John Saxon at Honeysuckle Creek
speaks with Orion on the lunar surface


Honeysuckle Creek Operations Supervisor John Saxon speaks with the crew of Orion

Before EVA 2, comms lines from Houston to Honeysuckle are lost, though lines from Honeysuckle to Houston (via Goddard) are not affected.

Sitting inside Orion and having their beakfast, John Young and Charlie Duke have been discussing with Capcom Tony England the upcoming EVA. It takes a little while for it to become obvious that they aren’t hearing anything back from Houston.

In order to inform the crew what is happening, Honeysuckle’s Operations Supervisor, John Saxon, pushes his ‘Press to Talk’ Switch to send his voice to the transmitter, becoming the only Australian (and possibly the only person outside Mission Control) to speak with someone on the Moon.

The audio from Orion is very poor quality due to the problems they were having with Orion’s steerable high-gain antenna. When inside the Lunar Module, comms used the omni directional antenna which resulted in a much noisier signal. (During EVAs, the crew used the high gain antenna on the Lunar Roving Vehicle.)


John Saxon writes:

“Even though it was exciting to finally get to talk to the Apollo 16 lunar surface crew, I have always felt somewhat embarrassed about the conversation. Particularly when I read the transcript. The conversation was somewhat strained to say the least. It was mostly due to the very poor down voice signal to noise ratio, making it very hard to understand.

What you can’t hear are my almost simultaneous conversations on several other voice loops to get NASCOM (GSFC Voice and Deakin) to sort out the (one way) voice problem.”

HSK audio Hear John Saxon speak with John Young and Charlie Duke

John Saxonon the lunar surface. Recorded at Honeysuckle Creek.

Read the background in Hamish Lindsay’s essay.

The 7.5MB mp3 file runs for 10 min 14s. (John’s segment starts 2 min 55 sec in.)

A shorter 3.6MB version, with much of the silences removed, is available here.

Another recording – this one made at Houston – shows that Houston was calling, but the lines to Honeysuckle had been lost. (This recording courtesy of Eric Jones’ Apollo Lunar Surface Journal.)

John says that this copy of the Honeysuckle recording was put onto cassette from the FR1900 recorder for him by John VanderKly.

Here’s the transcript:

Saxon: “Orion this is Honeysuckle. We have a comm outage with Houston at this time. Stand by one, please.”
Young: “Okay, Honeysuckle nice to talk to you. How are ya’ll all doin’ down there?”
Saxon: “We’re doing great. Nice to talk to you.”
Young: “You sound good.”
Saxon: “Roger that – We’ll be with you shortly, we are just getting some lines reconfigured here.”
Young: “Have a Swan for us.”
Saxon: “Say, again, Orion. You’re pretty poor quality on this back up.”
Young: “I said quaff a Swan for us.”
Saxon: “Ah – I still can’t copy you, Orion. Sorry about this, the quality is very poor at the moment.”
Young: “Okay you’re loud and clear.”
Saxon: “Roger that, I read you a bit better now."
Duke: “Honeysuckle, what John was saying was have a Swan for us.”
Saxon: “Oh, Roger.”

(John Saxon calls Houston Comm Tech again on Net 1 – he cannot hear any reply. John’s voice is being heard in Houston.)

Saxon: “Orion, this is Honeysuckle – We’re still having trouble with the incoming from Houston. We should get it restored very shortly for you. Sorry about the delay.”
Young: “Roger, thank you.”

Saxon: “Okay, we’re reading you this time for a change.”
Duke: “Okay you guys are nice to talk to. We don’t care about Houston.”
Saxon: “Thanks very much. Certainly appreciate it. It’s a pleasure working on this mission.”
Young: “Roger. We’d sure like to come down there and see you folks after this is over too.”
Saxon: “Right you’ve got a permanent invite, anytime you like.”
Young: “That’s very kind.”
Saxon: “We will keep the beer cool for you.”
Young: “You’ve just got a couple of fellas going to show up on your lawn here.”
Duke: “That’s the best idea I’ve heard all day.”
Saxon: “I think it’s a pretty good one down here too.”
Duke: “You see in my terminology friendly 48 packs, right now that’s how I feel. Really love one.”
Saxon: “Roger that. We’re still having difficulty with the comm, Orion. Hopefully, very shortly, we will get the net up for you.”
Duke: “Okay – take your time, don’t worry about it – we’re eating.”
Saxon: “Don’t worry Orion, we are worrying!”

