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Has NASA Found the Lost Moon Tapes? 222

Posted by timothy
from the don't-you-mean-the-b-roll? dept.
jra writes "For over 5 years, various people both inside and retired from NASA have been engaged in a quest. They were looking for the long-lost original slow-scan video tapes from the Apollo 11 moon landing, which went missing in a record-keeping snafu, covered in unreasonable detail in a Wired article a couple years ago. Well now, according to the UK's Sunday Express newspaper, some tapes may or may not have been found which may or may not be the Apollo video. Apparently — I love the British press — the NASA boffins are a bit put out that it leaked; they were hoping to blow everyone's minds with the scoop themselves."
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Has NASA Found the Lost Moon Tapes?

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  • Hope (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tablizer (95088) on Sunday June 28, 2009 @02:26PM (#28505753) Homepage Journal

    That would be great if true. To lose the originals of the greatest technological and exploration achievement event since Columbus is a gut-wrenching thought. (And the existing copies are poor quality.)

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by FooAtWFU (699187)
      Greatest achievement since Columbus? Columbus and the Apollo programs were the exact opposites of each other. The Apollo engineers had a pretty accurate idea of what they were setting out to accomplish, while Columbus stumbled across the New World despite sheer ignorance and wrongheadedness and was really lucky not to die through sheer incompetence.

      Also, despite the incompetence, subsequent colonization of the New World has resulted in something substantially useful (the US GDP alone is over $13 trillion!

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        a "few" random spinoff technologies? Funniest thing I've ever read. Thank you sir!

      • Re:Hope (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Tablizer (95088) on Sunday June 28, 2009 @02:52PM (#28505987) Homepage Journal

        while Columbus stumbled across the New World despite sheer ignorance and wrongheadedness and was really lucky not to die through sheer incompetence.

        He was one of the best navigators in the business at the time, and had a very experienced crew. It's just that he was missing a few pieces of the puzzle. On his second mission, he used his knowledge of celestial mechanics and eclipses to fool some island tribes into thinking he was a god, saving his crew from torture or starvation.

        Further, Neal Armstrong was once quoted as saying he felt they had a 50/50 chance before the trip. Many things did almost go wrong on the first flight, including an overloaded computer and insufficient landing fuel. Luck, skill, and experience overrode those. Apollo 11 was hardly a sure thing.

        They were *all* gamblers.
             

        • Re:Hope (Score:5, Insightful)

          by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Sunday June 28, 2009 @03:03PM (#28506063) Journal
          He was a good navigator; but he also believed in a number for the earth's circumference that was wildly wrong(and this wasn't just a "product of his time" error, superior numbers were widely available, and he was kind of a crank for not using them). It was sheer luck that the Americas happened to exist right about where Asia wasn't.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Tablizer (95088)

            It was sheer luck that the Americas happened to exist right about where Asia wasn't.

            If it wasn't, they'd probably just turn around, head back, and we'd never hear about it in history books. The crew was getting edgy near the end of the trip because they were running out of enough supplies to turn back without a shore-stop, but they kept seeing plant debris in the water that suggested shore was near. If not for the debris, they would probably have turned around a bit sooner and simply gave up, barely making

            • Re:Hope (Score:5, Informative)

              by Tablizer (95088) on Sunday June 28, 2009 @03:31PM (#28506281) Homepage Journal

              If not for the debris, they would probably have turned around a bit sooner and simply gave up

              Ironically, Neal faced a similar decision. The computer was signaling an unknown overload and they were also running tight on landing fuel as he spotted some large boulders he wanted to avoid. He could have called to abort the mission, using the ascent engine to return to moon orbit. In fact, "abort" would have been the "right" decision in my opinion based on what was known at the time.

              He gambled that the computer was still returning useful info despite the overload[1], and that he could manage his way to a landing on short fuel. I remember him saying afterward that even if he ran out of fuel, he was close enough to the ground for a "bounce" landing while jetting around the boulders, and thus mostly ignored ground-control's warnings. (The main ground announcer even joked about ground control "turning blue" just after landing because of the late landing.)

              He was possibly thinking he might never get a second chance, and thus took on excessive risk.

              [1] (It turned out the computer was still sufficient despite the overload, but they didn't fully know it then because they didn't know the cause yet. The cause turned out to be an extra un-docking service that they accidentally left on that wasn't needed for landing.)
                             

              • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

                by HonIsCool (720634)
                Would work great as a cinematic piece, but the truth is that it was not Neil Armstrong that made such a decision. The 1202 and 1201 master alarms meant that the Apollo Guidance Computer was getting overloaded because the rendezvous radar was inadvertently left in the wrong setting. The master alarms shook everyone up seriously, but Steve Bales in mission control recognized that it was okay to go ahead and made that call.
                • by jra (5600)

                  I read the piece, too.

