said. "I remember worrying about them, worrying about getting them back safely. But it was just tremendous."
Geoff Howard has been talking to his children the past couple of weeks about that moment and what it meant to the world.
The former Buninyong state MP first started a career as a science teacher but in 1969 was in his early years of secondary school. He watched the moon landing live with his brothers - school had sent them home for the day, unable to fit all students before limited access to small televisions.
"Most people forget there were seven other lunar landings with walks on the moon. These made the news but we didn't all watch so closely - the first one was clearly quite remarkable," Mr Howard said. "To think it was so long ago and to look back on it and the technology that has followed is amazing."
Mr Howard said this was an incredible period for science. He and his brothers were all in awe of the moon landing but each pursued science in different ways.
"Scientists were greatly respected at the time, the work they were doing. The moon landing was part of that," Mr Howard said. "It's a bit different today with people doubting scientific work on climate change, scientists aren't held in quite as high regard."
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