Special Guest Speaker- John Sarkissian

“Dishing up the Data: Parkes and Apollo 11” with John Sarkissian

Wednesday the 4th of September, 2019
7pm in the Main Lecture Theatre
La Trobe University, Wodonga.

The Australian film, The Dish, highlighted the role played by the Parkes Radio Telescope in tracking and communicating with the Apollo 11 mission. However, the events depicted in this film represent only a single snapshot of the role played by Parkes in the exploration of the Solar System by NASA.

As the fledgling Deep Space Network was being established in the early 1960s, one of the world's major radio telescope facilities was being built at Parkes, in western New South Wales. This 64-metre diameter dish, designed and operated by the CSIRO, was well-suited for deep space tracking work: its design was in fact, the inspiration for the 64-meter dishes of the Deep Space Network.


From Mariner 2 in 1962 to Voyager 2 in 2019, the Parkes Radio Telescope has been contracted by NASA on many occasions to support interplanetary spacecraft. The highlight of the NASA support was its critical role in the Apollo lunar landing missions. In July 1969, the Parkes telescope brought TV pictures of the historic Apollo 11 moonwalk to 600 million viewers world-wide (1/6th of mankind at the time). This talk will describe the Parkes Telescope’s role in the Apollo 11 mission, and the impact it has had on tracking spacecraft in deep space, generally.


John Sarkissian OAM, is an Operations Scientist at the CSIRO Parkes Radio Observatory. His main responsibilities are the science operations at the radio telescope, and the support of remote astronomers with their observations. In addition, he is involved in pulsar research - an exciting field of radio astronomy.


John is a member of the ATNF Science Operations Team which provides the front-line support for the CSIRO’s Australia Telescope National Facility (ATNF) telescopes. Since 2003, John has been a member of the small, informal team searching for the missing Apollo 11 slow-scan TV tapes. From 1998-1999, John acted as a technical advisor for the feature film, "The DISH".


John came to Parkes, in 1996, on an 11-month contract to support the Galileo Mission to Jupiter. He managed the Galileo spacecraft tracking operations at the observatory and performed 1/3 of the daily tracking duties. John has received NASA Group Achievement Awards for his work on "The Parkes Radio Telescope X-band Upgrade Task Team" in 2004, "The Huygens Probe Earth Detection Team" in 2005 and "The DSN-Parkes MSL EDL Support Team" in 2013. John has also received official NASA commendations for his Galileo support in 1997 and for the search of the missing Apollo 11 SSTV tapes, in 2010.