STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory

Date(s) - 19 Jul 2019
5:45 pm - 8:45 pm

STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory



This event is now SOLD OUT. For those with tickets, if you find you cannot attend please cancel using the registration link to allow others on the waiting list an opportunity.

This July is the 50th anniversary of the 1969 moon landing. The crew of Eagle the Lunar Module landed at 20:17 UTC on Sunday 20th July, and Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first men to walk on the moon.

STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory is hosting a week of events centred around this historic day, and we have been able to organise a special history-centric BCS event on the evening of Friday 19th July.

We will have access to the main moon exhibition in the new Visitors Centre. The console of a Ferranti Atlas 1 computer will be on display in a side room together with some related items, and we are hoping to have a talk about the history of Atlas from one of the original staff. The Atlas Computer was one of the world’s first supercomputers. It was designed and built in the UK and was used at RAL between 1964 and 1973.

As this will be the first time Oxfordshire BCS have met on-site, there will also be a short photo tour of Harwell, Rutherford and Atlas laboratories going back to the 1930s.

And just because it’s moon week, we’ll hear the story of how the 12 metre satellite dish you will be able to see from the window took part in the global broadcast of the moon landing from Australia then ended-up more than 9,000 miles away at Rutherford!

Details of the event:

Guests are invited to arrive at 17:45 for an 18:30 start. Sandwiches and cold drinks will be served on arrival and there will be time to look around.

The talks and presentations are expected to end about 20:00 leaving guests another 30 minutes to look around the site and visitors centre before we must leave.

Numbers will be limited and priority booking will be given to members until the end of May.

Please use this link to register

Due to the nature of the site there is a minimum age of 16 years for this visit.

More information will be published as we finalise the programme for this exciting evening.

Travel Instructions for registered attendees:

RAL Reception is R75, marked in red.
The Atlas Computer Laboratory is R27 and R31 opposite RAL Reception.
R112 is marked in purple, between the South Car Park and big satellite dish.


Parking on site for blue badge holders is in the Visitor’s car park next to R112; there will be lots of cars here already, but few staff so it should be easy to find somewhere.

Parking for non-blue badge holders is wherever you can find a (legitimate!) space.  There is a big car park in front of Diamond, and more spaces in front of R89 (both coloured aqua).

If you’re feeling adventurous…

  • Park near the Thompson Entrance then walk down Rutherford Avenue past the old RAF HQ;
  • Turn left along Eighth Street past the side of Hangar 10 where BEPO was housed;
  • Turn right at the roundabout on the corner of Diamond and RAL Space;
  • Continue westwards along the old runway to the famous Atlas Computer Laboratory;
  • Then across the road to RAL Reception.

I’d allow 30-40 mins depending on how fast you walk and how long you linger. THERE WILL BE NO SEARCH PARTIES. If you get lost, you’re on your own.


When you arrive, you must register at RAL Reception and collect your suitably-logoed site pass. You will then be directed appropriately.

You will be going to the Hamilton Room of the R112 Visitor’s Centre for the BCS event. The building has the letters “VISITOR CENTRE” on the side so should be easy to spot. There should also be “BCS@RAL” notices on strategic doors.

If you find yourself in the main Exhibition Hall of the Visitor’s Centre then you’re in the right building. Aim for the Pluto Room (it will probably have sandwiches in it), and through to the Hamilton Room.

If you find yourself at Seeing Science in the R22 Lecture Theatre then you are at the wrong event!

Note that Reception will be staffed for a limited time only. (We’re currently thinking 17:30 to 18:05.) If you arrive beforehand, then just wait. (There are loos.) If you arrive afterwards however then you won’t get in at all.


We are currently working to 17:45 for 18:30, but there’s the possibility of moon rocks being available so firmer decisions will be made in the next couple of days (assuming Comms have decided).

There will (I hope!) be four talks:

  1. Welcome + intro + whistle-stop tour of site history from me (15mins);
  2. An introduction to the 12m satellite dish outside the window from someone in the Space Science Department (15mins);
  3. A talk about the Ferranti Atlas 1 computer by Prof Bob Hopgood, Atlas alumni, (30-40mins);
  4. A work-in-progress talk on Cybernetic Serendipity, a film about the life and work of Tony Pritchett, creator of The Flexipede, given by Kate Sullivan, animator, and protégé of Tony’s (15mins).

The main moon week exhibition area should be open, but will probably not be staffed in the evening.

We are aiming to finish by about 20:00; all visitors must be off site and on their way home by 20:30.

Safety, photography etc

Please see the attached safety document. This applies primarily to tours round site rather than fixed events, but the safety instructions apply generally.

Photography of exhibits for personal use only is permitted, but all other recording requires permission. Do not photograph or record anybody without their permission.


This event is hosted with the support of the Science & Technology Facilities Council

Photographs Copyright STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory and James Seddon on Unsplash

Add to calendar: iCal