The Puig Major base in Majorca. | T. AYUGA

Fifty years ago today, the first man landed on the Moon, and Majorca played a key part in the mission.

The United States had various satellite communication centres and observatories around the world. These were involved in monitoring the mission and, as was expected but accounted for, there were communication problems between Apollo 11 and Houston.

However, the first signals from Apollo 11 confirming that it had landed safely on the Moon were picked up by the US military satellite station on top of the Puig Major.

They were then transmitted to mission control in Houston via Maspalomos in Gran Canaria.
One of the greatest achievements in the history of mankind began on 16 July, 1969 when Apollo 11 was launched.

Inside Mission Control on that summer morning, teams of NASA flight controllers sat nervously at their consoles. Together, they would guide three astronauts - Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins - a thousand miles away on the Florida coast, as they climbed on top the world’s most powerful rocket and blasted off on their way to the moon and of all the places in the world, their confirmation of “touch down” on the Moon was picked up here in Majorca, former Commander of the US base, Larry Madden said.

The US base was completed and came into operation in 1965, after six years in construction, as a result of an agreement reached between former Spanish dictator Franco and Eisenhower in 1959.

It was part of a Defense and Cooperation deal between the US and Spain and the Americans considered Majorca a perfect strategic location to spy on activities in North Africa, Eastern Europe and the Middle east.

It was a top secret base for years operated by 880 Air Control and Warning.

The United States military maintained the base until 1993 when it was handed over to the Spanish Air Force which now man the base.