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NASA Space

Apollo 11 TV Tapes Go Missing 438

Richard W.M. Jones writes "On July 21st 1969, Honeysuckle Creek observatory brought us the first TV pictures of men on the moon. The original signals were recorded on high quality slow-scan TV (SSTV) tapes. What was released to the TV networks was reduced to lower quality commercial TV standards. Unfortunately John Sarkissian of Parkes Observatory Australia reports that 698 of the 700 boxes of original tapes have gone missing [warning: large PDF] from the U.S. National Archives. Even more worryingly, the last place on earth which can actually read these tapes is scheduled to close in October this year. The PDF contains interesting comparisons which show that if all you've seen are the TV pictures from the landing, you really haven't seen the first moon walk in its full glory."
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Apollo 11 TV Tapes Go Missing

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  • Um.... (Score:5, Funny)

    by viper21 ( 16860 ) <scott.iqfoundry@com> on Thursday July 13, 2006 @07:25PM (#15715440) Homepage
    I knew I forgot to return those rental tapes.

    I wonder if I can talk them out of the late fees again.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 13, 2006 @07:25PM (#15715442)
    Incontrovertible proof that the moon landing was faked is convenently "lost" by the national archives while Bush II talks about going "back" to the moon.
    • I mean that's just taking it way too far. To think that they actually faked the moon landing.
      So what if they did plan to invade Cuba by shooting down a civilian airliner over Cuba and
      then blaming Castro for it (Operation Northwood, if you're into FOIA documents), so what
      if George W(anker) Bush's Grandpa Prescott cut Onkel Adolf a cheque every now and then and now
      they're friends with BinLaden Terrorgroup Inc. so what if these people used unsuspecting
      civilians and military unwittingly as subjects in radiation
      • by R3d M3rcury ( 871886 ) on Thursday July 13, 2006 @09:09PM (#15715949) Journal
        The world saw it happen on TV [...]
        Back in 1939, a large part of the eastern seaboard heard about a Martian Invasion on the radio. Turned out it wasn't true.

        There is lots of evidence that we landed on the moon (900 pounds of moonrocks being a good part of it). But to say, "I know we landed on the moon 'cause I saw it on my Tee Vee!" is ridiculous.

        Considering the low resolution television images that came back, it would have been very easy to fake it.
        • I have 900lbs of mooon rocks if you want to buy them...............
        • TV may be low resolution, but there were several things you could see that still would have only been possible in an airless environment and a substantially lower gravity. Many of those scenes could not have been faked in a studio, even today, let alone in 1969. While one may try to argue that they were faked with photorealistic animation, that leaves the nasty problem of actually GETTING photorealistic animation.... in 1969. Oh... but that creates yet another conspiracy: that NASA and the government had more computing power available to them in 1969 than modern movie studios with huge render farms have today. And it just gets worse from there... one has to keep inventing more extravagant and obviously contrived excuses about why we can't possibly find any evidence for the truth while simultaneous suggesting that all the evidence that might contradict their theory is "obviously" planted which just goes to further "prove" the conspiracy. (insert rolling eyes expression here).

          It's about on par with a Jehovah's Witness trying to say that the geological evidence for an old planet was just put there by God to test our faith.

          Any attempt at a rational discussion with a conspiracy theorist quickly devolves into a flurry of conjecture and hypothesis with no logical foundation. Occam's Razor be damned.

          • TV may be low resolution, but there were several things you could see that still would have only been possible in an airless environment and a substantially lower gravity.

            Like what? I'm not asking be snotty or anything...

            I love working out how you could fake the moon landings. Not that they were fake, but could it be done with 1969 technology in such a way that no one at NASA would be aware of it? I agree, I hear these stories of advanced computer graphics and I shake my head. NASA cannot be in on the j

        • by Zaphod2016 ( 971897 ) on Friday July 14, 2006 @04:50AM (#15717447) Homepage
          What these conspiracy theorists always forget is that we placed beacons on the moon which we "ping" with lasers constantly.

