The search for the Apollo 11 TV tapes


 

This page was created in 2006 to seek help in looking for the Apollo 11 telemetry tapes, containing the EVA Slow Scan TV.

Since then, it was determined that those original tapes no longer exist.

While the search did not find those particular tapes, better scan-converted recordings than had been previously available were discovered and, with NASA’s help, the best of those were restored.
The restored video is available here.

We do plan to write up the full story of the search, but until then, this page, though partly out of date, contains some material which may be of interest.

– Colin Mackellar


The Apollo 11 Moonwalk in July 1969 was the climax of the Apollo Program with the largest television audience in history to that point watching Mankind’s first steps on the Moon
.

Surprisingly, the best quality TV was never seen outside the tracking stations. The pictures seen by the world were degraded by the time they reached Houston.

The highest quality TV was recorded on telemetry tapes at the three tracking stations which received the signal – Goldstone, Honeysuckle Creek and Parkes. These tapes have never been replayed, but if they can be found and digitally processed, they could produce stunningly clear TV – much better than was seen in Houston or on the worldwide broadcast.

The original tapes may be stored – and forgotten about – at a NASA facility somewhere.

Read about the search (supported by those who worked at Goldstone, Parkes and Honeysuckle Creek) – and also see all the known photos taken at the tracking stations – by following the links in this section. This article from space.com covers it well. (See also an article in Wired magazine.)

 

Here’s a 2006 Australian TV report on the search.
It doesn’t look at the team members who were searching in the US, but is a good introduction to the search –

ABC Stateline ACT 01 Sept 2006

On Friday September 1st 2006,
the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s ACT edition of “Stateline” featured a segment on Honeysuckle Creek and “The Missing Moon Tapes”.

The Producer, Geoff Crane, and ABC Stateline ACT have kindly made this 13 minute segment available for the website.

See it as a 35MB MP4 video file.

Nevil Eyre encoded the segment as a 16.5MB Windows Media file.


Update:

NASA final Report on the Tape Search

Tape Search report

Here’s a link to the NASA report on the Tape Search, released November 3, 2009. It’s a 6MB PDF file.

If you have trouble viewing it, this 580kb PDF version is more compatible.

Earlier update:

Press Release from NASA HQ:
NASA Releases Restored Apollo 11 Moonwalk Video

and downloadable video clips of the restored (as at 16 July 2009) video – both as stand-alone clips and side-by-side comparisons with NASA’s archive recording, from the Goddard Space Flight Center:

NASA Releases Preview Partially Restored Apollo 11 Video

Note: This was the in-progress video restoration. The final version was completed and shown to Westinghouse Apollo TV camera program manager Stan Lebar in late December 2009, a few days before he died. The restored footage is a tribute to his determination to bring the world the best possible recording of the EVA television.

restored
See also these photos of the press conference announcing the results of the search. (External link to Flickr)




Apollo 11 Tape Search Alert – This is the best place to start

The Apollo 11 Tape Search flyer

Download this 3 page document about the tape search

A summary document that can be easily printed out or e-mailed to explain the search – to help find anyone who worked with the tapes.

Includes contact details on page 3.

Click the image to download the 1.6MB PDF file.

Released 20 July 2006.
(See here for acknowlegements.)




These are some of the tapes we seek –

The tapes we would really like to find are 14" diameter, 1" wide telemetry tapes – not standard TV tapes. In fact, the tapes below are some of the tapes.
The telemetry tapes at Honeysuckle

John Vanderkly anotates the tapes on an M-22 telemetry recorder running at 120 inches per second – at Honeysuckle Creek, towards the end of the Apollo 11 EVA. Recording at this speed, the tapes had to be changed every 15 minutes.

Click the image to open the 512kb MPEG4 video file in another window. Length: 6 seconds (From the Super 8 movie film shot by Ed von Renouard.)



Images mentioned in the above PDF files

The Accession document
The label from the Apollo 9 tapes

The Accession 255-69A-4099 document from the National Records Center.

Click the image for a larger version.

An Apollo 9 Canary Island Tracking Station tape label – from one of the few magnetic tapes at the National Archives not recalled by Goddard.

Click the image for a larger version.





Other resources on this website –

 

For further reading

Search for the Apollo 11 SSTV tapes

A comprehensive 22 page report
from John Sarkissian at the Parkes Radio Telescope
current as of 21st May 2006.

Click the image to download the 2MB PDF file.

(Also available here on the Parkes website.


Tracking-station-TV compared with what the world saw

PDF of comparisons of the received TV

Click the image to download this 4.2MB PDF file comparing still photos of the pictures on the TV monitors at Goldstone, Honeysuckle Creek, and Parkes.

(This was put together as a presentation – hence the format – to demonstrate the differences in quality between what was seen at the tracking stations and what was recorded at Houston.)

See the entire set of Honeysuckle stills here.




Still photos
Super 8 movies
see the Super 8 movies

See Ed von Renouard’s photos of the TV monitors at Honeysuckle Creek.

These photos were taken during the EVA and immediately afterwards from tape replays.

Click the above image to see some of Ed von Renouard’s unique Super 8 movie of the start of the TV – as seen at Honeysuckle Creek.


and see the DVD of Apollo 11 TV footage as recorded at Honeysuckle (footage rediscovered in 2005).

– This is currently some of the best quality recording of brief segments of the Apollo 11 Moonwalk known.
(These DVDs also contain Super 8 footage shot during Apollos 16 and 17 and Skylab II.)

Tape search team
team
team
team
team
team
Dick Nafzger
Goddard Space Flight Center
(Team Lead)
Stan Lebar
Westinghouse
John Sarkissian
Parkes Radio Observatory

 


and also the main Apollo 11 TV section.