A special town in regional NSW is approaching the 50th anniversary of its very special place in world history.

When Neil Armstrong and Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin landed on the Moon in 1969, the first images from another planetary body were relayed to the world by the Honeysuckle Creek Tracking Station near Canberra, and the Parkes radio telescope.

‘The Dish’ as it came to be known in popular culture helped 600 million people worldwide watch mankind’s giant leap live on television.

Deputy Prime Minister and local Member for Riverina Michael McCormack said To this day the Parkes Telescope still works hand in hand with NASA.

“There are a few moments in time that have made a permanent mark on history. One such moment is July 21, 1969 — when man made the impossible possible and first walked on the Moon,” Mr McCormack said. “The Parkes Radio Telescope — known locally as ‘The Dish’ — played a critical role in the lunar landing, receiving images from the Moon and transmitting them to 600 million people around the world. Adapted into one of Australia’s most iconic films, the tenacity and courage of the team at Parkes has been immortalised for future generations as a true demonstration of the Australian spirit.”

“Without a team of Australian scientists and engineers working in the middle of a sheep paddock just outside of Parkes, the historical moment would never have been captured for us watching at home, work or school — or for the future generations who still watch breathlessly as Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walk across the Moon’s surface.”

The Dish still stands 20 kilometres north of Parkes off the Newell Highway. Year after year tourists from across the globe flock to the site, standing in the shadow of the telescope that continues to play a critical role in our exploration of the galaxy.

To this day the Parkes Telescope still works hand in hand with NASA, tracking space craft to Uranus and Neptune as part of Voyager 2.

Most recently, from November 2018 to February 2019, the telescope tracked Voyager 2 as it crossed the heliopause – the solar system’s boundary – and entered interstellar space – the region of space between the stars, more than 18 billion kilometres from Earth.

“The ingenuity, tenacity and courage displayed by our scientists has become synonymous with the town of Parkes,” Mr McCormack said. “Because, while The Dish may draw tourists to the town, it is the vibrant local community that leaves a permanent impression on its visitors.”

Since its first days as a gold settlement community, Parkes has grown and thrived. From the world renowned Parkes Elvis Festival that now attracts more than 27,000 fans, to the National Logistics Hub, Parkes has seized the opportunities it has been given to cement itself as a vibrant regional centre.

“Late last year I turned the first sod on the Melbourne to Brisbane Inland Rail — a transformational feat of planning, design and construction — near Parkes,” Mr McCormack said. “It is this Government’s commitment to sustainable, long-term economic growth for towns such as Parkes that continues to drive this once-in-a-generation infrastructure project. Our Government is one that believes Australian aspiration and ingenuity should be encouraged and rewarded — so it is only fitting that Australia’s Space Agency celebrates its first birthday this month. Space is the new jobs frontier – opening up a galaxy of opportunities for Australian scientists and researchers, some of who will end up working in Parkes.”

The Nationals in Government is investing more than $73 million into the Space Agency and its programs with a goal of tripling the size of our space industry to $12 billion by 2030 and creating up to 20,000 new jobs. It’s all part of our plan to boost the economy and help to create a further 1.25 million jobs over the next five years.

“The industry and entrepreneurial spirit of regional centres such as Parkes have shaped modern Australia,” Mr McCormack said. “Fifty years ago the small Central West town played a critical role in Australian — and global — history. And with long-term, sustainable development in the region, Parkes will continue to play an instrumental role in Australia’s future.”