NASA loses original tapes of first moon landing

NASA no longer knows the whereabouts of the original tapes of man’s first landing on the moon nearly 40 years ago, an official of the US space agency said.

“NASA is searching for the original tapes of the Apollo 11 spacewalk on July 21, 1969,” said Ed Campion, a spokesman for NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, a Washington suburb.

The tapes record the famous declaration of Apollo astronaut Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon, as he set foot on its surface: “That’s one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind.”

The original tapes could be somewhere at the Goddard center or in the archives network of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Campion said.

The search for the tapes began about a year and a half ago when the Goddard Space Flight Center’s authorities realized they no longer knew where they were after retired employees asked to consult them.

Armstrong, the first human to walk on the moon, was the commander of the first US lunar mission aboard the Apollo 11 capsule, with astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins.

His landing on the moon’s surface on July 21, 1969, was watched by millions of television viewers worldwide.

The original tapes of the Apollo 11 mission were recorded at three tracking stations: Goldstone in California and Honeysuckle Creek Tracking Station and Parkes Observatory in Australia.

They were then sent to the Goddard Space Flight Center, which transferred them to the National Archives in late 1969. Later, NASA asked to recover the tapes and that is where the trace disappeared.

“A search is being planned, aimed at finding what happened to the Goddard-recalled Apollo 11 mission data tapes,” Campion said.

The search effort involves sifting through 30-year old records and contacting retired Goddard personnel, he added