          Behold more mass-media lies (part of the conspiracy no doubt) here!! []

          Even if the footage was all faked, and NASA was nothing but a PR department gone wrong, *something* qwnt to the moon and placed very specifically calibrated censors there, coincidentally, these censors have been used WORLDWIDE for some 40 years now. Fade back...Occum's razor trumps David Duchovny for the win.
  • So.... (Score:5, Funny)

    by arthurpaliden ( 939626 ) on Thursday July 13, 2006 @07:29PM (#15715462)
    So the actual 'raw' proof that men were walking on the moon is gone. How convenient.
  • by Bun ( 34387 ) on Thursday July 13, 2006 @07:32PM (#15715474)
    Quick! Convert them to HD-DVD, er, Blu-Ray, er...
    • I thought they were backed up on Betamax in the '80s. All you need is a player that can play that forma—

    • Re:Back them up! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by hackstraw ( 262471 ) * on Thursday July 13, 2006 @09:56PM (#15716167)
      Quick! Convert them to HD-DVD, er, Blu-Ray, er...

      Funny, but this brings up the debate about distribution, copyright, and file sharing.

      Just think. If these recordings were digitally transferred and uploaded somewhere like [] (which I believe they belong), then we would have access to these things basically forever in the best quality that they could be.

      As Linus has said, "Only wimps use tape backup: real men just upload their important stuff on ftp, and let the rest of the world mirror it."

      Well, times have changed and p2p is arguably better than ftp.

  • by krell ( 896769 ) on Thursday July 13, 2006 @07:33PM (#15715481) Journal
    They let me on the Warner Bros backlot where the first Apollo landings were filmed back in the 1960s (my dad was friends with the guy they hired to dump the "lunar sand" in the studio). I had my 8 mm Kodak movie camera with me, and I still have some reels that I filmed myself during the shooting of important scenes. I'll put them on Youtube soon. (If you ever see the finished films, you'll see the edge of one of my footprints from when I strayed into the actual set in the "lunar soil" near Neil at one time. I'm surprised that, perfectionist as he was, Kubrick did not catch that and edit it out.
  • Ebay? (Score:4, Funny)

    by Cadallin ( 863437 ) on Thursday July 13, 2006 @07:34PM (#15715490)
    Firstly, Isn't this a dupe? And secondly, have they checked ebay yet?
  • Now I can prove once and for all that the moon landing was a fraud! So far in reviewing the tapes, I've seen dress-rehearsals, cables, stand-in props... Hell, you can even see a set-designer clad in overalls working on a matte painting in the background.

    Fer criminy's sake, the tapes are labelled "Faked Moon Landing".

    Your ass is mine, NASA!
  • by Raul654 ( 453029 ) on Thursday July 13, 2006 @07:39PM (#15715510) Homepage
    In May, I was a speaker at the ACM Conference on Computers, Privacy, and Freedom (CFP). On the last day of the conference, one of the speakers was the guy in charge of digization efforts at the Smithsonian Musuem of the American Indian. (Granted, a different branch of the government than the National Archives, which this story pertains to). He said that digization efforts are hampered by a number of issues, not the least of which are the sheer size of the collection, the relatively small budget available, the extreme difficulty of digitizing some parts of the collection (like a 16-ton statue, for example). At this point, even getting an electronic catalogue of the entire collection would be a huge step forward.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      > ... even getting an electronic catalogue of the entire collection would be a huge step forward

      you mean, like one giant leap?
    • ...the extreme difficulty of digitizing some parts of the collection (like a 16-ton statue, for example)...

      Actually, at the University of Chicago we've been doing this sort of thing for about four years now [], though with a bit more than statues. It's time consuming given the current state of scanner hardware, the shear amount of data to be collected and stored and the absolutly shitty software [] availiable, but it's certainly not extremely difficult. Unless, of course, you count something that's time consu
    • I've toured the archives for work purposes and planning purposes for large digitization efforts. The speaker from the Smithsonian is absolutely right- just how the hell do you digitize that much crap? The numbers are staggering- pick any task and multiply it by the billions of feet of film and you've got serious timeframes- in the order (of some estimates I did) 30 to 50 years.