The lines from Houston were restored a few minutes later.


John Saxon speaks with Orion

John Saxon speaks with Orion

The Goddard Network Director had requested a transcript of the conversation. This two page TWX is the result.

Preserved by Hamish Lindsay. April 2022 scan by Colin Mackellar.

The conversation was reported (mp3 file) by James Dibble on the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s 7:00pm TV news bulletin in Sydney the next day, Sunday 23rd April 1972.

Apollo 16 voice uplink

After John Saxon spoke with the crew onboard Orion
he ‘copped a ribbing’ and Laurie Turner wrote this poem to commemorate the occasion.

Scan: John Saxon. Thanks to Tony Gerada for identifying the author.

Apollo 16 voice uplink

John Saxon sent this TWX to Mike Dinn, who was spending some time at JPL. Mike had the previous record from when he spoke with Apollo 8 on their way to the Moon.

Scan: John Saxon.

Apollo 16 voice uplink

Having seen the above TWX, someone else also wrote this poem.

Preserved by Hamish Lindsay. April 2022 scan by Colin Mackellar.

Time for a Swan

“Have a Swan for us.” Here’s to the Swan Brewery!

After the Apollo 16 mission there was time to enjoy some Swan Lager, supplied by the Western Australian brewery.

From left: Jerry Bissicks (USB), Don Gray (Station Director) replenishing Saxon’s glass, Geoff Seymour (Computer/Telemetry Engineer), John Saxon (Ops Supervisor), Ian Grant (Deputy Station Director), and Milton Turner (Departmental Admin Officer).

Photo: Hamish Lindsay. This copy preserved and scanned by John Saxon.

Time for a Swan

The story was told in “The Black Swan”, the official journal of the Swan Brewery, Perth WA. Issue Vol 9 No 5 dated Sept 1972.

Preserved and scanned by Milton Turner.

Time for a Swan

A Swan over lunch at Honeysuckle Creek

Table at left: (L-R) Don Loughhead ?, Bryan Sullivan, Geoff Seymour, ?, Mike Evenett.

Table at right: John Saxon, John Vanderkly (back to camera), ? and Lisa Jensen.

John Saxon thinks that’s probably Barbara Vanderputt at the far table behind him. Tony Gerada suggests it’s Don Loughhead at far left.

Notice also that none of the bottles appear to have been opened. These were photos taken to send to Swan Brewery. Most of the bottles went home.

Photo: Hamish Lindsay, preserved by Milton Turner, scanned by Betty Saxon.

Time for a Swan

Another view in the canteen.

On the closest table, Tony Gerada identifies, from left to right – Col Cochran (Ginger headed Scotsman) Frank Campbell, Alan Vonthetoff.

Also Dave Ralph on the far table.

Photo: Hamish Lindsay.
Preserved by John Saxon, scanned by Colin Mackellar.


On July 16 1994, John Young was special guest at the Apollo 11 25th anniversary dinner / dance at the Hellenic Club in Canberra.

He and John Saxon toasted the mission – with Swan Lager.


Mike Dinn preserved this video of the event on July 16 1994. Recorded by Rebecca Dinn. Edited by Colin Mackellar.

(If full screen does not work in your browser, please watch it here on Vimeo.)

A Swan is poured for John Young

A Swan is poured for John Young

At the 25th anniversary of Apollo 11 celebrations in Canberra, in 1994, John Saxon finally has an opportunity to share a Swan Lager with John Young.

Top: The beer is poured as Captain Young watches.
Bottom: The two Johns salute each other.

Photos: John Saxon.

Time for a Swan

Ten years later, in 2004, Dwight Steven-Boniecki presents a bottle of Swan Lager to Charlie Duke.

Dwight writes, “Being Australian, being in contact with John Saxon, and knowing I would meet Charlie Duke at the (9 October 2004) Autographica convention in the UK, it seemed only right that Charlie should be presented with the Swan Beer.

Saxon supplied a letter for Charlie and I arranged to get the Swan Brewery to ship out some beer especially for the event.”


Back to the Apollo 16 section.