Bavaria’s connection to the moon

ABut there aren’t any astronauts there, ”says the little girl with big eyes in front of antenna 1. It would be fine if people in astronaut suits were walking around in front of the huge antennas and parabolic mirrors. But it is surreal enough as this Upper Bavarian picture book landscape meets a backdrop like in a science fiction film. This antenna 1, the father explains patiently, once ensured that in 1969 the television images of the moon landing flickered into German living rooms. “From the moon?” She asks. “Really directly from the moon?” The radome, as antenna 1 is called in Raisting, was after all Germany’s most important connection to the world. Only the United States, Great Britain, France and Australia had such systems at the time. We’re talking about a time when computers were the size of living rooms. An overseas call cost fifty marks a minute, with raising only three marks. And the lady from the office was retired.

“The antenna 1 enabled the first live television transmission in 1965, replaced the undersea cables from Germany to overseas with 240 telephone channels via satellite and made the first step from the analog to the digital age,” explains René Jakob, Managing Director of Radom GmbH. And it just made it possible for Neil Armstrong’s “small step” to be seen in the Federal Republic of Germany.

It wasn’t a love marriage

Astronauts and agents never existed in Raisting; no attempts to come into contact with extraterrestrials, no James Bond or other agent colleagues, although Jakob restricts: “At least officially, espionage was not carried out.” Bad Aibling was ultimately responsible for this. The station there was from 1955 for almost fifty years the large interception base of the American intelligence service NSA with up to 1,800 employees. “The famous red telephone also played a role. In Raisting, on the other hand, it was all about public satellite transmissions, ”explains Jakob. During the moon landing, for example, the images were received by Armstrong and his colleagues in Australia, sent via satellite to Raisting, from there to the Zugspitze and finally to the German living rooms.


Agricultural landscape with antennas: it wasn’t painted green after all.
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Bild: Picture-Alliance

Raisting was as south as possible and yet far enough away from the high Alps to ensure the best reception. So the choice of location was no coincidence. So the Pfaffenwinkel, a piece of almost perfect Upper Bavaria with a stable smell and 160 church towers that protrude into the white-blue sky, came to its parabolic mirrors. One suggested that the bowls should be painted green so that they wouldn’t stand out. In the public image, however, the idea was dismissed as an April Fool’s joke.

Of course, the earth station in Raisting still looks out of place today, but it also has its optical charms. At that time, the project was not accepted in a godly way, which could have been accepted in the Catholic priests’ corner. The Raistinger Albert Tafertshofer can still remember the beginnings. His father was familiar with the plans for the earth station in the Raistingen municipal council at the beginning of the 1960s. “It was certainly not a love marriage,” says Tafertshofer. “The bride – raising – was initially not asked, the groom – the Federal Post Office – kept his plans secret in the background.”

Then the things were there

So rumors started popping up. The Second World War was over for just 16 years. There was “the fear that if the war broke out again, Raisting could be bombed in order to disrupt the news transmission,” continued Tafertshofer. The Cold War raged, the Berlin Wall was only recently built. But with a generous purchase of land at the very good price of 15 marks for the square meter at the time, the dissenting voices soon fell silent, especially since rooms could also be rented out to future employees. Even the most famous voice of opposition, the composer Carl Orff from nearby Diessen, finally gave up.

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