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Home / Science / The Dish, an Australian film about the role of the Parkes Observatory during the moon landing.

The Dish, an Australian film about the role of the Parkes Observatory during the moon landing.

  John McMartin and Sam Neill in The Dish

John McMartin and Sam Neill in The Dish .

Warner Bros.

Neil Armstrong's small step to the moon may have been a big step for humanity, watched by 600 million people around the world, but the Apollo-11 mission itself always seemed a distinctly American undertaking to be – a victory for the US in the space race and a feat of American ingenuity and American heroes. (The flag does not help.) But the words the moon heard around the world came from an Australian sheep farm.

This is the story of The Dish of an Australian comedy from the year 2000, which gives a somewhat fictitious version of the role of the Rural Parkes Observatory in relaying the lunar module's audio and telemetry signals to a global audience , With Sam Neill, Tom Long and Kevin Harrington as observatory technicians, and Patrick Warburton as a strained NASA overseer, the film follows the days before July 20, 1969, when the extremely Australian inhabitants of Parkes wait for the moon landing and their momentum (or next to) the world stage.

The Dish does not have the same place in the Australian canon as its brother movie The Castle (both were produced by Working Dog Productions and staged by Rob Sitch), but it was the Australian movie, which brought the highest revenue this year, and an important, amusing homage to the often forgotten supporting role that Parkes played in one of the most important events of the 20th century – not to mention the pressure that went along with it. A reporter who interviews Parkes' three chief engineers puts it in the film: "I mean, no offense, but if you think about it, the Americans spent billions of dollars for 10 years running people around on the moon see and in the end it sucks you nonsense. How does that feel?"

"You know that there is a bloody moon up there ."

– Ben Lam

Although this is not a documentary, watching the comedy will help you better understand how the major show came about. The film often seeks to explain the process and explain why the huge observatory of this small town (informally known as "the court") became so important for the moon landing – through media reports, children giving class lectures, and a much-mocked analogy above it a basketball with two valves. The film contains beautiful images of the real Parkes Observatory, which is still in use today. On the occasion of the anniversary, an external screening of the film is even shown. A scene in which technicians play a round of cricket on the Dish and complain that the Americans do not treat them like professionals was shot on the actual Dish, while the reconstructed 1969 control room set was so close to the original The People who were involved in the broadcast said it was like a time jump – some of the props were original NASA equipment left in Australia.
Nevertheless, it is better known for his comedy than for his accuracy with a series of adornments and omissions.

The technicians of the film are fictional figures, and in the real Parkes, far more people worked than in the movie Parkes, in which apparently only three employees (plus a Doofus security guard) are employed. The real Parkes electrician Ben Lam, who worked at the Observatory in 1969, received a script during production and was asked to point out any inaccuracies. "When I was done, almost all the pages were yellow," he recently told the ABC (the Australian). Above all, it plays the role of the equally rural Honeysuckle Creek Tracking Station, which was responsible for broadcasting the program's first eight minutes and fifty seconds – including Neil Armstrong, who descends the ladder and lays his feet on the moon – when the moon is up Comes too low for Parkes to receive his signal. Then Prime Minister John Gorton – like most politicians in the film – did not visit Parkes, even though he made a surprise visit to Honeysuckle Creek that same day.

People often forget Australia's small role in landing the moon, as the film's opening illustrates – years after the event, an elderly Sam Neill gazes nostalgically at the bowl, only to learn that he's been going in the wrong direction is a young construction site worker who has no idea who he is before we film the US fanfare associated with the moon landing more often. The Australia-U.S. Contrast is based on much of the suspense and comedy contained in The Dish . Observatory staff collide with the NASA representative who follows the rules and wears a suit. He does not seem to trust their calculations or judgments. The film accurately and amusingly portrays the inferiority complex of Australia, be it the mayor and his wife, who are wondering about a visit from the American ambassador and wondering if they should call him "your excellency" or a Parkes technician against what he feels as American condescension:

"You treat us like a pack of Galahs!"

"This is some kind of parrot," interjects another Aussie.

"Just because I do not wear a tie and do not spend all day burying my head in a manual does not mean that I'm a drongo!"

"That's hopeless -"

"I have the idea," says the American.

But there are also tensions over how much the Australians should let themselves be commanded by intrusive NASA ami in their own workplace, and a noticeable pressure not to screw up anything so they will not be taken away from the task (and honor). "We'll be the punchline of a joke," says the mayor as they try to disguise the fact that they have temporarily lost the coordinates of Apollo 11.

While the Parkes scientists are all expert technicians, the film also expresses the stereotype of the Australians as unprofessional Larrikins: the Prime Minister, who is totally driven insane by a call from Nixon, a briefing document. "You know, I do not read those damn things! ") Or the mayor, whose little son must explain to him that the start at the start party is going well. And though they feel the pressure, the Australian scientists are much calmer in their work than the NASA bureaucrats, playing cricket on their plates and "shitting NASA" – not to mention the American ambassador – when things go wrong. Although Parkes could not receive any signal in the first eight minutes of the broadcast because of the lunar position, it was in fact a American observatory – Goldstone in California – that messed it up with day, with human error in the midst of the excitement which led to a wrong image and caused NASA to turn to their Australian stations.

While the inferiority complex and the need for impres- sion create a great comedy, it is not clear how real that pressure was. As Parkes electrician Lam told ABC this week, "It was just a normal business day for us, and knowing the guy's going to the moon, oh fair enough, they know there's a bloody moon up there." In many Apollo 1 1 films, success or failure means life or death.In The Dish there are no life-or-death moments that make it funny to think about the mishaps and the near-glitches of the global event toast the colorful Australian city on the ground – after all, you know there's a bloody moon up there.

future tense
is a partnership of
New America and
University of Arizona
This examines new technologies, public order and society.

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