                  Bales made the call, but it was Jack Garman who actually "recognized that it was ok to go ahead", and that was mostly because he had a Krantz-inspired list in front of him of go-nogo calls by alarm number.

              • In fact, "abort" would have been the "right" decision in my opinion based on what was known at the time.

                Unless you are Neil Armstrong. There is a reason he was picked to go on that mission. He starts out as a combat jet pilot over Korea, brings back a totally shot up bird.

                After taking a bit of time to get some additional education, he winds up as a test pilot... flying all sorts of exotic craft. He makes his way into NASA, and there, he makes a quick decision that saves a tumbling Gemini spacecraft. Then, he's ejecting from wildly unstable lunar lander proxy craft.

                Pretty much his whole career, Armstrong flew a bunch of crazy aircraft in a bunch of dangerous situations and proved himself as having a knack for making the right decisions, and quickly, because of crunch time.

                He gambled that the computer was still returning...excessive risk

                I think its fair to say that with his track record, he didn't take excessive risk -for him-. He was the best flyer NASA had, and he was doing his job.

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by K. S. Kyosuke (729550)

            "It was sheer luck that the Americas happened to exist right about where Asia wasn't."

            Tell that to IT job positions, someone gave them Columbus's old map and they carried on in the search for India from the place where Columbus had stopped.

          • by Blakey Rat (99501)

            If there's one thing I've learned from reading Orson Scott Card books, it's that he only used that number because a hologram from the future told him to. Duh.

        • by dword (735428)

          Further, Neal Armstrong was once quoted as saying he felt they had a 50/50 chance before the trip.

          They could have either succeeded or failed. Whatever would have happened, his 50/50 would have been right.
          </joke>

          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            by Tablizer (95088)

            Joke aside, Armstrong had been through some rough times in other missions or tests, and that's probably why they selected him. The first was when a leak caused a Gemini (?) capsule to spin out of control. He was eventually able to bring it back under control despite enough G's to potentially pass out. The second was some kind of experimental moon lander that crashed in tests. He survived, and after being patched up, went right back to work as if nothing happened. This attitude got him the reputation for hav

            • It wasn't a lunar lander, it was a research/training vehicle LLRV/LLTV [wikipedia.org].

              And yes, it was Gemini 8 that ranks with Apollo 13 as the most dangerous non-fatal US spaceflight.

        • On his second mission, he used his knowledge of celestial mechanics and eclipses to fool some island tribes into thinking he was a god, saving his crew from torture or starvation.

          Is there a good link to this story in full? I've heard about it before - there was a party here years ago commemorating it called "Our God will eat your moon!" - but have yet to read a full account.

          • by fractoid (1076465)
            Isn't that the old modern-guy-goes-back-to-medieval-times-and-pretends-to-be-a-wizard-by-remembering-eclipse-dates trope? I've seen it used so many different places, I'd be surprised if Columbus *didn't* use that trick. :P
            • Isn't that the old modern-guy-goes-back-to-medieval-times-and-pretends-to-be-a-wizard-

              Not that modern. Try "Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court" by Mark Twain.

              • by fractoid (1076465)
                That's actually exactly the book I was thinking of. Kudos to you sir! :)

                I'm pretty sure several stories about Merlin use this trope too, along with 'amazing the savages with your control over the sun god' type tales, though I can't bring any specific examples to mind. Luckily for me, tvtropes.org [tvtropes.org] can.
        • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

          by Hognoxious (631665)

          Further, Neal Armstrong

          Who? I've never heard of him. Reilly.

      • Re:Hope (Score:5, Funny)

        by clang_jangle (975789) on Sunday June 28, 2009 @03:47PM (#28506427) Journal

        and no, a few random spinoff NASA technologies aren't really worth talking about.

        Oh yeah, smart guy? What about about Jack Klompus's astronaut pen? It writes upside down...

    • Wired's article is not unreasonable. When a group collectively acts like they have an IQ of 1 they deserve the condemnation. Everyone responsible for the loss should have lost their job and pension. Maybe if NASA had been decapitated then we'd have a better NASA now.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Tablizer (95088)

        Everyone responsible for the loss should have lost their job and pension.

        It's possible that nobody was formerly responsible. The TV camera thing was kind of a last-minute decision because of concerns over weight, and thus no formal media archiving procedure was set up for it. The whole landing was kind of a rush-job to meet the deadline, and thus such "afterthought" details kind of fell through the cracks.

    • That would be great if true. To lose the originals of the greatest technological and exploration achievement event since Columbus is a gut-wrenching thought. (And the existing copies are poor quality.)

      Agree. So, when will we get to see the copies on You Tube?

  • FYI (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 28, 2009 @02:29PM (#28505777)

    The Sunday Express is hardly our fair isle's most reliable newspaper.

    • by Bearpaw (13080)

      The Sunday Express is hardly our fair isle's most reliable newspaper.

