on Jul 1, 2009
So the word is out that super-special, high-definition version of the original moon landing tapes have been… found?
That is… unexpected. But this is what really caught my eye:
- These original tapes were reportedly “lost as soon as they were made”, which doesn’t make a lot of sense. Someone put those tapes away. There couldn’t have been that many people in Parkes that would have handled them. They keep saying “tapes”, but of course the footage of the disembarking Armstrong is all on one tape, a recording of an exceedingly famous event. How does something like that get lost at all? The guy who pulled the tape out of the clanking steam-powered tape-maker they used way back in the savage 1960’s had to have been aware of what he had in his hand.
- Okay, they got lost. This is a government operation, after all. But how did they stay lost for 40 years? The guy who pulled the tape never spoke up? Did someone put them in a box next to the Ark of the Covenant and then have a heart attack? This is arguably the most valuable footage human beings have ever shot. To reuse an old but appropriate phrase: We can put a man on the moon, but we can’t keep track of our old VHS cassettes? And we don’t make backups?
- And suddenly the tapes are found, just in time for the 40th anniversary. As I’m sure the conspiracy theorists will say How conveeeenient.
- Word has gotten out, but the tapes haven’t been officially announced yet, and instead they’re giving coy non-denials. This does not help their case. This is science, and being transparent and open with your data is more important than politics and public relations. The deniers claim the US faked the moon landings for bragging rights. And now we’re going to suddenly release a fresh batch of data, 40 years after the fact, and it’s being treated by a publicity stunt by NASA.
I’m half expecting them to do a big George Lucas “Digitally Remastered” release in full color and surround sound.
My uncle was involved in the program, and built some minor whoozit for the lander. There were a lot of people on that project. The idea that so many engineers could keep a secret (lie) for their entire lives (I’ll bet over half of them are dead now) is just ridiculous. (Engineers lie about as well as politicians can identify the load-bearing members on the unneeded bridge they had built in their district.) Compare the deceptive prowess of those hundreds of engineers with (say) the way the government is always leaking secrets held by small groups of spies and politicians. Having said this, the whole business with the lost tapes is more than a little fishy. This is not going to soothe the skeptics at all. It will do the very opposite, and give them a few more items on their laundry list of objections.
I do look forward to seeing the footage released. I would be very surprised of Google didn’t put it up a nice HD version for us all to gawk at.
I filed this post under “rants”. I’m not sure who I’m ranting against. The skeptics and their absurd conspiracy of thousands? NASA and their bumbling, tin-eared, PR-focused response to the skeptics? Myself for giving the skeptics yet more attention? I don’t know. I think I’m just ranting at the situation in general, which will go on annoying us for years to come. And also because I’m eager to see the new footage and I can’t yet.
UPDATE: Now it is suggested that the story is a hoax. Disappointing, but a lot more believable. Perhaps this is for the best. At least we don’t have to worry about NASA adding footage of Greedo shooting first.
Shamus Young is an old-school OpenGL programmer, author, and composer. He runs this site and if anything is broken you should probably blame him.