NASA admits original Apollo 11 footage was ‘erased’ due to a misunderstanding.
NASA confessed that the original tapes from the Moon Landing were “erased and reused” after program officials “decided there was no longer a need” to maintain them.
The space agency fulfilled the seemingly impossible objective of landing a man on the Moon on July 20, 1969. When Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed at Tranquility Base, they achieved President John F. Kennedy’s goal of ending the Space Race. Six hours later, Armstrong jumped off the Eagle lunar lander and gave his “one tiny step” address to millions of people on Earth, before Aldrin joined him 20 minutes later.
However, some of the original footage was never recovered.
It was recorded in slow-scan, which means it had a 10 frames per second output and so couldn’t be broadcast on television.
The footage was modified for broadcast and uplinked to a satellite, then downlinked to Houston before being broadcast on commercial television, according to NASA.
The backup footage was not judged necessary in the years following the mission because the real-time broadcast worked and was widely captured.
The quest for the “missing tapes” began in 2006, when the CIA undertook a thorough examination but was unable to locate the video.
“An extensive review of archives and records revealed that the most likely scenario was that the program managers decided there was no longer a need to maintain the tapes — since all the video had been recorded elsewhere — and they were wiped and reused,” NASA admitted in 2019.
Because NASA’s Landsat program was experiencing a serious data cassette shortage in the 1980s, it’s likely that the tapes were erased and reused at that time.
Since the video signals were forwarded to the Manned Spacecraft Centre in Houston throughout the flight, NASA has confirmed there is no missing footage from Apollo 11.
For the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11, the CIA remastered film from the landing and published it in 2009.
“There was no video that came down slow-scan that was not converted live, transmitted live, to Houston, and broadcast live to the world,” NASA engineer Dick Nafzger stated.
“So, just in case someone thinks there’s a video out there that hasn’t been seen, there isn’t.”
NASA has only lost the original tapes with the Apollo film, not the actual footage.
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