The lunar camera footage recorded in July of 1969 of the first Moon walk had to be converted for the live television broadcast which degraded the images. It was first reported in 2006 by NPR that the original higher quality footage preserved by engineers on tapes were missing, triggering a 3 year search by NASA. The result of the search showed that the tapes are permanently gone, likely overwritten:
And the agency was experiencing a critical shortage of magnetic tapes. So NASA started erasing old ones and reusing them.
That’s probably what happened to the original footage from the moon that the astronauts captured with their lunar camera, says Lebar. It was stored on telemetry tapes, and old tapes with telemetry data were being recycled.
“So I don’t believe that the tapes exist today at all,” says Lebar. “It was a hard thing to accept. But there was just an overwhelming amount of evidence that led us to believe that they just don’t exist anymore. And you have to accept reality.”
To see the results of NASA’s restoration efforts based on material that they were able to find, go to http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/hd/apollo11.html
[Photomedia Forum post by T.Neugebauer from Jul 27, 2009 ]