A photo of the Apollo 11 lunar lander, taken by Neil Armstrong. Credit: NASA
“That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” On July 20, 1969 those words were broadcast across the world. Millions watched as Neil Armstrong became the first human to step upon the Moon.
The famous video of Apollo 11 began as a faint, high-frequency transmission from the lunar lander. By the time the signal reached Earth it was too weak to be detected by common radios and televisions. It took radio astronomers with sensitive antenna dishes to capture the signal. The Apollo mission was a tremendous feat of engineering. It was a bold plan never attempted before or since. But it took the ingenuity of radio astronomers to tell its story.
Live footage of Neil Armstrong about to set foot on the Moon. Credit: NASA
Radio astronomy grew out of early experiments in the 1930s. Karl Jansky’s first detection of astronomical radio waves demonstrated that radio could be used as another window to the universe. Early radio astronomy focused on bright radio sources, such as the Sun and the center of the Milky Way. Grote Reber built upon Jansky’s work to ...