NASA on Record Keeping

This is from January's edition of wired. a photo of the original transmission of the lunar landing

The Apollo 11 moon landing was one of the greatest achievements in the history of mankind. And engineering a video setup that could capture the event and beam it back to Earth so that half a billion people could watch it -- that was pretty impressive, too. But the version of the footage that the world saw on TV was muddied and degraded. Luckily, a pristine version of the raw footage was recorded onto 14 inch magnetic tape reels and sent to NASA for safekeeping. One snag -- NASA now has no idea where that tape is.

One Giant Screw Up for Mankind

Its actually much worse than "lost" there is a high likelihood the tapes were destroyed thanks to the quality of government record keeping standards they've been subjected to over the years.

Goddard's deputy director, Dolly Perkins, admits that there's no central administrator or database to track what comes into and out of NASA. It's the domain of each NASA facility to "make decisions about what's valuable or not," Perkins says. That means the boxes can come out of the Records Center and sit in someone's office forever – or be decommissioned and trashed.

Then Wood got a good tip. Some of his sources recalled sending 14-inch magnetic reels to a storage area in a building called Goddard Corporate Park. "I thought I'd hit the mother lode," Wood says.

He was wrong. Wood soon discovered that storage facility had been closed for years. "Nearly all the stuff that was there was destroyed," he says. Then he hesitates. "I need to be careful here. Would you cross out the word destroyed?"

It was also possible that the tapes were "degaussed" – erased so they could be used again, a fairly standard practice at the time. In short, no one knows what became of these priceless minutes of historic footage. It's a sad and confusing result, fitting for NASA. Once, the moon landing seemed like the prelude to all our sci-fi fantasies made real. The manned conquest of the solar system would surely follow. But budgets and ambitions have been scaled back so drastically that even the precious data logged during the golden age of space exploration may be lost forever.

Okay so to sum that up once again the classic footage the world saw of the moon landing was no where near the quality it was originally transmitted in. Unfortunately we may never know what we missed because the original tapes (a.k.a. the original record of humanity's first steps on the moon) were likely destroyed.

I wonder if we can get a refund.

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