Mike Dinn – 1994

Tidbinbilla and Honeysuckle Creek Tracking Stations

On 29th May 1994, Hamish Lindsay interviewed Mike Dinn,
then Director of the Tidbinbilla Deep Space Communication Complex,
as part of his research for his book, “Tracking Apollo to the Moon”.

This is a conversation as much as it is an interview. Great listening.

Hamish recorded the interview on a DAT tape, and we are grateful to the ACT Heritage Library
and to Antoinette Buchanan and her team for their help in making a transfer of this tape.

Mike Dinn

audio Interviewed by Hamish Lindsay (59 minutes, 22MB mp3 file)

Some highlights:

00:00 Early life and technical background in the UK.

02:20 Move to Australia, 1960– Aircraft Flight Testing at Laverton, Dept of Supply, seconded to RAAF. Mirage.

03:45 Interest in Carnarvon; Applied for Deputy position at Honeysuckle, but offered Tidbinbilla.

05:00 Move to Canberra, 14 February 1966. Bob Leslie. Pioneer 6. Surveyor. Building of the Wing. Integration into MSFN for Apollo missions.

10:00 How manned flight differed from deep space tracking. Simulations at Honeysuckle Creek.

12:00 Move to Honeysuckle Creek, Sept 1967.

14:00 Real time ops – who would be suitable?

14:30 Getting Honeysuckle Creek to operational readiness.

17:10 Apollo 7.

18:50 Apollo 8 and the surprise of a manned lunar mission. Long passes. No time for political games. The intensity of frequent Apollo missions.

23:00 Level of confidence. Apollo 11 LM handover.

23:50 Apollo 8 – Honeysuckle playing a crucial role.

25:40 Speaking with Apollo 8. Ernie Randall. “Momentarily”. Different US usage of various expressions.

29:15 The HOD (Honeysuckle Operations Directive). Little Black Books. SRTs (Station Readiness Tests). Technical Support Section.

34:30 Changing the names of all the positions and intercom loops. Keeping it short.

36:10 The Honeysuckle Simulation System.

38:30 Apollo 9, Apollo 10, increasing confidence. Feedback to the MSFN. Bill Wood at Goddard. Impression of Australian tracking stations.

42:00 Good rapport. Lloyd Bott, Ian Homewood, Department of Supply.

42:40 Relationships with local authorities.

44:50 Siting near Canberra. Long overlap with Goldstone, not so much with Madrid.

46:30 Apollo 11 and Parkes. Bob Taylor from Goddard. Parkes meant two more receivers. Video selection at Sydney. Focussed on operations.

48:00 Approaching Apollo 11 – Media Day. Confidence going into the mission.

52:00 Atmosphere at the station leading up to the Apollo 11 EVA. Prime Minister John Gorton. Ian Grant as second Deputy handled SRTs. Functions on the day.

55:50 The unexpected handover procedures for the Apollo 11 LM.

57:00 Apollo 12. Apollo 13 tuning the uplink. Parkes involved.

Mike Dinn

Hamish Lindsay (left) and Mike Dinn in Canberra in 2000.
Photo via Mike Dinn.


Interview recorded by Hamish Lindsay, 29 May 1994.
DAT tape transferred by the ACT Heritage Library, November 2019.
Lightly edited and encoded by Colin Mackellar, May 2020.