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The cornflakes always went quickly. Bigger serves, second helpings. Anything to get through the box so it could be replaced.
It wasn't that I liked them; they tasted like cardboard. No, it was the little model inside the box that drove my hunger. Would it be the command module Columbia? The lunar module? Perhaps the Saturn V rocket.
Like millions of people across the world, my gaze was fixed on the heavens and the Apollo space program. It consumed our lives. Every little detail was savoured - especially as a wide-eyed child.
Time, Newsweek, National Geographic - the magazines covering the mission to the moon were pored over until they fell apart. Most likely cancelled now, Herge's Tintin books Destination Moon and Explorers on the Moon were read over and over again. Lights out and a glow-in-the-dark solar system stuck to the wall brought space inside, casting a faint green light over those little models from the cornflakes packets lined up on the bookshelf in my bedroom.
The moon landing came and went in 1969. And for three years after, subsequent missions with moon rovers kept the wonder of space travel alive.
Since then, we've sent machines to Mars, to asteroids, to do fly-bys of Jupiter and other distant planets. New telescopes have enabled us to peer back in time to the birth of the universe. Astonishing photos have been sent back to earth. We've even heard what Mars sounds like, thanks to the extraordinary technological advances made since Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon.
But nothing has stirred the imagination quite like Apollo. That's because people were sent, not just machines.
Half a century on and that old excitement is stirring again, for me anyway, thanks to the Artemis program.
In Greek mythology, Artemis is the twin sister of Apollo, the goddess of the moon and the hunt.
The Artemis space program will lay the groundwork for humans to return to the moon. The Orion spacecraft, unmanned as it's tested, has ventured further into deep space than any craft designed to carry humans.
The plan is to land people on the moon in 2024, including the first woman and person of colour. From there, a base will be built as a stepping stone to the first manned mission to Mars. Exploration is about to come alive.
Yet, this important story gets lost in the crowded day-to-day news environment, even though the Canberra Deep Space Communications Complex at Tidbinbilla is again playing a critical role. It's one of three tracking stations in NASA's Deep Space Network and the only one in the southern hemisphere. In 1969, it was the first to receive the grainy black and white images of Neil Armstrong stepping onto the surface of the moon.
This time around it's receiving biometric data from sensors placed on mannequins - astronaut analogues - inside the Orion test craft, measuring radiation levels and temperature changes among other things. The information it receives is critical for the planning of the subsequent manned missions.
For an old curmudgeon who grew up amid the excitement of the Apollo era, the return of humans to space exploration has reawakened that little boy within. The countdown to 2024 has begun.
HAVE YOUR SAY: Were you around during the Apollo program? Did it excite you? Did you watch the live coverage of Neil Armstrong making that first small step on the moon? Is space exploration worth the cost? Will you be following the Artemis program when it sends people back to the moon? Email us: firstname.lastname@example.org
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IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:
- Cancelled flights and long queues are set to frustrate passengers heading into Christmas season as aviation firefighters go on strike over safety concerns. Firefighters will walk off the job between 6am and 10am on December 9, at 27 airports where aviation rescue firefighting services are stationed. Domestic and international flights will be disrupted as the country heads into the peak holiday period, with all travel restrictions relaxed in recent months. United Firefighters Union Aviation Branch secretary Wes Garrett said the stop-work action comes after 100 staff were cut last year from government-owned Airservices Australia, the body responsible for keeping safe 11 per cent of the world's airspace.
- Aboriginal activist and lawyer Noel Pearson says the National Party's decision to not support the Voice to Parliament is a "complete turnaround", and likened leader David Littleproud to a "kindergarten kid". Mr Pearson said he was "very surprised" by the National Party's announcement that it would not support an enshrined Indigenous voice in Parliament through a referendum. "Out of all the political parties, the Nationals have been the most supportive of the idea of the Voice. Better than some Labor Party people, and this has been my experience for the last 10 years," Mr Pearson said on ABC radio.
