I had no idea of the ingenuity and collaboration behind the Apollo Moon program. Nor how Australia helped NASA share the TV images of this 'giant leap', which was made possible by the technology and Australian teams at NASA's Honeysuckle Creek tracking station near Canberra and CSIRO's Parkes radio telescope in NSW.
Today with the establishment of the Australian Space Agency and increasing commercial interest in space, awareness is growing of the important role Australia plays in the space ecosystem and the great national opportunity we have available to us.
Australia is positioned perfectly to look up into the centre of our galaxy, the Milky Way, and beyond into the Universe.
Our unique southern hemisphere location is one of the reasons that NASA – and more recently the European Space Agency – established deep space tracking ground stations here.
We offer a different view which comes in handy for tracking NASA's Voyager 2 spacecraft which can only be 'seen' from the southern hemisphere.
And our relatively low population densities make it easier to detect faint radio signals from space, including those used to communicate with spacecraft.
Our nation's relationship with NASA stretches back almost 60 years. Today, Australia continues to support NASA and other international space agencies in the exploration of our Solar System.
The Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex, which CSIRO manages for NASA, supports over 40 spacecraft. Using a 'follow the Sun' approach, for nine hours each day, we remotely manage all of NASA's deep spacecraft tracking operations.
But beyond the beauty, the mystery, and the innate lure of the vast Universe that surrounds us — I'm often asked, 'What's in it for Australia to invest in space?'. The benefits are most definitely close to home.
For a start, if you're reading this online, chances are you're using fast WiFi, invented by CSIRO using our team's deep understanding of the behaviour of radio waves arriving at Earth from space – honed through their expertise in radio astronomy.
Satellites orbiting Earth, enable GPS services and weather forecasting. And the cost of building and launching satellites is coming down, making space more accessible than ever before.
On a daily basis, many dedicated people across Australian research organisations deliver crucial insights through observing Earth from space.
They work closely with dozens of local and international partners to turn big data gathered from satellites into insights that solve challenges ranging from disaster prevention, and management of bushfires, floods and spills, to biosecurity threats.
We are increasingly reliant on space for life on Earth.
For example, Australia's expertise in agriculture and data analytics together with access to positioning and Earth observation data has enabled precision agricultural systems, which allows farmers to monitor and manage crops throughout a season, leading to new exportable solutions.
Armstrong called the Apollo 11 mission "a beginning of a new age" – inspiring generations to dream, innovate and rethink what they can achieve.
Australia currently has an opportunity to grow our domestic space industry and inspire the next generation to make the 'impossible' possible.
We're working shoulder-to-shoulder with the new Australian Space Agency, as a key technology advisor, to triple the size of our space industry by 2030.
There are upstream opportunities, through encouraging innovation in space- and ground-based infrastructure, and in the downstream development of new services, businesses and industries based on space-enabled data and services.
So what's next for us in space?
NASA is calling for a return to the Moon with international participation. Australia's space sector is uniquely positioned to contribute to this endeavour.
By building on our foundations in mineral exploration, renewable energy technologies, sensors, robotics, big data analytics, and ground station management, as well as our experience in overcoming long-distance communication challenges, we're in a strong position to leverage our capabilities in the space domain.
CSIRO has recently invested $16m in a new Space Technology Future Science Platform, which is designed to develop and test new ideas and technologies which could result in new and emerging industries, grow and transform existing businesses, and create the jobs of the future.
As Australia's innovation catalyst, our purpose is to solve the greatest challenges through innovative science and technology.
Working in partnership is key.
We work with Australian businesses up and down the space supply chain, as well as with multinational organisations, international space agencies and every Australian research institution.
If you want to come with us on this journey to reach the Moon and beyond, collaborate with us today. Our opportunity is as unlimited as space itself.
Learn more about CSIRO's work in the Space sector.