Media release

Not so dusty: the Australian whose dreams flew with Apollo 11

Mention Australia and the 1969 moon landing and most people think of the movie The Dish. But few know of the role of another Australian scientist, whose experiment flew with Apollo 11.

Professor Brian O’Brien, a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering, placed no fewer than five experiments on missions spanning the first landing to Apollo 15.

In July 1969, Apollo 11 carried a device created by Professor O’Brien to measure moon dust – a 270-gram Plexiglas box with solar cells attached.

It operated, as planned, for 21 days. Later devices stayed functioning until September 1977.

“The thrill of the Apollo 11 landing for me was when Buzz (Aldrin) was commenting, something like 40 feet above the moon, on strikes due to dust,” Professor O’Brien said. “Then I knew the whole thing was worthwhile.”

Professor O’Brien is available for interview in the run-up to the 50th anniversary on 21 July (he will be travelling to the US around 21 July to take part in a NASA forum).

Professor O’Brien lives in Perth.

Background information is available on the Academy site. 

For interviews or more information: David Glanz, 0438 547 723 or

The Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering is a Learned Academy operating as an independent, non-political and expert think tank that helps Australians understand and use technology to solve complex problems.