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NASA Releases Restored Apollo 11 Video, But Originals Lost 173

Posted by timothy
from the next-year-comes-the-box-set-of-studio-masters dept.
leetrout writes "I attended a media briefing held by NASA at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. this morning where they released restored video of the Apollo 11 mission. The clips released are about 40% of the total footage to be restored by September by Lowry Digital in Burbank, CA. Wired has all the clips. A couple remarkable comments made during the briefing included the opinion from the original footage search committee that the original slow scan footage (stored as a single track on telemetry tapes) has been lost forever as the tapes were likely recycled by the mid '80s (apparently common NASA practice). Also, that someone from the applied physics laboratory was in Australia converting the slow scan directly to video. This differs from NASA's goal of merely broadcasting the event, at which it was successful. Unfortunately, no one knows where those tapes of approximately two hours of footage are located."
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NASA Releases Restored Apollo 11 Video, But Originals Lost

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  • by Capt.DrumkenBum (1173011) on Thursday July 16, 2009 @04:24PM (#28722129)
    It is truly amazing what you can "find" when you have unlimited access to huge amounts of supercomputing power.

    The render times are probably really impressive too. ;)
  • by jd (1658) <imipak@yaCOLAhoo.com minus caffeine> on Thursday July 16, 2009 @04:24PM (#28722133) Homepage Journal

    Having a Hollywood studio "restore" the footage is going to provide wonderful ammunition for the conspiracy nuts, as they now get to claim that even if the tapes were real, you have no way of knowing if the restored information is genuine or inserted.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Abreu (173023)

      True... So we will have to continue linking to the mythbusters episode until they shut up

      (they won't, of course)

      • by tlhIngan (30335)

        True... So we will have to continue linking to the mythbusters episode until they shut up

        I'm still wondering what the conspiracy theorists say about the retroreflector experiments that have been conducted daily since Apollo 11. Considering the difference in reflectivity between the moon's surface and the retroreflectors, surely there have been some attempts to explain it.

        • by athakur999 (44340) on Thursday July 16, 2009 @04:53PM (#28722577) Journal

          The conspiracy nuts will say the reflector on the moon just proves there is a man made object on the moon, it doesn't prove it was actually physically placed there by a person. It could have been dropped on the moon by an unmanned rocket, for example.

        • by camperdave (969942) on Thursday July 16, 2009 @04:58PM (#28722651) Journal
          I'm still wondering what the conspiracy theorists say about the retroreflector experiments that have been conducted daily since Apollo 11.

          "The lasers are bouncing off crystal formations... duh!"

          The laser retroreflector defense will only work if you have proof that there was no retroreflection happening BEFORE Apollo 11. Since you can't prove that, you can't prove that the retroreflection that's happening now is of man-made origin. In short, it's only circumstancial evidence.
          • Actually the best way to stump the "it was made in a studio" chumps is asking a simple question:

            "Seeing how the Soviet Union was the US' biggest enemy at the time, why didn't they score a major PR coup by claiming and providing data showing, that the modules never landed on the Moon?"

            In fact, the Soviet Union acknowledged that the US put men on the moon. But hey - they were probably in on it too?

            • "Seeing how the Soviet Union was the US' biggest enemy at the time, why didn't they score a major PR coup by claiming and providing data showing, that the modules never landed on the Moon?"

              Hmmm.... Very good. Let's see...

              "That's why they had all those communist blacklists and purges in Hollywood. They needed to get rid of all of the Russian spies and Soviet sympathizers so that they could build their top secret sound stage."

              Either that, or the "They were in on it." tack, as you say.
              • The sound stage bit doesn't work. The Soviets were tracking the lunar module on its way to the moon and landing there.

                They didn't say "we believe them" they said "we saw them land".

                Being in on it though ... a bit more plausible, but then you'd have to make the Cuban missile crisis a staged conflict. And obviously they've been keeping up charades ever since as the US hasn't lifted the embargoes on them.

        • by Rogerborg (306625)
          The Soviets also put retroreflectors on the moon. Remind me, did they do it with a manned mission?
          • by jra (5600)

            The Soviets *never accused us of NOT having landed men on the moon*.

            Would they not have, if there was any way at all they could prove it?

