The Dish: control console prop

The control console prop from The Dish is on display at the Parkes Observatory Visitors’ Centre.

The control console

This first section appears to be for monitoring the system, with warning lights and the main power supply switch.

First section

There is a wind speed indicator in the first section. In the movie, the scale on the wind speed indicator meter was coloured: green from 0 to 15 knots, yellow for 15 to 30 knots and red above 30 knots. Thirty knots is 55.56 km/h.

During the day of the real moon landing, wind speeds reached up to 110 km/h and were above the safety limits for the entire moonwalk.

Wind speed indicator

This section of the console uses azimuth and zenith angles. The telescope moves in two directions: the azimuth is the 360° rotation around the base (e.g. to point north, south, east or west), and the zenith angle is the angle away from pointing directly up.

Second section

In the movie, there was a big red stop button in the middle of the third section, which was used to shut down the dish when it lost tracking. It, and the coloured wind speed indicator, was probably added for visual effect.

The black circle at the top is a speaker. It is seen in the movie when the ambassador is listening to Neil Armstrong.

Third section

This section of the console uses right ascention and declination angles for tracking objects in the sky. Azimuth and zenith coordinates are relative to the fixed position of the telescope on earth, but the earth itself is rotating so the coordinates of distant objects keep changing. A better coordinate system for astronomy is right ascension and declination, which are relative to the fixed celestial sphere in the sky.

Fourth section

In the movie this prop had other parts: there was an extra fifth section and another row of dials above these sections.

The interior scenes of the control room were filmed on a soundstage that looked like the 1969 Parkes Radio Telescope control room. This authentic looking control console was a key feature on that set.

See also

External links

The true story of The Dish and Apollo 11 (2m54s)
Video with glimpses of the real control console.
The true story of The Dish and Apollo 11 (5m40s)
Same video with another view of the real control console.