Thursday, October 28, 2010

Moonwalk Tapes Restored for "Lost" Apollo 11 Mission

Finally after 6 years for work the tapes from the Apollo 11 moon walk mission are ready to be released and they should be better than any pictures we've seen before. Sadly these restored pictures are still from tape files in Australa that are not the original tapes from the mission. Hard as it is to believe the original NASA tapes were sent back to NASA headquarters where they were reused. Talk about an IT mistake of historical proportions. For the saving of a few dollars in tape what well could have been one of the most historical tapes in history was recorded over. This should be a story shared with every new IT graduate.

Amplify’d from

'Lost' Apollo 11 Moonwalk tapes restored

SYDNEY: After a three-year search for the lost Apollo 11 tapes and an exhaustive six-year restoration project, digitally remastered footage of the historic Moonwalk is almost ready to be broadcast.

Thanks to the efforts of a dedicated tape restoration team, the enhanced footage surpasses the quality of the live broadcast that stunned an international TV audience on the day of the historic event in 1969.

A five-minute highlights reel (see below) exhibits a number of the Moonwalk's most remarkable moments including Neil Armstrong's descent onto the lunar surface; the raising of the 'Stars and Stripes'; and the famed phone-call between astronauts Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin and President Nixon.

Clear record of the Moonwalk

"What we have now is the clearest record of the Apollo 11 Moonwalk TV for future generations," said Colin Mackeller, an Apollo 11 historian who edited the footage and was a member of the restoration team.

All but the first few seconds of the final two and a half hour restoration comes from video received in Australia.

On the day of the Moonwalk, three tracking stations - NASA's Goldstone in California, and Honeysuckle Creek and Parkes Observatory in Australia (featured in 2000 movie The Dish) - were tasked with recording the live footage transmitted from the Moon.

The images were captured by a single small video camera, attached to the lunar module, but the camera used an unusual format, slow-scan television (SSTV), which is incompatible with commercial television broadcast.

As a result, the SSTV transmission had to be converted in real-time into a standard broadcast signal before being sent to the NASA flight centre in Houston for distribution to the TV networks.

"NASA were using the Goldstone station signal, which had its settings wrong, but in the signals being received by the Australian stations you can actually see Armstrong," said John Sarkissian, an astronomer at Australia's science research body CSIRO, who led the restoration project.

When the Apollo 11 Tape Search and Restoration Team was formed in 2003, the intention was to track down the tapes onto which the unconverted SSTV was first recorded. It was hoped that with modern conversion techniques a picture could be produced that hadn't been degraded by the accumulative effects of conversion and satellite transmission.

However, a three-year search for the SSTV tapes proved fruitless. It transpired that NASA had taken all the original tapes and erased them for use on subsequent missions.

"After an exhaustive search, we were sad to conclude that all the tapes were shipped back to the US after the mission and were re-used, probably in the early 1980s. No-one had ever expected to access the slow-scan TV, and so those few tapes weren't singled out to be preserved", said Mackellar.

Preserved for future generations

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