            (This is my favorite argument here, which I stole from some other poster on the earlier thread...)

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Far too much fun to give up the conspiracy theory, regardless if you believe it or not.
        Want to see a techie get his panties in a bunch? Tell him the moon landing was a hoax.
      • by SharpFang (651121)

        They will, but only after Mythbusters actually land on the Moon.

    • by BobNET (119675)

      Sure you do: just go back to recordings made before these were remastered. (Same thing we do with Star Wars, I guess.)

      Although I suppose the conspiracy nuts could always claim that earlier recordings were modified after-the-fact by NASA using the same sort of ray that is neutralized by tinfoil hats...

      • by jd (1658)

        There are no good originals. That's the point. The originals are missing, believed wiped. This is stuff telerecorded off of a TV set with far too much dirt on the image.

        You also need to remember that early recordings tend to get gummy. The way this is fixed is to bake the tape. You then get ONE shot at recovering the data from it, after that the tape is destroyed. I don't know if they needed to bake the masters, the article doesn't say. If they did, though, then there is nothing you can go back to.

        Finally,

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by lukpac (66596)

          You also need to remember that early recordings tend to get gummy. The way this is fixed is to bake the tape. You then get ONE shot at recovering the data from it, after that the tape is destroyed. I don't know if they needed to bake the masters, the article doesn't say. If they did, though, then there is nothing you can go back to.

          No, that isn't true at all. First off, tapes from 1969 shouldn't need to be baked. It was when formulations changed in the mid '70s that it became a problem. I've heard that t

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by pbhj (607776)

      Having a Hollywood studio "restore" the footage is going to provide wonderful ammunition for the conspiracy nuts, as they now get to claim that even if the tapes were real, you have no way of knowing if the restored information is genuine or inserted.

      The iPhone Armstrong uses to communicate with Collins (pictured drinking new Pepsi, wearing a Snorg-tee whilst playing on his DS), that's inserted ...

    • Especially after the news of June 28 2009: NASA finds missing moon-landing-tapes. [express.co.uk] and all conspiracy theorist cringled... "oh no, what will I do now?"

      A month ago, NASA announces "We've found them!", now they say "oh, they were erased (and it took us a month). But we restored a the thing you've already seen for you!"

      Conspiracy theorist have something to do with their time once again.

      I for one am waiting for the next headline: "the real moontapes leaked, torrent here", with yeti's UFO's and chuck norris,

    • Exactly, and now having this great story, and losing the originals, that might have contained something some expert could have been able to contest as having been faked in some studio, now we really will never know, because they now admit to having been remastered.

  • Nasa site? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by toxygen01 (901511)
    Reminds me of http://wechoosethemoon.org/ [wechoosethemoon.org] which was quite busy today. wayback machine to realtime proceeding of apollo 11 mission
    • by geekoid (135745)

      heh, I did that with space simulator in the 90s. And then did one to mars.
      Turns out, it's boring.

  • NASA or the BBC? (Score:5, Informative)

    by davidwr (791652) on Thursday July 16, 2009 @04:26PM (#28722169) Homepage Journal

    The BBC "recycled" tapes in the '70s and '80s, losing many episodes of well-known programs forever *coughdrwhoandmanyothers*.

    • by Dogtanian (588974) on Thursday July 16, 2009 @06:11PM (#28723609) Homepage

      The BBC "recycled" tapes in the '70s and '80s, losing many episodes of well-known programs forever *coughdrwhoandmanyothers*.

      Much as the BBC should be smacked about with a blunt instrument for wiping, they at least have the defence that these were low-budget productions that were seen as ephemeral in nature at the time and of no obvious use. (Legal agreements meant that they couldn't be retransmitted, and there wasn't a home video market as such).

      NASA spent billions (in *60s money*) getting the first human being to walk on the moon- which would have been an obviously massive historical event even before it happened- yet thanks to some beancounting jobsworths and bureaucrats, rather than being treated as a valuable historical document and archived as they should have been, the high-quality originals have been lost.

      This both defies belief and is all too believable; but that doesn't make it any less of a disgrace.

      After initial jubilation, I was right to be sceptical about that the Sunday Express's accuracy [slashdot.org] (they were the ones who broke the- incorrect- story that the original tapes had been found).

