NASA Unveils Restored Moon Landing Video, Original Tapes Still Missing
By James Grahame
Apollo 11 launched from Cape Canaveral exactly 40 years ago today. It would be another four days before the iconic video of Armstrong and Aldrin stepping onto the surface of the moon would be broadcast back to earth. The slow-scan B&W video feed captured images at 10 frames per second with a mere 320 lines of resolution.
Sadly, the original tapes have been lost for decades.
The historic video was received at Honeysuckle Creek Tracking Station near Canberra, Australia. The real-time feed provided to television networks around the world was captured by a standard broadcast video camera pointed at a screen and retransmitted back to Houston. The process worked, but significantly degraded the image.
At the same time, the original slow-scan feed was recorded onto massive 14-inch reels of 1-inch wide magnetic tape and eventually shipped to Goddard Space Flight Center. Unfortunately, the importance of the material was overlooked and the historic reels were probably erased and reused in the 1970s as a cost-cutting measure.
With the original material gone forever, NASA recently began the process of restoring the existing broadcast tapes. Today, NASA unveiled 15 scenes from the restored footage to mark the 40th anniversary of the historic voyage to the moon.
"A team of Apollo-era engineers who helped produce the 1969 live broadcast of the moonwalk acquired the best of the broadcast-format video from a variety of sources for the restoration effort. These included a copy of a tape recorded at NASA's Sydney, Australia, video switching center, where down-linked television from Parkes and Honeysuckle Creek was received for transmission to the U.S.; original broadcast tapes from the CBS News Archive recorded via direct microwave and landline feeds from NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston; and kinescopes found in film vaults at Johnson that had not been viewed for 36 years.
'The restoration is ongoing and may produce even better video,' said Richard Nafzger, an engineer at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., who oversaw television processing at the ground tracking sites during Apollo 11. 'The restoration project is scheduled to be completed in September and will provide the public, future historians, and the National Archives with the highest quality video of this historic event.'
NASA contracted with Lowry Digital of Burbank, Calif., which
specializes in restoring aging Hollywood films and video, to take the
highest quality video available from these recordings, select the best
for digitization, and significantly enhance the video using the
company's proprietary software technology and other restoration