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Thursday, 20 May 1965

Senator BRANSON (Western Australia) . - I refer to Division No. 787 - Acquisition of Sites and Buildings. I shall confine myself to the subject of the tracking station at Muchea in Western Australia which is to be disposed of because tracking facilities in Western Australia are now at the new site at Carnarvon. Recently I interviewed the Minister for Supply (Mr. Fairhall) and outlined a proposition, to which he listened with interest, for the future use for the Muchea Station. I met the Minister on 6th May and asked him to give favorable consideration to the suggestion that I shall outline.

While I was at Carnarvon recently inspecting the new tracking station there I was reminded of the day I attended the opening of the tracking station at Muchea. I reminded the Minister that it was at Muchea that for the first time in history an Australian spoke to a man in outer space. A small plaque has been erected there to note this fact. The proposal I put to the Minister was that instead of disposing of all the buildings and obsolete and surplus equipment at Muchea, the station be preserved for posterity as a national space museum. Because of rapid development in the space age there is bound to be further obsolete equipment over the years which also could well be placed in the proposed museum. Apart from its educational value as a museum, it would be a monument to those brave men who were the first to venture into outer space as well as those dedicated men who manned this station at Muchea.

I venture to say that it would not cost the taxpayers any great amount of money, because a small charge could be made for admission to cover maintenance and the salary of a caretaker. 1 know it would prove a tourist attraction because the museum that was established at Mundarring Weir to honour a great man, Mr. C. Y. O'Connor, attracts many tourists. A small charge covers the cost of a guide and a caretaker. 1 went to some lengths to explain to the Minister that action would have to be taken now, because if it were delayed it would be very expensive to restore the site and perhaps to get back some of the equipment that had been sold. This proposal might not appear to be very important or of very great interest, but for a long time the Muchea tracking station was of great value to those astronauts who were circling the globe. I venture to say that generations to come would find this equipment most interesting. I find I am in good company, because Senator Cormack has directed my attention to an article which was published in the Melbourne " Age " yesterday about Cape Kennedy, the former Cape Canaveral. The article stated -

This is the frightening and fascinating thing about the Cape - the speed with which science has moved since January 31, 1958 when the first U.S. satellite was launched.

That is only seven years ago. The article continues -

The Titan, Thor and Atlas missiles lying about in the dust - the best that science could provide three or four years ago - are now antiques, relics of a primitive period.

Even more so the Army Redstone Rocket, which stands nearby on a pad in its improvised gantry (a converted oil derrick), from which astronauts Alan Shepard and Virgil Grissom were launched on their separate sub-orbital flights in 1961. This is now vintage material - the T-model Ford of the Space Age, so to speak.

Unless we do something to preserve the site, building and basic equipment at Muchea which apparently is not of much use to anybody it will be disposed of, and to restore the station would be expensive. Eventually the American National Aeronautical and Space Administration plans to make at Cape Kennedy a museum of the items there that

I have just mentioned and other exhibits it is collecting. In this connection, the article I have quoted from states - "We envisage it as perhaps a national shrine," our guide explained. " We plan to preserve it for posterity . . .

When I put this proposal to the Minister for Supply he showed definite interest in it and he has asked officers of the Department of Supply to go into the matter. I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Supply to inform the Minister for Supply that I have raised the matter in this chamber and I hope that if no honorable senator speaks against it this will be taken as tacit support for the proposal.

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