      But I find it odd that they could misplace all the boxes. The check-in/ check-out procedure used at the archives is fairly regimented- to screw something that large up requires a deliberate effort to delete or mis-file the boxes.

      To give you an idea, a box is received / dropped off at the archives. It has it's master database that says "This box is #####". The organization that drops it off maps a number assigned by the archive to that box, and said org maintains all the details of what is IN the box.

      The archives then move the box and it's paperwork to the specific row, shelf, and complex. I believe they are to make a total of 12 to 15 'pulls' per hour, which when we were wanding meant actively finding an item in about 2 minutes after you walk into a complex (this place is huge- each complex is a football field).

      The paperwork is then returned to central processing for annotation and entry into the DB.

      But to lose 700 CF (each box is 1 CF or so) requires serious effort- that implies that someone filed them all in either the wrong complex or completely off the wall location- and that NO ONE has tried to place another item on wherever they are currently sitting.

      Now, assume they've been actively 'pulled' for a number of years. Your standard pull & return places a piece of paper at the boxes location- it's a copy of the form showing who pulled it and when. The paper sits where the box originated- I saw some papers from the 70's which implied that the organization pulled the item yet is still paying around 30 cents / month for that space.

      A permanent withdrawl could have been done to 'stop the monthly fees', but that means the box wouldn't necessarily go back to the same spot. If all those boxes were moved around the entire archives it would be nearly impossible to locate- there's just not enough eyes to find them- and even then you can double stack boxes to boot so you'd never see them.

      So... either the boxes are there or someone checked them out. If they were checked out and the paperwork was lost.... you'll never find them. If they weren't checked out, you would need a miracle (and yes, they do have 'reward' sheets for lost boxes posted around the area) to find them. Maybe there's a cache of boxes somewhere... and then maybe not.

  • by in2mind ( 988476 ) on Thursday July 13, 2006 @07:40PM (#15715515) Homepage
    Whoever has those tapes now,upload to youtube please! :p
  • by krell ( 896769 ) on Thursday July 13, 2006 @07:42PM (#15715522) Journal
    These original DVD's from the CBS vaults were really interesting. They were mastered in 1969 using Amiga Video Toaster. It is probably no coincidence that they turned up missing about the same time Dan Rather left CBS. I wonder if Rather took the wrong boxes when he carted off those old 3.5" inch floppies containing the MS Word 97 docs George Bush's original military service records and archive copies of Bush's Myspace page from 1973.
  • Actually... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rackhamh ( 217889 ) on Thursday July 13, 2006 @07:48PM (#15715544)
    Wouldn't you think that only the people who were THERE have seen the moon walk in ALL its glory? ;)
    • I doubt it. Neil Armstrong likely saw the first foot to set foot on the moon but probably never saw the entirety of the first astronaut to do it - given that he was the guy and thus got a limited view from inside a helmet rather than the wider angle coverage of the camera.

      It's like first person vs. third person games. Accepting that there can be different viewpoints, no one perspective can show "all" the "glory". Neil likely experience a different, very powerful glory as he jumped down - but has also, quite
  • by Danga ( 307709 ) on Thursday July 13, 2006 @07:49PM (#15715550)
    Ok, seriously, how can you lose ~99% of the data from something that is such a HUGE part of history? It is not like this was video of the 30th space shuttle launch or something, this was the first time humans had landed on the MOON. I would think that somebody would realize this and would have taken much more care of those tapes.

    Since the PDF is slashdotted so I can't read it I also am curious as to why if "the last place on earth which can actually read these tapes" closes down someone won't be able to save whatever is required to read the tapes, are they just going to trash the machines? That would seem pretty stupid to me. Anyone have any answers?

    The worst part is the conspiracy theorists claiming the landing never occurred are going to go nuts over this. Almost all the tapes of the landing mysteriously disappear as well as the only way to read the tapes, if I was one of them I would go nuts too.
    • It's "How can the government lose 698/700 boxes?"