      What?! The Daily Express is The World's Greatest Newspaper! It says so right on the front page!

  • by Tablizer (95088) on Sunday June 28, 2009 @02:33PM (#28505819) Homepage Journal

    The good news is they found the tapes. The bad news is Kim Jong-il has them and wants 20 billion dollars, part of South Korea, and a lock of Michael Jackson's hair.
         

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by basil64 (1061038)
      ...or He will unleash a 'Rain Of Fire' and destroy the moon. ( Once they figure out that whole ballistics/propulsion thing.... )
    • We don't have the money so give him the whole corpse and a third equity in the reformed GM. Then Kim and Jacko can go cruising around NK in a hummer, ala Weekend at Bernies, while the rest of us enjoy quality video of a more triumphant era.

  • Conspiracy theory (Score:3, Insightful)

    by veektor (545483) on Sunday June 28, 2009 @02:36PM (#28505857)
    Crucially, they could once and for all dispel 40 years of wild conspiracy theories.

    New facts would never dispel a perfectly good conspiracy theory. Instead, the new facts are evidence that the conspiracy is still on-going.

    Up your k1lt!
    • by lxs (131946)

      Of course, they had to wait for HD editing equipment to be affordable to re-fake the moonlanding in high quality.

      That's why it took them five years. Even with help from the Greys.

  • May "or may not" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by uberdilligaff (988232) on Sunday June 28, 2009 @02:43PM (#28505903)
    Wouldn't it be nice if people (such as the summary writer) understood that "may" inherently includes the uncertainty as to whether it actually "does", or perhaps "does not"? Then they wouldn't feel compelled to append the completely redundant "or may not" every time.
    • by snaz555 (903274)

      Wouldn't it be nice if people (such as the summary writer) understood that "may" inherently includes the uncertainty as to whether it actually "does", or perhaps "does not"? Then they wouldn't feel compelled to append the completely redundant "or may not" every time.

      It wasn't expressed with a high rate of accuracy.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by KritonK (949258)
      I demand that these tapes may or may not be the Apollo video!
    • by jd (1658) <imipak AT yahoo DOT com> on Sunday June 28, 2009 @03:59PM (#28506517) Homepage Journal

      If there's data on them, it's data that was lost from some mission or other. There are plenty of missions (such as the Venus landings) where a bucket of extra data spools could provide massively valuable scientific data, even to this day.

      Now that the moon has been (at least partially, if not fully) mapped in high-def, and a host of other probes have been sent to collect all kinds of other data, moon tapes would be really more interesting from a historic standpoint. Nothing wrong with that, especially as staggering achievements tend to wake public interest and open the money taps, but from a scientific standpoint there must be huge numbers of reels of tape that would actually be of greater value to NASA.

    • by Trepidity (597)

      It can have different connotations, more strongly emphasizing the negative possibility. For example, if I say "This book may be what you're looking for" versus "This book may or may not be what you're looking for", the 2nd suggestion is phrased in a way that makes me sound much more ambivalent about whether I actually think the book is what the person I'm addressing is looking for.

  • "some tapes may or may not have been found which may or may not be the Apollo video."

    That's no Moon tape! (But - seriously - if it is, it will be great to see the thing finally in HD, or whatever NASA called "high quality" at that time. :))

    • by Dogtanian (588974)

      But - seriously - if it is, it will be great to see the thing finally in HD, or whatever NASA called "high quality" at that time. :)

      It's not HD; actually, according to the Wired article, the video is a mere 320 lines, 10 frames per second. (There wasn't enough bandwidth for a full NTSC-quality signal).

      Even so, *if* these are the tapes of the original moon landing, then it'll let us see it in much higher quality than we could originally.

      • I was just joking. I am a bit familiar with Apollo-era telemetric equipment, and it is my understanding that seeing these tapes will be like having a 1999 RealMedia movie downloaded from the Net upgraded to a brand new VHS rip in MPEG1.
        • by zmollusc (763634)

          I think you are too harsh. The forty year old lashed-up crapular cine film of a broadcast mechanically converted from analogue slowscan is much better than any realmedia one-iframe-then-buffering-then-crash movie.

  • "Scoop" ? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jimhill (7277) on Sunday June 28, 2009 @03:00PM (#28506035) Homepage

    Apparently someone forgot to tell NASA that they're a government agency and not some kind of mass-media Nielsen-dependent agency that relies on "scoops" and "special announcements". When they find something, they should announce it immediately. Suppose they'd found these tapes on July 21...would they have thought it appropriate to sit on them until July 20, 2019, just to have something special to go with the 50th anniversary?

    • Re:"Scoop" ? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Somegeek (624100) on Sunday June 28, 2009 @03:44PM (#28506401)

      If only we lived in a world where government agencies got the funding that they needed regardless of current taxpayer whim. In one example, if NASA drops in popularity then they become an easy target for Senators looking to make a name for themselves as budget cutters.

