Sunday, September 24, 2023

Why Spain played a key role in the 1969 moon landing

Spain played a crucial role in landing on the moon in 1969. The space monitoring stations in Fresnedillas de la Oliva (Madrid), Robledo de Chavela (Madrid), and Maspalomas (Gran Canaria) played an integral role in the arrival of the moon—not just man to the moon, but in all Apollo missions.

The Spanish facilities were used to maintain communications with the ship, and US-trained Spanish technicians were responsible for monitoring the signals and also the vital signs of the astronauts during NASA’s Apollo 11 mission.

Of greater importance during the mission was the Fresnedillas de la Oliva station, integrated into the Robledo space complex, as it was responsible for communications. NASA required three signals located in different parts of the planet, and this city in Madrid was chosen in the European zone. The other two bases were installed in Goldstone (California) and Canberra (Australia). In addition, the Maspalomas Space Center was pivotal due to its strategic location in the Atlantic Ocean, which also shares latitude with the Cape Canaveral launch base in Florida.

Everything received and sent from Houston to the Apolo went through Madrid first. In Robledo was the engineer José Manuel Grande, responsible for maintaining communications between Robledo and Fresnedillas, where Carlos González was responsible for the receivers and transmitters that communicated directly with the ship.

Speaking to TVE, Carlos González recalled that moment. “My responsibility was to best capture and preserve the signal coming from the Apollo spacecraft and send the appropriate frequency to the power amplifier along with the voice and data Houston sent to the astronauts,” he explains.

The most delicate moment of the Apollo 11 mission happened during the landing of the eagle on the moon. At that moment, Commander Neil Armstrong aborted the autopilot and took control of the ship. He decided to move the module to a safer area because there were some unexpected rocks in the previously set area.

“This is Tranquility Base. “The eagle has landed” were the words that flowed from the moon to the control center in Houston and first passed the Spanish facilities. The total communication time was 1.7 seconds, 1.3 for the way from the moon to Madrid, and 0.4 for the remaining journey. “They increased the tension a bit with the little bumps on landing and the manual lowering of the ship, but we were all confident that it would work,” González said.

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World Nation News Desk
World Nation News Desk
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