среда, 10 июля 2019 г.

Not-Unsolved Mysteries: The “Lost” Apollo 11 Tapes

NASA — Apollo 11 patch.

July 9, 2019

With the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing approaching, reports have resurfaced that NASA lost some precious video footage of that first moonwalk.

Image above: Buz Aldrin assembles seismic experiment. Image Credits: NASA/Apollo 11.

Before diving into the details of two distinct events that seem to have become conflated, it’s worth emphasizing three key points:

— NASA searched for but could not locate some of the original Apollo 11 data tapes – “original” in the sense that they directly recorded data transmitted from the Moon. An intensive search of archives and records concluded that the most likely scenario was that the program managers determined there was no longer a need to keep the tapes — since all the video was recorded elsewhere — and they were erased and reused.

— The data on those tapes, including video data, was relayed to the Manned Spacecraft Center (now the Johnson Space Center), during the mission. The video was recorded there and in other locations; there is no missing video footage from the Apollo 11 moonwalk.

— The search discovered high-quality broadcast versions of the footage. NASA worked with Lowry Digital, a premier film restoration company, to process the video using techniques unavailable in 1969. The restored video was released in HD as part of the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11.

Further explanation means diving into the details of how Apollo sent data back to Earth and how NASA collected it.

Data from the Apollo 11 mission was sent from the spacecraft to three ground stations, one in California and two in Australia, which retransmitted it to the Manned Space Flight Center in Houston. The ground stations also recorded the data on special 1-inch, 14-track tapes, one track of which was for video. The video footage was recorded in «slow scan» — 10 video frames per second — which meant it couldn’t be directly broadcast over commercial television. The video was converted for broadcast and uplinked to a satellite, then downlinked to Houston, from which it was sent out to the world.

In early 2005, responding to inquiries from NASA retirees and others, NASA began a search for the 14-track data tapes. Ultimately, the agency couldn’t find the tapes and determined that they had most likely been erased and used again, which was standard practice at the time. The search, led by NASA engineer Dick Nafzger, focused on finding the specific tapes, knowing the data had all been recorded and saved elsewhere.

«There was no video that came down slow scan that was not converted live, fed live, to Houston and fed live to the world,» Nafzger said at press conference showing some of the restored footage in 2009. «So, just in case anyone thinks there is video out there that hasn’t been seen, that is not the case.»

NASA News Briefing on Restored Apollo 11 Moonwalk Video — Clip 1

Video above: July 16, 2009 press conference on the search for and restoration of the Apollo 11 video. Video Credit: NASA.

During the search, though, Nafzger’s team came across video that had been converted to broadcast which was much higher quality than what they had been seeing.

“The team of people that I worked with, including myself obviously, was desperate to do something for history, if we could,» said Nafzger. «We came across broadcast-converted tapes during this search that were much better than we had seen. . . . We had tapes recorded in Sydney, Australia, during the mission. (We) found kinescopes at the National Archives that had not been viewed in 36 years that were made in Houston. We went to CBS archives and we found tapes that had been fed directly from Houston to CBS . .. . the raw data as recorded and archived.”

NASA News Briefing on Restored Apollo 11 Moonwalk Video — Clip 2

Video above: Working with a California company, NASA restored portions of the video and enhanced it for viewing in high definition and released the HD Apollo 11 videos in July 2009. Video Credit: NASA.

In 2019, a one-time NASA intern is selling what he describes as videotapes of the Apollo 11 moonwalk that he bought at an auction of surplus government goods. If the tapes are as described in the sale material, they are 2-inch videotapes recorded in Houston from the video that had been converted to a format that could be broadcast over commercial television and contain no material that hasn’t been preserved at NASA.

Related links:

NASA began a search for the 14-track data tapes: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/apollo/apollo_tapes.html

Press conference showing some of the restored footage in 2009: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=McyghW9rSIU

HD Apollo 11 videos: https://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/hd/apollo11_hdpage.html

Apollo 11: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/apollo/apollo-11.html

Image (mentioned), Videos (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Brian Dunbar.

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