James Brolin, Sam Waterston, The Juice sought in disappearance of Apollo 11 tapes


"I would simply like to clarify that the tapes are not lost as such, which implies they were badly handled, misplaced and are now gone forever. That is not the case," explained John Sarkissian, operations scientist at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization's (CSIRO) Parkes Radio Observatory in Parkes, Australia.

Translation: The tapes are lost. Original videos of Apollo 11 landing on the moon, due to be remastered to produce a much better image than the ones originally broadcast on televisions around the world, are nowhere to be found in the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. For three years, an independent group of former tracking station workers have been looking for hundreds of boxes of magnetic slow-scan television tapes from the Apollo and Explorer programs—none of which are lost, though all of them cannot be found and may have been recycled. Other than that, they're readily available, which is good because there's a concern that these relatively crude recordings may be deteriorating; a digital transfer may be necessary to keep them from disappearing completely.

The characteristic pro-NASA answer? We were just too damned good! "The archiving of the tapes was simply a lower priority during the Apollo era," says Sarkissian. "It should be remembered, that at the time, NASA was totally focused on meeting its goal of putting a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth. No sooner had they done that, than they had to repeat it again a few months later, and then do it again, repeating it for a total of seven lunar landing missions…including Apollo 13." That should make the search for the tapes a breeze now, since NASA's employee workforce is less than half what it was in the Apollo era, and its contractor force less than a third.