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Here is a one-of-a-kind 16mm positive print spliced reel that depicts operations at the NASA Ground Communications System gathering telemetry data and tracking information during the Apollo 11 mission. We see live video feeds from the Moon being recorded on a 2" Quad recorder, take a visit to the bustling NASCOM Headquarters at the Goddard Spaceflight Center, see lots of shots of the various ground tracking stations around the world, look at the ARIA (Apollo Range Instrumented Aircraft) which hosts a 7 foot S-Band tracking dish in its nose and is filled with telemetry recorders and relay equipment, and ends with a visit to Mission Control in Houston and a look inside the display console control room and an ending shot of a live video feed from the Apollo 11 Command Module. Enjoy!
This reel was transferred from my own 16mm archive print using my Eiki Telecine. The Eiki projects a 24fps print at 30 frames per second for a flickerless NTSC transfer. A special diffusion plate eliminates the 'hot spot' of the projector, and the sound is pulled right from the optical track.
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#Apollo #NASA #Moon
- Intro Music by Fran Blanche -
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By Fran

17 thoughts on “Apollo 11 tracking systems 1969”
  1. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Laura Halliday says:

    The earliest Apollo mission I remember in detail was Apollo 8, though as a 7 year old my thought was that it must have really sucked to be away from home for Christmas. Project Apollo and Star Trek inspired me to the STEM career that has served me well.

    The first time I visited Australia I got a good deal on a one-way car rental from Melbourne to Sydney and visited Parkes. My first view of the Magellanic Clouds was from a highway rest area just south of Echuca, Victoria.

  2. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Shannon says:

    Fran! Can you tell me about the rounded corners on the film frames? There's a movie (uh, Gamera 3, it's a good time!) that occasionally has scenes that have rounded edges and I feel like movies usually don't display any sign of the film stock.

  3. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Bulldog Brower says:

    Hello Fran, with today’s modern communications systems, is it still necessary to track a spacecraft in orbit once it reaches orbit altitude. “Once an object is placed in motion it will remain in motion”. I realize that they were tracking trajectory for lunar insertion also, but with modern guidance computers using stars and radar, is this expense necessary ?

  4. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Tom Schmidt says:

    As impressive at the moon landings were in and of themselves I've always been impressed with the amount of "back office" involved in tracking and command and control. Seeing all the specialized equipment involved I've often wondered what percentage of the cost was in the the rocketry vs the infrastructure on earth.

  5. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars haydar21 says:

    I would love to see more scenes of the personnel working at Goddard. My father was a programmer at Goddard during this time and I was trying to see if he might have been shown somewhere. Unfortunately he died when I was 11 so I never got to talk to him about his time there.
    But one of my strongest memories as a child was him taking me into his work area behind the big thick doors and letting me play on the paper tape machine.

  6. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Colin Nomadic Van Life says:

    Year i was born ! The Summer Of 69 July too , Love what you do Fran , i hope the next life i marry a woman just like you , your my high power capacitor with no diodes to block my current just direct not fickle or alternating heee xx i mean well with respect x

  7. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Rusty Chapman says:

    Thanks Fran, as an 11 year old kid, back in '69, I couldn't get enough of the Space Program. Now, as an Ol' Fud, all of this classic video is being published, and by a kid from back then. Cool, thanks again Fran.

  8. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Börli Bär says:

    well, interpretation of data creates information. interpretation (story telling) needs critical thinking based on knowledge, life experience and finally wisdom for getting true information out of any data. EYES WIDE SHUT

  9. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars vhgcgfcjk says:

    hi,the Golf Delta Alpha 585 48 tri station radio retransmitter in Western Australia at Muchea an hour to 1/2hr drive north of perth a coastal sand plain village with a high damp water table allowed a great ground plain for the radio re-transmitter dish.The shed under it was put on my dads farm block afterwards and is still going strong.Not sure where the dish went to personally but was told it went to the met centre at bickley for astronomy.There is another new dish up the Great Northern Hwy for Mars relays and another Nasa timeframe 1960-70's dish at Carnarvon WA.Not to forget the ULF pulse array at Exmouth among other things going.

  10. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Scott Thomas says:

    All things considered, the Apollo mission was just flat out amazing from many standpoints. This little film is a jewel in and of itself…a behind the scenes glimpse of what was necessary to make it all work…

  11. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Jonny Fandango says:

    Thanks, Fran! If it's up your alley, I'd love to see any info you might come across regarding the microwave radar systems in the Apollo and Gemini missions. My grandpa recently passed away and it wasn't until going through his papers that I found he'd had been involved in those systems while working for Westinghouse in the 50s-80s. I'd love to share some of the papers and certificates I've found if you're interested!

  12. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars PSYLΛS says:

    There is an intact tracking station near where I live in NC, a non-profit managed to buy it before it was demolished. They turned into a science education / research center. I can only imagine what the walls would say if they could talk!

    Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute, for those curious

  13. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Ray Swick says:

    Now there is a one of a kind video and very good narration without any script. Just intelligent observation. Thank you Fran for sharing.

  14. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Bill Kerr says:

    Cool Stuff! It is great that you are recording these films before they deteriorate completely. So much Hollywood film has been lost. There is certain to be lots of NASA archival stuff that is wasting away untouched in warehouses.

  15. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Jon Dhuse says:

    Hi! Curious Marc did a few episodes on his channel about the S-band radio system that was used to track and communicate between Apollo and the ground… pretty interesting and a nice addition to what you have presented here. Thanks Fran!

  16. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars James Baloun says:

    Fran. Yet another great historic film.
    Some of the footage is, of course, people doing the tasks of helping operate the ground control system. However at least a few of the scenes may be more representative where one of the system operators pushed some buttons for the camera. Or maybe even pushed a Tektronix for the camera. But then, the real footage is usually not so dramatic. Oh well. It might give the lay-person a distorted impression of the scientific-technical world. I my little corner of the engineering world, I probably appear very un-dramatic at any random minute of the day, but inside I might be thinking about something very interesting. There are times when I have to attend to tedious tasks that are not very fun and other times when the work is extremely rewarding.

  17. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars LapTop006 says:

    The land-based tracking antennas are almost certainly the three main DSN sites, first probably Honeysuckle Creek (later moved north a few kilometers to Tidbinbilla) near Canberra (Australia), then Goldstone (California, US), then lastly Madrid (Spain).

    The vegetation is the giveaway for the first two, and the signs for the third.

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