A small farming community north of Perth. In the 1960s the town played hoast to a NASA Space Tracking Station.
Muchea Tracking Station
Established in 1960 and built specifically for NASA's Project
Mercury, Muchea Tracking Station was Station No. 8 of 14 sites around
the world used throughout the project.
Because of its position, close to the antipodes of Cape Canaveral,
it was also selected to have a command facility. Information about the
range, bearing and elevation of the spacecraft was automatically
relayed to the Goddard Space Flight Center by teleprinter.
During each mission a NASA team consisting of two flight controllers
and a flight surgeon were sent to Muchea. The Senior Flight Controller,
usually another astronaut, acted as capsule communicator (CAPCOM).
John Glenn and Friendship 7
Muchea Communications Technician Gerry O'Connor became the first
Australian to speak with an astronaut on 20 February 1962, when he
contacted Col. John Glenn aboard Friendship 7 on his first pass over
the West Australian coast. A small plaque has been installed on the
spot occupied by the Communications Technician's console which reads:
"This plaque is to mark the spot where an Australian first spoke to a
After three years of training, John Glenn rocketed into space aboard
the Mercury capsule Friendship 7 to become the third American in space
and the first to orbit Earth. The historical flight was no easy feat.
At the end of his first orbit, a yaw attitude jet clogged, forcing
Glenn to abandon the automatic control system and use the manual
electrical fly-by-wire system. It was a significant coup for the United
States of America. With this first orbital flight, America had finally
caught up to the Soviet Union's Yuri Gagarin.
In 4 hours and 56 minutes, John Glenn circled the globe three times,
reaching speeds of more than 17,000 miles per hour. The successful
mission concluded with a splashdown and recovery in the Atlantic Ocean,
800 miles southeast of Bermuda. Glenn instantly became a hero.
President John Kennedy awarded him the Space Congressional Medal of
Honor. Schools and streets across the country were named after him. And
a ticker tape parade in New York City celebrated his mission.
A total of six missions were supported by the Muchea Station. Muchea
was closed in February 1964, after the end of the Mercury Project. It
was replaced by the Carnarvon Tracking Station for the Gemini and
Apollo projects. Although the Muchea Tracking Station no longer exists,
the Shire of Chittering has erected a display about its history. The
display is located next to a rotunda in John Glenn Park (bounded by
Brand Highway and Steer, McKenzie and Archibald Streets) adjacent to
the railway crossing.
Historic photos of the Muchea facility: Hamish Lindsay