Don Gray

Don Gray

Don Gray
Honeysuckle Creek Station Director 1970–78.

Photo: by Hamish Lindsay.

Don’s extensive space tracking career, in summary –

Oct 1963 to Nov 1966 – Senior RF Engineer, DSS41 Island Lagoon
Nov 1966 to mid 1967 – Deputy Stadir (MSFN), DSS42 Tidbinbilla
mid 1967 to Dec 1969 – Stadir DSS42 Tidbinbilla
Jan 1970 to Feb 1978 – Stadir Honeysuckle Creek
Feb 1978 to Nov 1984 – Stadir Australian Landsat Station
Nov 1984 to Jun 1988 – Director, Australian Centre for Remote Sensing, NATMAP
Jul 1988 to Nov 1989 – Manager, Remote Sensing Unit, AUSLIG.

Don was interviewed for the 2009 BBC Knowledge documentary “One Small Step: The Australian Story”.

We recorded this 90 minute interview with Don in April 2010.

Hamish Lindsay recorded a 70 minute interview with Don in March 1994.

See also this transcript of a 2001 interview Don gave as founding Director of the Australian Landsat Station.

Don Gray

Don Gray
Station Director at Tidbinbilla – photo taken 1967 or 1968.

Scan by Colin Mackellar.

Don Gray

Don Gray and Mike Dinn (circled) are among this gathering of MSFN StaDirs and Assistant StaDirs at Houston in 1968.

Between them is Jack Dowling, StaDir at MILA.
Preserved and scanned by Mike Dinn.

Don Gray and the HSK after Apollo 16

Don Gray presents commemorative posters to Apollo 15 astronauts Dave Scott (left) and Alfred Worden.

Photo: Hamish Lindsay. Read the story in Hamish’s Apollo 15 essay.

Don Gray and the HSK after Apollo 16

Happy days at Honeysuckle – celebrating a successful Apollo 16 mission with some Swan lager.

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 and text: Hamish Lindsay.

Don Gray and Mike Dinn

Don Gray and Mike Dinn at the 40th anniversary of the opening of DSS-43 at Tidbinbilla, 13th April 2013. Photo: Colin Mackellar.

Don Gray

Don Gray at the 40th anniversary of the opening of DSS-43 at Tidbinbilla, 13th April 2013. Photo: CDSCC.

Don Gray

Don Gray and Mike Dinn on the steps of the Tidbinbilla Operations Building, to mark the 50th anniversary of the Deep Space Network, 19th March 2014. Photo: Mike Dinn.

Don Gray

Don Gray and Mike Dinn in front of the Tidbinbilla Operations Building, 19th March 2014.

The huge 70 metre dish of DSS-43 towers behind them.
Photo: Mike Dinn.

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Mike Dinn shared this eulogy at Don’s funeral in Canberra on 14th November 2014 –

A colleague was telling me the other day that a group at the Honeysuckle Creek tracking station was set a task by Don which they carried out so well that he took them to the Queanbeyan Leagues Club for lunch. Typical of Don. A great person.

I knew him well through his space tracking career. He started at Woomera in 1963, working at the Island Lagoon Deep Space station and then came to Tidbinbilla in 1966 as Deputy Director, for Manned Flight – the Apollo moon landing program. (You young ones will have to ask your parents what this was all about). I was the other deputy at Tid at the time.

In 1967 he became Director at Tidbinbilla and was there through the first landing and step on the moon. In 1970 he moved to Honeysuckle for the remaining Apollo missions, then Skylab, then Honeysuckle as a Deep Space Station until 1978.

During the Woomera period, Don and family spent several months at JPL’s Goldstone station, and lived in Barstow – Mojave Desert. Don led a team of Australians accepting new equipment for Woomera. His personality was such that he had no problems whatsoever in dealing with all levels of JPL and made many life-long friends.

When Don took on his Manned Spaceflight role at Tidbinbilla he brought a wealth of relevant experience with him, and this time got to know all the Goddard and Houston individuals, developing more life-time relations. He was on first name terms with all the players. However he still ensured that Australia’s independence in management of the stations was protected, though doing this with his usual good humour.

He and I had a memorable visit to Goddard and Houston in 1968. (Col has a picture of us on the Honeysuckle website). This was a Station Directors’ get together, and Don really made sure that the lunar “new boys” knew how best to use the new S Band system for lunar missions.

Don was the perfect working colleague. Technically completely competent, could look at the broad and detailed pictures as needed, got to know everybody as personalities, and took an interest in their welfare.

The best summaries of how the spacetracking world saw Don came in a number of emails I received recently:

From John –
“Don was an unflappable spacetracker who never let problems, regardless of their severity, spoil his day. He was one of the best”. J.H.

From Keith –
“I vividly remember him from the Tidbinbilla days as the able and personable station director who seemed never to let anything phase him. An infectious sense of humour and always a gentleman!” K.B.

Then from Jeff –
“I have nothing but pleasant memories of Don, quietly competent and very helpful when one had problems. One of the best.” J.N.

So, Peg and family, I know you will miss him terribly, but if it’s any compensation, Don played a major role in human-kind’s exploration of space. He will be remembered by many.

Mike Dinn

14 November 2014.