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6 awesome moon-science experiences in Canberra

One small step for man, one giant leap… of astronomical proportions of Canberra science fun. 

 In 1969, Canberra’s Honeysuckle Creek tracking station played a pivotal role in transmitting images of the Apollo 11 moon landing to the world. So it’s a fitting place for families to start to explore the science surrounding the moon. 

Buzz Aldrin’s footprint on the moon. Picture: NASA

If you’re planning a trip to Canberra this year, these six activities will get your family in a space mood.

National Museum of Australia

The National Museum of Australia Canberra.

A fragment of moon rock, a satellite tracking console and a 1969 lunch menu are among the intriguing objects on display at the National Museum of Australia’s Tracking Apollo: 50 years since the moon landing exhibit.

This rock came from the moon. Picture: National Museum of Australia

If you’re there on July 19, you can also attend a panel discussion, led by author Andrew Tink with four of the original Apollo trackers. The talk will cast a spotlight on Canberra’s role in the Apollo missions and the moon landing 50 years ago.

Where: Lawson Cres, Acton ACT
Open: 9am – 5pm

Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex

One Small Step Space Open Day will take place on 21 July at the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex in Tidbinbilla.

Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex.

This is your chance to relive the moment of Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the Moon under the actual antenna dish that helped make that historic moment possible.

Director Dr Ed Kruzins says the complex will feature their lunar sample (10072,80), which at 147.25 grams is the largest Moon rock on public display in Australia.

“At 3.8 billion years old, this rock has been on a long journey from the Moon to the Earth. It was gifted to Australia to symbolise the close links that we have in space exploration with the United States and between CSIRO and NASA,” Dr Kruzins says.

Where: 421 Discovery Dr, Paddys River ACT
Open: 9am – 5pm

See The Moon at Questacon

Lay back in a beanbag and gaze at the moon. Ok, it’s not the actual moon, but this Questacon exhibit is probably the best close up view you will ever see.

The Moon at Questacon

Gaze at The Moon – designed by UK artist Luke Jerram features a 7-metre moon sculpture based on a high-resolution photograph taken from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter camera. It even glows. Find your favourite crater (there are more than 30,000) or where the Apollo missions landed.

Visit the Apollo 11, 50th-anniversary exhibition and you can discover the work of the mathematicians, engineers and scientists that achieved what many thought was impossible. Discover how gravity affects weight, the importance of thrust in rocketry, and how to balance a space capsule to achieve a perfect landing and launch a pinball “rocket” to the moon. 

Questacon is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the moon landing with a Mid-Winter Nights event (10 to 13 July) where you can dance under the moon, stargaze, get creative with space crafts.

Every day between July 1 and July 19, Questacon will also run Moon Adventure – an interactive holiday displace where families can launch off in a rocket to the moon. Note – Questacon recommends this activity for kids aged 3-7. 

Where:  King Edward Terrace, Parkes
Open: 9am-5pm

 Arc Cinema screening films about the moon

National Film and Sound Archive

The National Film and Sound Archive will screen moon-related movies on 19 and 20 July. 

Four movies will screen including Dark Side of the MoonThe DishIn Case you Missed it: the Moon Landing and First Man.  

The archive also holds a rare copy of the original film of the moon landing. If you have three hours you can watch it on YouTube below. Or at least a little bit. 

 Mount Stromlo Observatory stargazing

Mount Stromlo Observatory and day visitor centre

Rug up and venture out under the night sky to see the moon in all its glory at Mount Stromlo Observatory.

In conjunction with Canberra Astronomical Society & ANU, Mount Stromlo Observatory runs free public stargazing nights and lectures.

Mount Stromlo Observatory

Check out their Moon Week program (17-21 July) which includes astronomy nights and space bus tours. Come and see the rings of Saturn, the craters of the moon, and beautiful star clusters and nebulae. On the night attendees will be taken on a ‘tour of the universe’ with talks by NASA scientists and observations on several telescopes.

Make sure you check out the outdoor display which depicts the features of the surface of the Moon. 

“One of the hidden gems of the ANU Mt Stromlo Observatory is our Moon sculpture, which recreates the side of our nearest neighbour in the solar system,” Dr Brad Tucker,  from the Australian National University’s Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics says. 

“Our Moon sculpture allows you to not only touch a piece of the Moon but to walk on it – experiencing first-hand the wonders of space and what it is like to take one small step, and one giant leap.”

Where: Mount Stromlo Road, Stromlo ACT
Open: 8am – 6pm

Touch the moon

Head to Geoscience Australia and you can touch a piece of real moon rock. This is the only lunar touchstone in the Southern Hemisphere.

Geoscience Australia’s Curator Steve Petkovski says the lunar touchstone (Sample 70215) is on long-term loan from NASA and is one of only 11 in the world.

“We’re really privileged to be the only place in the Southern Hemisphere where visitors can now touch a Moon rock that was specially brought back from an Apollo mission, rather than a piece that fell to Earth as a meteorite,” Mr Petkovski says.

“The touchstone is a sample of a mare basalt Moon rock collected from the last Apollo 17 mission in 1972 and is now available for the public to touch at our new display.”

Explore the Moon Rock Trail

Explore the moon at your own pace in the Canberra-wide Moon Rock Trail. The trail combines all the moon-related activities in Canberra into one handy guide. 

Want more? Try these stories:

The best things to do in Canberra with kids

Best annual family events in Canberra

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