      Very easily. They can have all the best recordkeeping procedures in the world, and still lose anything through poor recordkeeping practices despite procedure. And before y'all attribute it to conspiracy theories, I remind you: Don't attribute to malice that which is sufficiently explained by stupidity.
    • stolen, of course (Score:5, Interesting)

      by SuperBanana ( 662181 ) on Thursday July 13, 2006 @08:19PM (#15715710)
      Ok, seriously, how can you lose ~99% of the data from something that is such a HUGE part of history?

      Because most likely they were stolen by NASA employees/managers, government contractors, or "given" (improperly) to elected officials. There a case within the last few years where someone found a storage room at NASA chock full of stuff including two space suits []. The stuff was supposed to have gone to the Smithsonian, but oops, gee, donchaknow, it just mysteriously ended up in a storage room nobody knew anything about.

      Rumsfield had a piece of the airplane that hit the Pentagon, as a showpiece- almost like a trophy. There were plenty of other examples of thefts []. I doubt any of the victim's families saw so much as a pebble. In the executive branch of the federal government the World Trade Center site was like a free-for-all memento/souvineer stop. I'd be astounded if visiting officials at NASA didn't have the same 'sticky fingers'.

      • I'm not sure if it is related, but they did just have the National Archives's basement flood very badly with the large amount of rain the end of last month. It's possible things were hastily relocated. Due to the massive volume of missing tapes, I'd venture to guess they'll either start showing up somewhere, or they'll realize they were moved somewhere else without it being recorded.
      • Re:stolen, of course (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Rorschach1 ( 174480 ) on Friday July 14, 2006 @12:37AM (#15716868) Homepage

        A lot of this can be attributed to staff turnover and lack of continuity. I used to work in a building associated with various launch programs at Vandenberg AFB. I found out at some point that the systems I was responsible for used to be housed in a basement computer room, and that there might still be documentation and stuff there. But with the exception of the maintenance guys, NO ONE had key card access through the three locked doors you had to go through, and no one had even been assigned responsibility for those areas. When I finally did get access, I found whole racks of equipment that were still powered on, not connected to the outside world. A power line monitor had logged every power glitch for years before its paper tape finally jammed. To this day, I think there are still racks of backup tapes down there.

        Of more historical interest, I was once in a plain, ordinary conference room in another building when someone pulled aside the curtains draped around the walls to show me what was there. One whole wall was covered with a schedule matrix running from maybe 1985 through 1989 or so, with little magnetic space shuttles on it. When the west coast shuttle program was canned back in '86, they just pulled the curtains closed and walked away.

        Yeah, some stuff of historical value gets stolen. But much of it is just overlooked, misfiled, misplaced, or just plain forgotten.

        • That's an incredibly depressing thought.
          The area where I grew up had a lot of mining history in the 1890's and some up until the 1940's. When I was young and we'd go out exploring in our Jeep sometimes we'd come across old mine buildings way up in the middle of nowhere that had been similarly abandoned at the end of one season and just never opened back up: cookhouses with all the spices still on racks on shelves, bunkhouses with newspapers and gloves. Two years ago I was hiking way above treeline and cam
    • PDF (Score:5, Informative)

      by antdude ( 79039 ) on Thursday July 13, 2006 @08:20PM (#15715718) Homepage Journal
      Just go to arch_for_SSTV_Tapes.pdf [] :) The story had Coral Cache URL. =)
    • As far as how the tapes were loss, my guess is that they were in boxes labelled "1969 Apollo Moon Landing SSTV Tapes", not something like "The only original recordings of the very first moon landing don't let things things out of your sight or else this valuable piece of history will be lost forever". My guess is that almost *everything* in the US National Archives is the only remaining piece/copy of whatever valuable part of our history it is.

      As far as why there won't be any more SSTV tapes is that techn
    • This is the U.S. government we're talking about. Shouldn't the question be, "How did they manage not to lose 2 of the 700 boxes?"
  • Does anyone think that the originals in the comparisons look worse than the TV versions?

