Fifty years ago, the Apollo 11 mission took 600 million humans to the moon for the first time as they watched Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s other worldly voyage on their black and white televisions.

As Apollo 11 touched down on the moon, our kind entered a new era of discovery and innovation.

Across the globe, we celebrated Neil Armstrong’s “one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind” in a moment that still captures our imagination today.

But it may not have been possible without the incredible technological skills of local legend, and now participant in Coastlink’s Aged Care Program, John Watts.

John installed the large-scale purpose-built computer system at the Deakin Telephone Exchange in Canberra that was used to communicate with the Apollo 11 spaceship.

The Australia-wide network was, in fact, the central point of control for all communications
between Australia and NASA for the Apollo program.

It was this system that helped broadcast Armstrong’s first steps live from the moon, over 384,000 kilometres away.

Mr Watts said he was contacted by NASA through his employer to support the Apollo 8 and 11 missions.

“A few days later, I received a call from the NASA Control Centre in the USA saying their people were having trouble contacting the spaceship. We were told to get the system working as soon as possible,” he said.

NASA staff were having issues connecting their equipment to the Australian system, so John and his team worked around the clock, testing and re-testing their equipment to ensure it was
working perfectly.

Their dedication to transmitting clear and accurate data back to NASA meant the whole world could see the first eight minutes of Armstrong’s moonwalk.

“Our work proved the Apollo 11 mission was a success,” said Mr Watts.

In recognition of his support of the first lunar landing, John received a Certificate of Recognition signed by Neil Armstrong, Edwin (Buzz) Aldrin, Michael Collins, and Network Director Dale Collins.

“It was a great reward,” said Mr Watts.

“I also have a piece of the moon somewhere around the house,” he added.

Thanks to John’s work sharing the monumental steps on the moon, the Apollo legacy lives on to inspire the world’s ongoing pursuit of space and new horizons.