As a former one-time NASA intern prepares to auction off videotapes that allegedly contain original recordings of the first moonwalk, NASA released a statement addressing claims that the agency lost the footage from the Apollo 11 mission

The search for the “lost tapes” began in 2006, when reports began surfacing that NASA had erased some original footage from the first moon landing. The agency conducted an intensive search at the time, but could not find the tapes.

“An intensive search of archives and records concluded that the most likely scenario was that the program managers determined there was no longer a need to keep the tapes — since all the video was recorded elsewhere — and they were erased and reused,” NASA officials said in the statement

Related: Watch NASA’s Apollo 11 Moonwalk Moments in This Archive Video

Three tapes containing original footage from the moon landing are up for auction.

Three tapes containing original footage from the moon landing are up for auction.

(Image credit: Sotheby’s)

However, NASA reaffirmed that there is no missing footage from Apollo 11 since the video transmissions were relayed to the Manned Spacecraft Center (now known as Johnson Space Center) in Houston during the mission, according to the statement. Video from those tapes was converted to a format which could be broadcast on television.  

The footage was recorded in slow scan, meaning that it had an output of 10 frames per second; therefore, it could not be directly broadcast on television. According to NASA, the footage was converted for broadcast and uplinked to a satellite, then downlinked to Houston before it appeared on commercial television.

The agency restored the footage and released it in 2009 for the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon mission. 

“There was no video that came down slow scan that was not converted live, fed live, to Houston and fed live to the world,” NASA engineer Dick Nafzger, who led the search for the footage, said at a news briefing about the lost tapes in 2009. “So, just in case anyone thinks there is video out there that hasn’t been seen, that is not the case.” 

NASA also dismissed claims made by a former intern at the agency that he is in possession of original recordings of man’s first steps on the moon. 

Gary George, a 65-year-old mechanical engineer who was a young college student at the time of his internship at NASA, claims that he bought the tapes at a government surplus auction in 1976 for a little over $200, according to the description of the auctioned item on Sotheby’s.

The item consists of three metal reels of Ampex 148 High Band 2-inch Quadruplex videotape, each between 45 and 50 minutes in length. 

Regardless of whether George’s claims about the lost tapes are true or if the tapes are really authentic, NASA technically hasn’t lost any of the Apollo footage — only the original tapes with that footage. The agency is claiming that the tapes don’t contain any material that has not already been preserved digitally. 

But that won’t stop space aficionados from wanting to claim that NASA “lost” the historic Apollo tapes, which are expected to sell for $1-2 million on the upcoming 50th anniversary of Apollo 11.

The live auction will begin on July 20 at 11 am EDT.

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