    It may have something to do with the way they got the image, but man, they're not really proving their point with 'em.
    • It's because George Lucas hasn't had his way with the originals, yet. Soon enough, the 'director's true vision' can be revealed to us. There will come a day.
    • WTF are you talking about? The SSTV pictures have much more detail and better greyscale levels than the downconverted NTSC video. Sure, there are artifacts in the picture, they were taken with Polaroid or 35mm cameras which have problems capturing raster images, but these were obviously test shots and not intended for reproduction. Photos of TV screens are difficult to produce, your shutter speed has to exactly match the time it takes to paint one raster, and film cameras weren't built for that, especially
      • Ah, I see the problem now. You looked at the web page, not the PDF. The images on the web page are screwed up, the PDF has much better quality. Don't judge by the website. Try the PDF, the main article's link was a botched attempt to use Coral Cache or something, edit it to get the original URL and it will load OK. Well at least it did for me.
    • What on earth are you talking about? Did you look at the same pdf I did? They showed photographs taken of the original monitors that look way better than the footage that eventually found it's way to TV.

      Are you sure you didn't misread the captions under the pictures?

  • torrent ? (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    i found the release .nfo but i cant find a torrent

    NASA.faked.moon.landings.1969.LiMITED.VHSRip.Xvid. AC3-TeamFBI.CD1-CD698.rar

  • by mgabrys_sf ( 951552 ) on Thursday July 13, 2006 @07:54PM (#15715579) Journal
    Nearly 700 copies of "A Star Wars Holiday Special" appeared in the trash around LucasFilm that had been taped over some old media George had obtained from NASA years ago.
  • Terrible! (Score:3, Funny)

    by exp(pi*sqrt(163)) ( 613870 ) on Thursday July 13, 2006 @08:02PM (#15715621) Journal
    This is terrible. We know that in the far future the crew of the Battlestar Galactica [] intercept some of these recordings but it seems that they just miss the transmissions from the moon. These recordings are doomed to be lost forever.
  • Government and the general public education system (arguably = Government at this point) are arguably the slowest and least likely to "keep up" with changes in society and technology.

    Because career employees in the "Public Service Sector" function almost as Tenured Professors's, virtually by design, there is little way to make government entities "perk up", as you can't get rid of positions or employees who are not keeping up. Solution = add more departments (more tax dollars).

    There have been debacles with
  • by identity0 ( 77976 ) on Thursday July 13, 2006 @08:07PM (#15715642) Journal
    Do not worry, dear consumers! The tapes have not gone "missing". The studio that made the original landing footage simply took it back to their labs to Digitally Re-Master it for the Special Limited Collector's Edition DVD, which will be out by Christmas. Since the original director (Kubrik) is gone, they will have directors George Lucas and Steven Spielberg collaborate on this wonderful new addition to the Disney(TM) Classics(TM) Collection(TM).

    New, never-before scenes will be inserted into the middle of the old, staid footage!
    Tom Hanks will replace Neil Armstrong through the magic of digital effects!
    Kristie Alley will be Buzz Aldrin, adding an exciting new romantic subplot to the mission!
    A lovable animal sidekick will have your kids squealing in delight!
    Gagarin shoots first!

    Master directors Spielberg and Lucas will also modernize the plot and imagery to give a fresh, "post-2001" look!
    The American flag, such an archaic-looking symbol (that didn't test well with audiences overseas), will be replaced with a pleasant, pastel blue UN flag. The ugly SUV 'lunar rover' will be digitally removed, and replaced with bicycles which the astronauts will pedal about the moon. The President will be updated to be a Texan oil millionaire conducting a needless war in Asia, who commander Michael Collins (played by academy award-winner Liam Neeson) will denounce for "having turned to the dark side". The "Cold War" sideplot will be updated to be a "Temporal War On Terror", which will feature terrorists from the future attempting to fly the Space Shuttle Columbia into the White House! Can our heroes stop them 'in time'?!

    This and other new changes will keep the franchise fresh and exciting to today's viewers, and like Star Trek: Enterprise, will boldly re-write history that no one but nerds cares about anyways!

