On Monday a group of students crossed the car park near Hanger 1 to visit a company based inside a small unused McDonalds.
Between 1966 and 1968 five satellites were tasked to photograph the moon in preparation for the Apollo landing. Each satellite developed the film on board, scanned the negatives with a 5 micron spot (200 lines/millimeter resolution) beamed a radio signal back to earth. On the ground, the signal was converted back into images and audio recordings onto magnetic tapes.
When NASA recently discovered that their digital images did not have as good resolution as these original analogue versions, a company called OnOrbit set out to digitise the film.
Recovering the data has proven to be very difficult, requiring a frankensteinian array of different bits of technology from over the last 40 years. They needed an Ampex tape player, which they discovered in a chicken coop and restored with the help of the original designer. There is only one person on Earth who still refurbishes these tape heads, and being the only person on earth who does it, he can charge as he likes.
Above the front counter is a display which once held images of burgers, chicken nuggets and diet cokes. Now, it holds photos of the moon, including the first ever image of the earth taken from space.
Each strip of magnetic film is a small sliver of the moon, which once processed can be lined up alongside all the others and together maps out the entire surface.
Just above a row of metal cup holders and next to a disused deep fat fryer a different type of cooking appliance heats up rolls of magnetic tape. A gravity convection oven warms the tapes to loosened and separate them before preparation and processing. Sometimes its used to re-heat cookies too.