Entrance to Hyde Park in Sydney, Goodwill tour after the 1969 moonlanding
Entrance to Hyde Park in Sydney, Goodwill tour after the 1969 moonlanding Ed Harbas

CQ man shares once in a lifetime snaps of Apollo astronauts

WHEN Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin first set foot on the moon on July 21 1969, the world was captivated.

It was significant year for mankind. The making of the world's interstellar descent towards the stars.

For Yeppoon retirees Ed, 71, and Moncie Harbas, 68, this Sunday's 50th anniversary is all the more poignant.

For them, the occasion is also associated with their 50th wedding anniversary this year and their grandson's 20th birthday.

 

EXCITING TIME: Astronauts Neil Armstrong, Edwin (Buzz) Aldrin and Michael Collins embraced by the Sydney crowd after the 1969 moonlanding
EXCITING TIME: Astronauts Neil Armstrong, Edwin (Buzz) Aldrin and Michael Collins embraced by the Sydney crowd after the 1969 moonlanding Ed Harbas

They were a young couple preparing for their first child to be born when Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin rocketed off to the moon.

It was a "once in a lifetime" moment, one the pair was sure not to miss.

They were living in Maitland, New South Wales at the time - Ed, an apprentice painter, was painting a house and Moncie was at home.

"The people that owned the house said the moon landing was on and invited us to come and watch, so we all stopped working and sat around and 'ooh-ed and aah'ed'," Ed said.

"It was grainy, black and white reception. Not like television today.

"It was quite exciting considering the frontier of space. It was a vibrant time and it seemed to be the subject of everybody's conversation.

"The whole thing was exciting but I didn't realise the significance of it at the time. It wasn't until I looked back at the photos years later that I thought 'wow'."

Ed had developed a keen interest in photography at the time and had been learning how to develop and process at the Maitland Police Boys' Club.

 

Ed and Moncie Harbas remember welcoming the astronauts to Australia in 1969.
Ed and Moncie Harbas remember welcoming the astronauts to Australia in 1969. Jann Houley

It was in October or November 1969 when they heard that Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins were coming to Sydney's Hyde Park to meet Australian fans, they jumped at the opportunity.

They piled into their new Ford Fairlane, Moncie heavily pregnant at the time, and drove with friends to join the huge throngs of crowds.

As the motorcade rounded the corner, followed by a cattle truck full of eager, snap-happy journalists, Ed climbed onto his friend's shoulders to get the perfect shot.

The dynamic trio sat in the back of the car, waving and smiling to awe-struck fans.

"I wish I'd taken more photos," Ed said.

"It was quite a large crowd. We were surprised."

The astronauts addressed the crowds from a stage, although, with the excitement of the moment and the decades past, Ed and Moncie struggle to remember just what those astronauts had to say about their journey to the stars.

 

The newspapermen follow behind the astronauts in the 1969 Goodwill parade
The newspapermen follow behind the astronauts in the 1969 Goodwill parade Ed Harbas

"It was exciting enough to be there," Moncie said.

After the hype had eventually died down, Moncie was surprised that nothing more came of NASA's ambitions to venture into space.

"They did have some sort of talk a couple months after about going back but that's about it," she said.

Ed echoed Moncie's sentiment - where to from here?

"Where are we going to go from here? And from then on?" he wondered.

"My son-in-law posed the same question: we went to the moon 50 years ago, why haven't we gone back?"

Despite many people's leaning towards the conspiracy theory of a hoax landing, complete with wires and a Hollywood stage setting, the moonstruck pair believe wholeheartedly that what they witnessed was the real deal.

Perhaps the future of space travel lies not solely in exploring but in commerce and tourism? That was certainly something that seemed like a possibility to Ed.

 

The first man on the moon, Neil Armstrong addressed the crowd in Sydney in 1969
The first man on the moon, Neil Armstrong addressed the crowd in Sydney in 1969 Ed Harbas

"With Elon Musk and all those characters," he said.

"I should imagine manufacturing too. I heard some time ago they can't cast a perfectly round ball bearing because of earth's gravity so the only way to do it is in space.

"I think the thrust will probably be Mars. It takes a rather long time to get there but they felt it was a sister planet to Earth and had oceans and stuff before it went pear-shaped or whatever happened.

"I feel there's a connection there."

With the advancement of technology and the significant power of social media, Ed and Moncie wondered if the landing would have had the same affect on today's generation as it did back in their day.

As social media brings us closer together, we are more exposed to amazing and devastating events and in turn, desensitised to their significance.

"We didn't see anything like this in the movies or anything back then," Moncie said.

"But now there are so many movies with people on the moon or running around on the moon."

 

Two of astronauts' wives watch on
Two of astronauts' wives watch on Ed Harbas

However, the pair have faith that when the next big space adventure happens, there will be just as many eagle-eyed spectators captivated across the globe.

"Younger people have seen so much more in their time than we had," Ed said.

"There will be some younger people who would be enthusiastic and for others it would be just another movie moment affair.

"But where we will go from here?

"It's in the lap of the gods."



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