Emeritus Professor Ross Taylor at the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex. Photo by Stuart Hay.

Emeritus Professor Ross Taylor at the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex. Photo by Stuart Hay.

The man who proved the moon isn’t cheese

When Apollo 11 landed on the moon, EMERITUS PROFESSOR ROSS TAYLOR AC was surprised to find his ANU experience led him to the opportunity of a lifetime. DR PHIL DOOLEY, BSc (Hons) '90, PhD '99 reports.

As the world watched the telecast of Neil Armstrong stepping onto the moon in 1969, one ANU scientist was watching the screen particularly closely.

"I knew I was going to be handling that dust soon, and I was hoping I'd get some clues on what to expect," says geochemist Professor Ross Taylor.

As US President John F Kennedy's promise to land a man on the moon looked like it was going to come true, NASA hurriedly scrambled together a team of scientists to analyse what the astronauts would bring back.

"No one had the remotest idea of what to expect. You had to be ready for absolutely anything," Taylor - who is now Emeritus Professor at the ANU Research School of Earth Sciences - says.

Taylor had not been in the initial group assembled in the US at Houston but, when he visited the NASA labs after a conference, it became clear he knew a lot more about the equipment than any of the team.

It was almost identical to the lab he had set up eight years previously at ANU.