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VCRs didn’t really exist when the first men walked on the moon, but NASA was ahead of the curve and recorded the event for posterity on videotapes — which just sold at auction for $1.8 million. The Hasselblads may have captured more detail, but there’s nothing else in the world quite like these tapes.
On July 20, 1969, Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong stepped out of the Lunar Module and onto the surface of the Moon, under the watchful eye of a camera custom-made by Westinghouse for the purpose. It was mounted just outside the hatch so Aldrin could turn it on and establish a connection before he and Armstrong performed their famous descent of the LM ladder.
Camera - Tripod - Surface - Activities - Frames
The camera, which was later detached and set on a tripod to capture the other surface activities, was transmitting 10 frames per second over the LM’s high-gain antenna back to Parkes Observatory in Australia. There they were recorded onto a set of large-format reel-to-reel videotape, then retransmitted to Houston, where they were recorded to 2-inch Quadruplex videotape on an Ampex VR-660B. Of course it was then formatted for TV and sent out to the world as well.
Sadly, the original Australian slow-scan tapes were apparently later reused for other purposes, in probably the most egregious taping-over incident of all time. That means the Ampex tapes were the best known motion picture recording of Apollo 11’s lunar EVAs.
Tapes - Government - Surplus - Auction - Part
Sadly again, those original tapes were sold for $217.77 at a government surplus auction in 1976 as part of a lot of over a thousand other reels of Ampex videotape obviously thought to be no longer needed. The purchaser, Gary George, was an intern at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, and he had bought the tapes because he thought he could make a bit of scratch re-selling them to TV...
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