Kevin’s role in mankind’s giant leap
Every day Kevin Gallegos is reminded of his pivotal role in the Apollo 11 Moon Landing. Kevin’s memories of that iconic event on July 20, 1969 adorn the walls and line the shelves of the ‘man shed’ room he has set up at his home at Vision by Halcyon.
As a young radio technician at Honeysuckle Creek Tracking Station just outside Canberra, the-then 27-year-old was part of the team maintaining communication links with astronaut Neil Armstrong as he became the first man to walk on the Moon. Kevin was part of the crew behind the controls transmitting the moon landing images that were watched by 600 million people across the world.
He started working at Honeysuckle Creek in early 1968 after a nine-year stint as a radio technician in the Royal Australian Navy. NASA had set up the Honeysuckle Creek tracking station, along with others in California and Spain, to support the upcoming Apollo 11 mission lunar phases. A station in Carnarvon, Western Australia, supported the earth orbit phases.
“They said it was a manned space flight but I didn’t really know what that entailed” Kevin laughed. “I just wanted a job and this was in the field that I was interested in. But it was an exciting time.”
He was part of a team of young guns, with the average age of NASA’s Apollo 11 support crew just 28. The Honeysuckle Creek crew was certainly well prepared when the big day came around in July, 1969.
“We knew this stuff backwards, I thought we were going to wear the equipment out testing it,” Kevin joked.
And on the day, a series of unexpected events saw Honeysuckle Creek play a larger role than originally planned. A technical problem at the Goldstone tracking station in California, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin emerging from the Eagle earlier than expected, and the restriction of the Parkes Radio Telescope in NSW to tilt to the horizon at the necessary time put Honeysuckle in the hot seat.
“There was a lot of luck involved really; all the things lined up and that was it,” Kevin said. Well-drilled for the event, Kevin took the momentous occasion in his stride including those symbolic words uttered by Neil Armstrong as he stepped onto the Moon, “one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind”.
“I thought ‘Oh, there he goes’, I didn’t think much about it, I was just making sure everything was ‘cooking’ well in my area.” he said. “I just carried on; it was business as usual.” Kevin’s mementos of that incredible shift in the winter of 1969 had long sat packed away in a box.
They finally came to light during Kevin and wife Jill’s move to Vision by Halcyon earlier this year. Their three children discovered the box of goodies and, realising their significance, insisted Kevin put them on display with his naval memorabilia in a room affectionately known as the ‘man shed’.
Kevin and Jill previously lived on Bribie Island before deciding that Vision was a better fit for Jill, who enjoys socialising and getting involved in the community. “We looked for somewhere to go for a long, long time and checked everything, and we liked Vision because it was a smaller community and closer to the family,” Jill said.
“We like to be within reach of water and I feel comfortable when I’m near the water.”
And so, while Kevin gets stuck into penning his autobiography, ‘the never ending story’, and tries to maintain some level of fitness, Jill is often busy taking an aqua aerobics class, getting creative with the craft group or joining fellow home owners for a drink at the weekly Happy Hour gathering.