STAR MAN: Owen Bennedick recently tracked a rocket heading towards the sun.
STAR MAN: Owen Bennedick recently tracked a rocket heading towards the sun. John McCutcheon

The night dad and I 'flashed' a history-making astronaut

OWEN Bennedick says he can still remember the day he and his dad flashed a history-making astronaut.

It's not what you're thinking. Their pants were on, no nudity occurred.

Just a bit of ingenuity.

Owen said they were in front of their family home in Gladstone, south of Rockhampton, when he said American astronaut John Glenn, the first US man to orbit Earth, flew overhead, in February, 1962.

He said he knows because Glenn spoke of seeing a bright light south of Rockingham, which Mr Bennedick said was actually Rockhampton.

He said he was sure the bright light Glenn had seen was Mr Bennedick's dad's kangaroo shooting searchlight they'd hooked up to a car battery and shone into the night sky.

Mr Bennedick, the Wappa Falls Observatory owner and long-time astronomer, said he still had a copy of the voice recording.

"He was the first American to fly around the world," he said.

"I would've only been nine or 10."

Owen Bennedick from Wappa Falls Observatory is excited about one of the best meteor showers in a decade will be in the sky this weekend.
Owen Bennedick from Wappa Falls Observatory is excited about one of the best meteor showers in a decade will be in the sky this weekend. Patrick Woods

In 2012 the city of Perth celebrated 50 years since Glenn flew over the Western Australian capital and the nearby town of Rockingham.

Perth and Rockingham residents greeted the pioneering space traveller by switching their lights on.

In a special message reported by the ABC in 2012, Glenn recalled flying over the western cities.

"It was only about 45 minutes from the Cape until we flew over Perth," he said.

"To look down and be able to see the lights that the people from Perth had turned on, all the porch lights and the refinery, and I could see not only Perth but Rockingham next door very clearly.

"36 years later I was on shuttle flight STS-95 over Perth and was going to see how Perth had changed.

"As we came across the Indian Ocean there was an undercast - no light.

STAR MAN: Owen Bennedick recently tracked a rocket heading towards the sun.
STAR MAN: Owen Bennedick recently tracked a rocket heading towards the sun. John McCutcheon

"It opened up just before we came over Perth and it looked as if the lights of Perth and Rockingham were even more vivid than they had been 36 years before. It was a great view."

Mr Bennedick said his cousin introduced him to space, and his dad had brought home a pair of binoculars from the war, before his telescope collection started growing in earnest.

Mr Bennedick said Glenn's capsule from the flight had been brought to Gladstone on a public display, which he attended as a youngster.

He said the 50th anniversary celebrations of Apollo 11's historic moon expedition, and Neil Armstrong's moon landing, were great at putting space back in the spotlight.

He hoped it would drive renewed interest in astronomy.

"We're trying to inspire kids here," Mr Bennedick said.



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