It may have been one small step for Neil Armstrong, but it was a continuing project for those of us in VT during the late 1960s and early 1970s. This is a section of the Oldboys website that is well overdue in the story of Television Recording and BBCVT.

Mary Keene

Possibly the most memorable figure on the production side - it was a Current Affairs project - was the late Mary Keene, pictured left in a post PPB Bar visit. Other names were Bob Marsland, Richard 'Dick' Francis, Tam Fry and Alex Saward.

Sadly, we currently have no specific pictures of the area during a 'mission' - if anyone out there does, please let me know - but the operation was based around the VT1 corridor and was usually centered on VT9, 10, 11 & 12. The picture below, although from the Montreal Olympics overnights in 1976, gives some idea of the machines involved.

VT9/10 area 1976
There were quite a few memories of the operation (more would be nice!), and I will kick off with a couple of my own.

The Lift Story. I think this was on one of the later missions (14/15). We were doing inserts into BBC1 & 2 during the evening and, after the evening meal reliefs had been completed, there was an hour to the next TX. It was suggested that we repaired to the Bar and we all, PAs included, went to the fourth floor. In plenty of time (honest!) we all crammed into the South Hall lift and pressed basement. The lift headed south at a high rate of knots and shuddered to a halt - but, the doors wouldn't open!
After much emergency telephoning (explaining that we were getting near TX time) a person levered the doors open from outside, which revealed we were partly in the sub-basement (obviously too heavy). We all climbed up and out and rushed into VT where, with seconds to go, the phones were ringing and there was somewhat of a panic in progress.

The Absconding PA. (Mick Goodenough, I think, might remember this one as well). Again, I think this was 14 or 15. By now network interest was less than before and there weren't wall to wall programmes prior to the launch which, in this case, was scheduled for late evening. James Burke was in the US and doing voice overs on the NASA feed. We were having to replug the sound to remove "..... for those of you watching on BBC2" type of comments. Some tension was building and we had a (relatively) new PA in charge - he went on to become somewhat famous in later life. TX time arrived and the PA, who had been fielding quite a bit of verbage from the gallery, suddenly said "...... that's it, I can't do any more!" and retired to the bar, leaving the VT crew on their own with a one hour TX only seconds away! To compound the situation, the blasted rocket wasn't due to fly for quite a bit and there was no feed from the US. So, to pass the time, we searched through the logs and played in various shots of rockets steaming away on the launch pad, cueing James Burke on the four wire to talk over the shots, until the feed came in and the launch took place.

And, of course, Dave Rixon captured the whole thing in his cartoon of "Apollorama Week"
it is nearer the truth than you think!

ArmstrongThe whole Apollo story has been brought bang up to date with a world-wide search for the actual recorded tapes of Neil Armstrong on the Moon. As you will remember, the pictures that were transmitted in the UK were not of the best quality having come in from the Moon as slow scan video and been converted to NTSC by pointing a vidicon at a monitor and then converted from NTSC to PAL for UK distribution. To add to the problems, not only are tapes missing, but the actual VTR that could replay them is obsolete and the facility where it is housed was due to close in October 2006..
Some of you may have seen on the web the document which records 'The Search for the Apollo 11 SSTV Tapes" - if not, I have obtained permission from its author, John Sarkissian who is an Operations Scientist at CSIRO Parkes Observatory (for the acronym junkies among you CSIRO is Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation) to place a copy of the file in our Downloads section - there's also a link here.
It is a fascinating read and, if any of you out there have any tapes in your loft....? I must add, however, that the missing tapes are NOT in Ed Wooden's garage!

Update September 29th 2010
Following a report in the Daily Telegraph previewing a showing of restored NASA footage of the Apollo 11 Moon landing, I emailed John Sarkissian to find out more. He replied that:-
Unfortunately, it's just the restored video. NASA has not released the full restored video yet (they plan on doing that in the near future).
Until then, we're going to show some selected highlights from the restored video at the Australian Geographic Awards presentation next Wednesday (6 October), where Buzz Aldrin is the guest of honour. I'm looking forward to meeting him.
I wish it could have been the original footage.
However, I did find NASA's Final Report on the search for the Apollo 11 tapes. It shows that other organisations also have 'problems' with a wipe and retain policy! Link here and in Downloads.

Another part of the Apollo Space Tracking Network was Honeysuckle Creek, near Canberra, Australia. Dave Buckley has pointed me at their website which is full of fascinating information about the radio telescope and the people who worked there.

As usual if you have any reminiscences, photos, comments, corrections (or even tapes), contact me!