    Apollo 11: The Special Limited Collector's Edititon: Coming Christmas 2006 - collect all 6 covers!
  • I saw Michael Jackson in concert back in '86. I doubt that the '69 moonwalk would compare.
  • Good grief... (Score:2, Insightful)

    !No mas! Please, I'm begging you, no more faked-moon-walk replies. 95% of this comment page should be modded "redundant."
  • by Artifakt ( 700173 ) on Thursday July 13, 2006 @08:14PM (#15715683)
    It's been said that future generations will regard the next few decades as a dark age, where the culture lost most of its common heritage. This will supposedly come about because so much audio and video is mouldering away (sometimes literally), locked in vaults where it will rot before anyone can recover it. While such factors as copyrights much longer than the physical life of the archival media are likely to contribute to this, the loss of these tapes is an example of another cause.
          Why do so many people think Colombus discovered America? He got it into the permanent record, where the vikings, chinese, etc. didn't. Will Neal Armstrong be the Lief Ericson of the 26th century, and some one from the Chinese, Indian or Nigerian space program get all the credit, because they kept thir records?
    • Actually I think it will be quite the opposite. The explosion of cheap means of creating content will mean that much more will survive. I don't think a large percentage of correspondance from say the civil war survived, and the high cost in both materials, education and time to create the material means that there was much less content originally made. If even a fraction of the same percentage from today survives it means that future historians will have such large mountains of information to go through tha
    • Why do so many people think Colombus discovered America? He got it into the permanent record, where the vikings, chinese, etc. didn't. Will Neal Armstrong be the Lief Ericson of the 26th century, and some one from the Chinese, Indian or Nigerian space program get all the credit, because they kept thir records?

      Neal Armstrong could only become "the Lief Ericson of the 26th century" in some weird fantasy future - in which the thousands of books on the topic become lost, along with every TV recording, dozens of DVDs, about the same number of video releases, at least five different (LP) albums... Neal Armstrong is pretty firmly in the permanent record.
    • >Why do so many people think Colombus discovered America? He got it into the permanent record, where the vikings, chinese, etc. didn't.

      To be fair, lots of people DO know other people got here first. It didn't become a big deal in the world because there wasn't any compelling economic reason for their discovery to be important. The route the Vikings took was followed by fishing fleets, which were working the North Banks between Greenland and Newfoundland in the 1400's: because there was incentive, they
  • The Dish [] is the lighthearted 'adapted' history of the Parkes observatories role in the tracking and transmission of the first lunar landings. Quite funny if you get Australian humour.
  • The problem is just that they still need to be edited, because the higher fidelity versions clearly show "Capricorn One []" on the patches.

    (Mars, Moon, what's the diff?)
  • I think I used those tapes to record several episodes of "Too Close For Comfort". I mean, JM Bullock!
  • by awfar ( 211405 ) on Thursday July 13, 2006 @08:58PM (#15715911)
    Does it surprise anyone they are missing, neglected, with no funding for perpetually archiving the results?

    If a tree falls in the wood, and there is no proof, was a sound made?

    Do the presidential libraries suffer that fate?

    That critical things that the US (or any) Government is actually responsible for is, once again, messed up?

    They are like an unfocused, irresponsible child, except they have big guns, our credit card with unlimited limit, and the legal system to perpetuate it.

    If I am out of line consider Katrina, War on Terror, Social Security, the scandals, Halliburton, energy prices, approach to global warming, ad infinitum, ad nauseum.

    Dumbasses all around.
  • Old Media: readable? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by tcgroat ( 666085 ) on Thursday July 13, 2006 @10:09PM (#15716235)
    "With the use of modern image processing techniques, it is hoped that the original high quality TV images can be restored for public viewing before the magnetic data tapes deteriorate beyond repair." Is it likely the originals are still in good condition? 37 years is a long time for archiving magnetic media. This also implies that there are no high-quality, first-generation backups: what utter negligence! Nixon's 18 minute gap [] should have been sufficient warning!
  • by Danathar ( 267989 ) on Friday July 14, 2006 @06:31AM (#15717622) Journal
    Unlike SOME cooky crazy people I don't think the moon landing was faked, BUT it IS obvious that the tapes were taken by MIB in order to conceal alien spacecraft that were imaged on the tapes.....

Never buy what you do not want because it is cheap; it will be dear to you. -- Thomas Jefferson