When we started planning Apollo50 one of the key attractions of the event site was the key role it played in broadcasting the TV pictures of the Moon landing to over 600 million people on that historic day on July 20th 1969.
Initial investigation showed that contrary to many existing news articles such as this one from BT it wasnt ‘Arthur’ or GHY1 that beamed the pictures but the since demolished GHY2.
Whilst discussing this with Robin Ridge from The Goonhilly Heritage Society we were mindful about the facts in our marketing regarding the role Arthur or GHY1 as the Heritage Society prefer for it be called actually played in the Apollo mission. Fast forward a few weeks and we received some interesting news from Robin who had been in contact with NASA….the email is below
I have been in correspondence with NASA, Intelsat and Honeysuckle Creek (Australia) in respect to the exact routing of the TV pictures received from the moon on Neil Armstrong’s historic walk.
This has changed our understanding of what happened – not least in that it was Aerial 1 that received the pictures.
I am more than happy to send you details if you want them for the event.
The details that followed are the below
“To explain the diagram above:
The images were sent from the Moon at 10 frames per second and 320 lines per frame.
The pictures were received directly from the Moon by NASA’s Honeysuckle Creek Tracking Station and the Parkes Observatory in Australia.
They were converted to 525 NTSC at Honeysuckle Creek, and in Sydney, for the Parkes picture.
The world saw the first 8 minutes of TV, including Armstrong’s first step, through Honeysuckle’s 85 ft dish, and then the rest of the broadcast through the larger (210 ft) Parkes dish with its better signal to noise ratio.
The transmission was passed (via Sydney) to the Moree Satellite Earth Station (Australia) for transmission by Geostationary satellite (Intelsat III F4) to Jamesburg Earth Station California where it was sent to Houston via land line.
Due to the (partial) failure of the Atlantic Intelsat III F2 satellite, the pictures were sent from Houston to New York, and then back to Jamesburg, where they were uplinked to the Pacific Intelsat III F4 Satellite, received in Japan, and then sent up to the Indian Ocean Intelsat III F3 Satellite.
These signals were received at Japan’s KDD Ibaraki Satellite Earth Station, and then via the Japanese terrestrial network (operated by NTT) to Yamaguchi Satellite Earth Station (operated by KDD) facing the Intelsat Indian Ocean Region (IOR) satellite.
Through the Indian Ocean satellite, they were finally received at the Goonhilly Satellite Earth Station in Cornwall (Aerial 1). The images were passed via microwave links to London and the BBC, where they were converted to 625 and 405 line for UK distribution and also passed on to the rest of Europe via the BBC.
Meanwhile Aerial 2 at Goonhilly was looking at the Atlantic Ocean (Intelsat 1 “Early Bird), which had been temporarily re-commissioned to pass phone calls over the Atlantic following the partial failure of Intelsat III F2. I believe that Intelsat 1 was carrying telemetry data for the Apollo 11 mission (not confirmed), this data was not for us but just happened to be carried on the Satellite Aerial 2 was looking at. Intelsat 1 “Early Bird” was of course the 1st Geostationary Satellite. The Early Bird satellite was the first to provide direct and nearly instantaneous contact between Europe and North America.
What caused us confusion before was the route above is not entirely what was planned. The images were always intended to be transferred from Houston to New York, but then the intention was to pass them to Andover, Maine (another station famous for the Telstar Experiment with Goonhilly and Plemeur Bodou in France) for broadcast via the Intelsat III F2 Satellite to the UK Goonhilly on Aerial 2. How ever the partial failure of Intelsat III F2 (something to do with mechanical stabilization) meant that the other round the World trip have to be devised.
I have loads of material and I’m trying to put it together logically. I have pictures too which I may try to build something showing pictures of all the sites involved.
Hope this all makes sense.
There is a pdf file here Apollo_11_TV_comparisons showing the difference in image quality as the TV images went around the World (only analogue TV in those days). Also differences in the original and re scanned versions. Intelsat III Satellites covered all Ocean Regions (Pacific, Atlantic, India). The Atlantic Ocean Satellite Intelsat III F2 (F2 = Flight 2) failed, meaning the images had to be routed the other way around the World.