      Thus any scoops or special announcements that they can come up with help keep them popular in the taxpayer's eye and help keep the budget cutters away.

    • by _Sprocket_ (42527)

      Every single Government agency that exists is worried about how they appear to the public. They exist at the public's whim. Even an agency that does a decent job will lose funding if some over-eager reporter manages to portray them as incompetent and ineffective.

      With that said - are you really, really sure this is the situation? Read that article again. Pay close attention to this:

      Perhaps unhappy that a secret they had planned to grandly announce in three weeks had been rumbled, he added: "At this point, I'm not prepared to discuss what has or has not been found.

      "The research team is preparing its final report and we'll release those findings publicly in the coming weeks."

      Note how much the reporter is reading in to what is actually said. This could be NASA wanting to be thorough as much as the

    • by mikael (484)

      They need "eye candy" for the public to appreciate what they are doing. A graph of the chemical composition of moon rocks will be meaningless to most of the public. A multi-color cartographic map of the moon with different rock compositions in different colors looks cool on a teenagers bedroom wall. But just about everyone can appreciate high resolution images on a webpage or Google Moon.

  • by The_mad_linguist (1019680) on Sunday June 28, 2009 @03:05PM (#28506081)

    What they aren't saying is that the Sunday Press borrowed them all along, and never returned them.

    They didn't even bother to rewind, those selfish jerks.

  • by owlnation (858981) on Sunday June 28, 2009 @03:06PM (#28506091)
    It's great that these tapes are found (and shocking that they were ever lost). But I find it a remarkable and wholly unbelievable coincidence that they were found just before the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing.

    Yeah, no wonder NASA is pissed at it leaking now. Their marketing droids must be furious.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      >But I find it a remarkable and wholly unbelievable coincidence that they were found just before the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing.
      Hey, would *you* check the time capsule?

    • and shocking that they were ever lost

      I think there were more tapes (from robotic missions [slashdot.org]) that were either lost or that were saved "at the last moment". Even though I understand that sometimes the new results simply obsolete whatever he had, one has to wonder whether it is really such a problem to keep the memorable bits safe (especially when they keep on shrinking exponentially - at least compared to our growing storage capacity).

  • Just a shame the moon conspiracy-believers will claim that "Of course they've found the tapes NOW, now that computers are powerful enough to fake it properly"

  • ...before you start the renderfarm. ;-)

    For over 5 years [...] NASA have been engaged in a quest.

  • by maxwell demon (590494) on Sunday June 28, 2009 @03:40PM (#28506381) Journal

    some tapes may or may not have been found which may or may not be the Apollo video.

    Vroomfondel, is that you?

  • by camperdave (969942) on Sunday June 28, 2009 @03:50PM (#28506443) Journal
    So, Is there hope for finding the missing Dr Who episodes?
    • by Kjella (173770)

      Why not? All it takes is really some box in an attic noone remembers what is or why it could be important. People have found extremely rare stamps and coins and whatnot before, why not old video tapes? I just wouldn't put money on it...

    • So, Is there hope for finding the missing Dr Who episodes?

      Sorry, not with today's technology. The Doctor was last seen looking for them. Unfortunately it's rumoured he'd carried a copy of Hofstadter's "Goedel-Escher-Bach" with him and was midway through an exciting chapter when he reached for the pushcorn by mistake. He's currently lost in a prison of his plot device.

  • by PPH (736903)
    ... in the Universal Pictures studio vault, mis-labeled as a Michael Jackson video.
  • Ok, it's too late and I'm right about to hit the sakc so I've no time to read up on things, but as far as I remember, there are already better versions of the Apollo 11 video footage than the popular one making the rounds. The missing tapes are the recordings of the raw signal from the spaceship. This is not NTSC and it takes a custom machine to read data off the tapes. This machine, if it still exists and is functioning, can playback the video and the better quality copies were made off of this screen. The
  • by Sockatume (732728) on Sunday June 28, 2009 @05:47PM (#28507229)

    NASA has yet to release a formal statement, but one of their spokespeople is describing the Sunday Express's article as "fiction" [twitter.com]. Whether this means the Apollo 11 tapes haven't actually been found, or the way they were found is completely made up, is anyone's guess, but it shows the risks of taking a tabloid newspaper's breakthrough discovery which doesn't name any of its sources at face value.

  • Story's false (Score:5, Informative)

    by Captain Nitpick (16515) on Sunday June 28, 2009 @08:31PM (#28508349)

    Bob Jacobs [linkedin.com], the deputy assistant administrator for public affairs at NASA, says the story's fiction [twitter.com].

    (via Phil Plait [discovermagazine.com])

  • ... is these videos.
    .
    .
    cus.gus@hotmail.com

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