- Millions of dollars worth of fines issued in NSW for breaching COVID-19 restrictions have been withdrawn by the states' revenue agency. NSW Revenue said 33,121 fines would be withdrawn following a landmark decision in the Supreme Court. A total of 62,138 COVID-19-related fines were issued. Refunds will also be given to those that have already paid the fines, which total millions of dollars. The announcement came roughly an hour after Justice Dina Yehia told a NSW Supreme Court hearing in Sydney she would order refunds be given for two fines issued during 2021 public health lockdowns.
THEY SAID IT: "Who are we? We find that we live on an insignificant planet of a humdrum star lost in a galaxy tucked away in some forgotten corner of a universe in which there are far more galaxies than people." - Carl Sagan
YOU SAID IT: Pork barrelling, porkies and poor politics. Parties of both persuasions seem incapable of weaning themselves off it.
David says: "An unhealthy alliance between Labor and the Coalition to exclude pork barrelling from the national anti-corruption commission tells us that these swine not only need to but also enjoy, getting their snouts in the trough at election time. The practice would be easy to eliminate by legislating that no politician can directly allocate funds and that an independent apolitical group is set up to review all projects, grade them on merit, and allocate funds according to greatest need and national benefit. Impacting the need to retain pork barrelling is the short three-year term of the federal government; a fixed four- or five-year term must also be implemented as a matter of urgency."
Erik sees the cause and offers a solution: "Emasculate the public service, put in sycophantic 'advisers' and you have a recipe for ministerial indiscretion. Nothing should be 'promised' that has not been through some sort of review, and ministerial overrides should be kept to (say) 5 per cent of the total spend. The Auditor-General needs to publish regular reports on how much money is actually spent in each electorate."
Arthur says voters should shoulder some of the blame: "The success of pork barrelling relies on our own selfish attitudes. It reflects the attitude 'Me first, good for Australia irrelevant'. Echidna, you said it, great for the marginal seats but the whole country is poorer for the practice. Pork barrelling will continue until there is a change in priorities to put Australia first, both us and the politicians, but I cannot imagine that happening any time soon. I live west of the dividing range. The recent budget in which funding for dams and other infrastructure to the benefit of country areas was redistributed to major population centres is a prime example. I do not know if it was based on being good for Australia or good for the Labor Party but I suspect the latter."
Peter from north Queensland has a different take on dam funding: "Loved your article on pork barrelling - I have sent it on to many people up here. The Liberal-National Party have held the seat of Herbert centred on Townsville in every election bar one since 1996. In the 2019 election, Cathy O'Toole won the seat for Labor with a margin of 37 votes. Currently the three state seats are all held by Labor so Herbert is certainly a marginal seat. At the federal election earlier this year Scott Morrison promised us $5.4 billion for Hells Gates Dam to keep Herbert and several other marginal NQ seats in the fold. Never mind there is no way the project can stack up economically - when has that ever got in the way of a good pork barrelling opportunity? And Hells Gates Dam has been wonderful for consultants who have earned millions of dollars carrying out a number of business case studies that have not been able to make the numbers work. The latest cost $28 million and basically concludes 'build it and they will come'."
Bob says: "Pork barrelling will never be stopped. It's in our pollies' DNA. And wasn't it former Labor pollie Ros Kelly who worked out a sports rort on a famous whiteboard (and not a coloured spreadsheet)?"
Rick takes issue: "As an elector in Gilmore, I take exception to several things in your article. Calling our member a lowly backbencher is really insulting. She is a member of the government and won, for the second time, this marginal seat. The money for road upgrades and bypasses is absolutely necessary for this area which has severe traffic problems, especially through holiday seasons. The number of fatalities on the highway is up there with the worst roads in the state and the congestion during the bushfires had to be seen to be believed. The need for emergency management centres was a result of these bushfires. The government put a submission to the Fair Work Commission saying they would support a pay increase for aged care workers and the commission agreed. We voted the way we did to get rid of the corruption and dishonesty of the worst government Australia has had and a PM that treated Australians with contempt."