Moon landing inspired ANU scientists to reach for the stars

This Sunday marks the 50 years since the lunar landing and when humankind first walked on the Moon.

The ANU scientists below have shared their thoughts on the 50th anniversary of the Moon landing, it’s significance and how their work is helping to unlock the secrets of our galactic neighbourhood and beyond.

They can be contacted directly, or through the ANU media hotline on +61 2 6125 7979.



Professor Anna Moore

Director, ANU Institute for Space

Director, ANU Advanced Instrumentation and Technology Centre
Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics
ANU College of Science
T: +61 2 6125 4724

“I decided to be an astronomer at the age of four. I looked up at the night sky from our roof in cold, dark, damp northern England, knowing people were up there and I couldn’t stop imagining what my role could be. I never looked back.

“We were quite poor, and for many kids like me knowing the Moon landings had happened was inspiration to keep aiming high.

“Now, I am a Professor of Astronomy and the Director of the ANU Institute for Space, which aims to inspire Australia’s space future. We are a truly multi-disciplinary space institute, combining areas such as quantum tech, astronomy and astrophysics, space situational awareness, engineering, materials, Earth observing, law, economics, health and medicine, and ethics, to bring holistic solutions to the table.

“We are leading the world’s first optical ground station communication network right here in Australia. In short, Australia will become the data hub of the entire Solar System and beyond, building from a heritage established 50 years ago.”


Dr Marc Norman
Research School of Earth Sciences
ANU College of Science

“As a young teen at the time, I was glued to the TV and even tape recorded the Apollo 11 landing live on an old reel-to-reel tape recorder – subsequently lost to the dust bin of history.

“My first scientific encounter with the Moon was my Master’s research project on some samples that had been collected by one of the then Soviet robotic Luna missions. That was in the late 1970s, about five years after the end of the Apollo program, so lunar science was still in its infancy. I measured the geochemical compositions of glass particles that were produced by volcanic eruptions.

“More recently, I have been working on the impact history of the Moon. One of the big surprises to come out of the Apollo lunar samples was that many of the large impact basins that form the dark, circular regions that we can see on the Moon seem to have formed during a narrow interval of time about 3.9 billion years ago, or several hundred million years after the formation of the Moon.

“This finding posed serious problems for understanding how the Solar System evolved, and the problem remained largely unresolved until only about 10 years ago. Scientists figured out that large-scale shifts in the orbits of Jupiter and Saturn stirred up the asteroid belt and sent waves of asteroids crashing through the inner regions of the Solar System. Earth would have been hit big time by that event.”


Professor Susan Scott
Centre for Gravitational Physics within Research School of Physics and Engineering
ANU College of Science
Chief Investigator, OzGrav
M (Spanish phone number): +34 667 029 057

Note: Susan is working in Spain and will return to Canberra on 22 July 2019.

“I remember as a child watching on the TV the murky transmission of the first ever lunar landing. I was captivated by the sight of Neil Armstrong executing a series of large jumps on the Moon's surface and recall having an intuitive thought that the pull of the Moon is somehow weaker than the pull of our home Earth.

“That remarkable event sparked my lifelong fascination with the force of gravity and the quest to discover its nature. I research areas of Einstein’s theory of general relativity, which is our current theory of gravitation that has been rigorously tested through the detection of gravitational waves – ripples in space and time – in 2015.

“Einstein predicted the existence of these waves 100 years ago and, with the detection of two large black holes colliding in space, his theory has passed the test of holding in regimes of extreme gravity with flying colours.

“Our research team at ANU has played an important role in the detection of gravitational waves and the analysis of probable sources of gravitational wave emission and the data generated by actual gravitational wave events.”


Dr Brad Tucker
Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics
ANU College of Science
T: +61 2 6125 6711
M: +61 433 905 777

“Growing up in the US, I did not appreciate the critical role Australia played to land humans on the Moon. The hundreds of men and women at Honeysuckle Creek, Tidbinbilla, Parkes, and Carnarvon Tracking stations made it possible.

“It is nice to celebrate this moment, but also celebrate what Australia has been doing for the past 50 years. However, it is the next 50 years that really excited me – with a return back to the Moon, going to Mars and the likelihood of finding life in our Solar System. It is an exciting time in space.” 


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