      Anyway, getting this digitally tarted-up version of the existing footage instead is a $50 consolation prize after being incorrectly told that you'd won a million on the lottery. Even if the image quality is good, the reprocessed footage still likely won't look as good as the original slow scan would have, and it certainly won't have the same veracity.

      And that's the most important thing. They lost the damn originals, and regardless of how good the remasters *look*, they're not the damn originals.

      You'll excuse me if I don't feel like breaking out the party poppers at NASA's DVD-age PR fluff hyping the remastering of their crappy fourth-generation footage as a minor success instead of the non-reversal of a massive loss of historical material.

      • by ZosX (517789)

        That's kind of how I feel about this whole thing as well. I was all excited initially that these were copies of the original tapes, and now, that doesn't seem to be the case. How tragic that the only original witness is now lost forever. You would think they would place a higher value on the telemetry tapes. And then to admit "recycling" the tapes. Wow. You think a few billion could buy you a couple of extra tapes....

        In NASA's defence, it would certainly seem to them at the time that landing on the moon was

      • by Rich0 (548339)

        Sounds like work to me.

        When the project is the pet-project of the CIO it will have an 8-figure annual budget. Money will be availble for even the most trivial task and every need is taken care of.

        Then the project is a "success" (maybe it really is, maybe in name only), and everybody is happy with it. Of course, tons of money is available for the launch and transition and training, and everybody marvels at how nicely things go.

        Fast forward two years - the system is supported by three guys in 20% of their t

  • Incredible (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BigJClark (1226554) on Thursday July 16, 2009 @04:30PM (#28722245)

    Its incredible to me that NASA wouldn't think far enough ahead to save these tapes for posterity's sake.

    Incredible. One of the defining moments in our history, and they didn't think to hold onto it? The whole goal was to only shoot for live feed?
    • by sjfoland (1565277) on Thursday July 16, 2009 @04:45PM (#28722475)
      I would have liked the restored versions so much better if they hadn't replaced Neil Armstrong with Hayden Christiansen.
    • Re:Incredible (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jbarr (2233) on Thursday July 16, 2009 @04:47PM (#28722515) Homepage

      While it does seem incredible today, those were very, very different times.

      People were far more concerned and enamored with "seeing" an event than how they might see it again. Heck, most people didn't even have colored TVs at that time, and because so much was live broadcast, if you wanted to see something like the moon landing, you planned for it.

      Gone are the days of just savoring the moment and keeping the memory alive.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by basementman (1475159)
      They just assumed someone would DVR it and upload it to be torrented by the masses. As government produced material I assume it would be in the public domain as well.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by hey! (33014)

      I don't think it is "incredible" in the sense of "impossible to believe". It's all to easy to believe.

      You see the people of the US (as a whole) lost interest in the whole thing once we'd done the Moon once or twice. NASA didn't even have the money to buy mag tapes for the satellite data they were collecting, which anybody with half a brain would see is worthwhile once you'd went through the trouble of putting a satellite up there. Now how many people would understand that cataloging conserving digital me

      • by jra (5600)

        It's *always* easier to get CAPEX money than OPEX money, so you budget the tape library into the buy. Unless it's too big. Or takes too long to fill...

    • by SETIGuy (33768)

      Its incredible to me that NASA wouldn't think far enough ahead to save these tapes for posterity's sake.

      You can thank Congress for that one.

      NASA Program Manager: Hi, Mr. Congressman, can we have a few thousand dollars to buy tapes so we can record the data from the Voyager flyby of Jupiter?
      Congressman: What happened to all those tapes we bought you in the late 60s?
      NASA Program Manager: We used all those on Apollo.
      Congressman: Here's 25 bucks. Go down to K-mart and buy a bulk eraser.

