The PM tries out NASCOM

John Saxon recalls –

“After the official opening ceremonies, the Prime Minister toured the site.

I was stationed at the main ops console and was primed to demonstrate the NASCOM network to the PM. I had expected to ask ‘Goddard Voice’ – the operators who controlled the voice communications from the Goddard Spaceflight Center – to connect me through to a few exotic locations (Hawaii, Alaska, London, etc.), O.K. it was exotic to speak to those sorts of places in those days {:-)).

Instead the PM did not let me get into my tour and said, “I understand you can talk to anyone, anywhere, from here – so I’d like to talk to my old friend Hubert Humphrey the Vice President”.

So I called Goddard Voice and asked for the White House – after about a 2 microsec delay – a White House operator answered. I explained I had the PM who would like to talk to the Vice President. He responded that the VP was in a car somewhere but they should be able to link up. A 10 sec or so delay and there he was.

I was mightily impressed.

Prime Minister Holt at the Ops Console

Left to right: Edmond Buckley, Associate Administrator for Tracking and Data Acquisition, Prime Minister Harold Holt (seated); R J (Dick) Fahnestock, the JPL Rep.; Willson Hunter; NASA Senior Scientific Rep. to Australia; Robert Seamans (Deputy NASA Administrator).

Scan: John Saxon.

The eventual conversation was fairly predictable political stuff – ‘cooperation between our fine nations etc...’, but I had to keep putting the headset back on the PM, and more importantly trying to key his ‘Press-to-talk’ at the right times. I have to admit that takes a little practice before it becomes second nature.”

Ken Lee and PM

Prime Minister Harold Holt speaks with US Vice President Hubert Humphrey using a headset at the Ops Console.

From left to right:

NASA Deputy Administrator Robert Seamans at far left, leaning on the console and listening to the conversation;
Edmond Buckley
Associate Administrator for Tracking and Data Acquisition;
Station Director Bryan Lowe in the background;
Operations Supervisor Ken Lee holds the Prime Minister’s headset in place;
Prime Minister Harold Holt, seated;
and Senator Denham Henty (Senator for Tasmania 1950–68 and Minister for Supply 1966–68) on the right.

Photo from Ron Hicks.