Mike Dinn was born and educated in England. After graduating in Electrical Engineering (London) in 1955 he worked in British industry mainly on aircraft electronics and electrics.
In 1960 he moved to Australia, and was responsible for aircraft flight testing Instrumentation with the Royal Australian Air Force.
Mike moved to the Canberra Deep Space Tracking Station (Tidbinbilla part of NASA/JPLs Deep Space Network) in 1966 as Deputy Station Director in charge of Operations, his first mission being Surveyor.
In 1967 he took a similar position at Honeysuckle Creek, one of NASAs three main communications facility for the Apollo program, and was actively involved in missions 7 to 14.
He returned to the DSN station
during the building of the new 210 ft dish at Tidbinbilla, and spent a year
at JPL Pasadena (1972). This antenna supported Apollo 17 as its first task.
After a period in Australias Department of Defence he returned to the Deep Space Station in 1983, becoming Director in 1988. NASAs main missions during this period were Voyager, Magellan and Galileo, but the facility also supported Shuttle until the TDRSS spacecraft were in place.
Mike retired in 1994
on Apollo 11s 25th anniversary, having just succeeded in obtaining an Apollo
11 lunar rock for display, presented by John Young.
John Young presents Mike with a model of DSS-43 on behalf of JPL, at the Apollo 11 25th anniversary function in Canberra, 1994.
And Mike was presented with this photo of Australia by John Young.
Mike considers the highlight
of his career as being Apollo 11 operations (and in particular the TV of the
first lunar step to the world coming through Honeysuckle), closely followed
by being at Houston during Apollo 17 and sending some from Ed Fendells
INCO console on Gene Kranzs shift, and also Apollo 8 where Honeysuckle
Creek first came into its own.
Mike was awarded two NASA
Public Service Medals in 1986 and 1995.
(From a discussion on the Yahoo Apollo Group)
I had already voted for [Apollo] 8 for the reasons John cites. We worked together on the mission. In retrospect Im amazed at the confidence we (the whole project) had, but everything possible had been done to prepare, including contingency planning.
Our HSK in-house sim capability came about as a result of a visit I had to Houston, when I sat in on several MOCR simulations with Network. I realised that we at the Station didnt have the same depth of contingency capability as the Flight Control team.
So when I got back to HSK, and with Tom Reids support, we decided to build an in-house capability based around some excess consoles from the tracking ship CSQ (which I selected at Fremantle), and various other pieces of equipment to assemble the many Apollo spectrums. I even approached Howard Kyle at Houston at one point to see if we could lay our hands on an excess/spare/prototype PSP (pre-signal processor) which mixed the various signals in the CSM – but with no success.
The only thing we couldnt simulate was American accents for astronaut and CAPCOM voice, so we had a number of laconic Australian voices pretending to land and step on the lunar surface. Messed it up a bit. The simulations were great for building confidence.
I used to say that the Apollo projects used only about 5 percent of support capability for a nominal mission, but we got to 95 per cent on 13. It was THE mission when the receiver operators earned their money sorting out the LM signal from the SIVB on the same frequency. We had four receivers at HSK, four at Tidbinbilla and two at Parkes all trying.
And as John said the later
missions added a great deal of complexity for us – the lunar rover was a complete
spacecraft itself from a comms point of view.
Ops Console during Apollo 11.
From left to right: John Saxon (standing), Ken Lee, Tom Reid (Station Director), Mike Dinn (standing on the phone to Parkes), and Ian Grant.
Mikes interview is available here, courtesy of James DeRuvo.
(Its a 19MB mp3 file, and runs for 41 minutes.)
Read about origin of the HSK designation for Honeysuckle Creek