  • by Voyager529 (1363959) <voyager529@yaho o . com> on Thursday July 16, 2009 @04:31PM (#28722251)
    Right next to the tape with Nixon's 18.5 minutes.
  • Pink Floyd (Score:4, Interesting)

    by escay (923320) on Thursday July 16, 2009 @04:33PM (#28722283) Journal
    wasn't some of the lost footage recovered from tapes that Pink Floyd had? I remember a news article (last year?) about some tapes Pink Floyd got from NASA to use in some music videos, which they fished out for NASA from their archives when they heard the originals were lost.
  • by sjfoland (1565277)
    They just threw out the bits where you could see the boom mic.
  • by warmgun (669556) on Thursday July 16, 2009 @04:42PM (#28722441)
    A story [slashdot.org] appeared on /. 3 days ago that they were found. WTF? Thanks for getting our hopes up. :(
    • I was just thinking the same thing.. I mean it isn't as if this is the first time slashdot has ever contradicted itself, but this is s strange one!
    • And a few weeks before that, speculation that they hadn't actually been found! And a week before that, rumour that they had been found!

      A few weeks from now, someone will "discover" the actual tapes.

      And a week after that, they will discover they are the actual tapes, but already overwritten with other stuff.

      Hey, do you like Ping Pong? It's fun. :D

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      btw I just noticed that link is to THIS page not the other story you wanted http://science.slashdot.org/story/09/07/13/2342220/NASA-Has-the-Lost-Tapes [slashdot.org]
      • by warmgun (669556)
        Whoops, my bad.
      • by jra (5600)

        Yeah...

        and that story's my fault. I bought what the UK tabloid was smoking, and didn't fact check it first.

        How I *could* have fact-checked it, will remain undiscussed...

        • man, I was going to respond, to give you some more crap, but then I saw your ID. Instead I suppose I must simply, bow to the ancients!
  • the Neil Armstrong ADR is especially good, given the problems with the first version.

    "Hey folks, Neal 'Moonman' Armstrong here -- I can say Moonman now, can't I! -- reporting live, that's LIVE LIVE LIVE from the surface of the mooooooooon, that's right, the one, the only, the biggest satellite in orbit around the Earth you all know and love, and lemme tell ya, folks, the Earth is looking pretty damn good from here, it's a real crackerjack experience, even in this helluva suit, to be up here, and waving down

  • by DavidD_CA (750156) on Thursday July 16, 2009 @05:14PM (#28722817) Homepage

    Unfortunately, no one knows where those tapes of approximately two hours of footage are located.

    Anyone who has seen Contact knows exactly what happened.

  • I never thought I'd be a moon doubter, but if you watch the newly released footage carefully [youtube.com] it does seem fishy.

    • by dzfoo (772245)

      I haven't seen the new footage, but are there really fish on the moon?

                -dZ.

  • Consider who was President at the time of the Apollo 11 landing, and then realize that it's unsurprising that there is a 2-hour gap in the tapes. ;^)

    --
    Toro

  • I wasnt even born then and seeing that footage still makes me feel like a child.... What a crown jewel of human ingenuity.
    • by BigBadBus (653823)
      oh yeah, ironically, the BBC can't find its own Apollo 11 programmes either (mainly talking heads in a studio)!
  • NASA still has the originals for Apollo 12, 14, 15, 16, & 17. (13 of course didn't get to land on the moon). They're at the Johnson Space Center's Informational Resources Directorate's video vault in Houston. http://www.physorg.com/news74962441.html/ [physorg.com]

    ...I don't see any conspiracy theorists tryng to discredit the other five landings.
  • by Zontar_Thing_From_Ve (949321) on Friday July 17, 2009 @11:07AM (#28730121)
    Some years ago I read an article on baseball stadiums, which is actually relevant in terms of possibly explaining why NASA would view the tapes of the original moon landing as expendable. Essentially the article said that in the USA in the 1960s everybody was obsessed with tearing down the old to make room for the new. This started in the 1950s but really got going in the 1960s. One example of it was that many American cities (Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Houston, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Atlanta and probably others) built giant "multi-purpose" stadiums to house both baseball and football teams. Old baseball only stadiums were often torn down (Forbes Field) or moved (Crosby Field - mostly moved to Kentucky) to make way for what were eventually called "cookie cutter" stadiums that all looked identical and were meant to house everything from baseball and football to concerts and motocross rallies. These stadiums ended up being "jack of all trades, master of none" offering bad viewing for all sports. But that was how things apparently were in the 60s. Throw out the old to make room for the new. So when you have an entire society that seems to be dedicated to the belief that you can only make progress by destroying the past and building on top of it, yes, I can certainly believe that NASA in such a climate considered the films to be worthless and not worth keeping.

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