TV Footage

The TV Footage is the photos taken from images broadcast on television.

On July 20, 1969, people around the world gathered in front of their television to witness the Apollo 11’s Moon landing. For scientific reasons, the two astronauts, Neil Armstrong (1930-2012) and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin (1930 ), filmed by themselves the journey on the Moon. The black-and-white images of Armstrong and Aldrin, who were walking on the moon, were provided by a small camera, Super-8.

However, the data from the camera were not compatible with television broadcast standards, such as NTSC (National Television System Committee). The conversion process was therefore required to broadcast images on the Moon to audiences around the world. NASA used a scan-converter to adapt images electronically to the US television standard signal. For this, the three tracking stations, the CSIRO Parkes Radio Telescope and the two NASA stations at Honeysuckle Creek in Australia and Goldstone in California respectively, played a key role. They received signals from the Moon via SSTV (Slow-Scan Television). The SSTV is an image transmission method. It transmits and receives static images in black and white or in color by radio signals. As well as the SSTV integrates an image into audio data. When receiving raw data from the Moon, the tracking stations recorded them on the telemetry tapes for backup. Because it was possible that the TV show would be unsuccessful or that the Apollo project would need these data in the long run. These SSTV tapes were then converted to a standard format and sent to the Mission control in Houston. Unfortunately, the conversion resulted in much lower image quality than the originals.

Houston transmitted the converted tapes to broadcasting stations. As a result, all events on the Moon have been broadcast live internationally. More than 6 million viewers shared this historical moment. Notably, at CBS (Columbia Broadcasting System), American journalist Walter Cronkite (1916-2009) and former astronaut Wally Schirra (1923-2007) commented on this historic event at that time.

-NASA lost the original tapes of Apollo 11?

In 2006, The Sydney Morning Herald reported that NASA had lost the original SSTV tapes on Apollo 11 containing high-quality images. Indeed, the tapes were recorded as a backup in case the live television broadcast would be unsuccessful for any reason. Fortunately, the live television broadcast was successful and widely recorded. Preservation of this backup data was therefore not considered as a priority at that moment. In the early 1980s, NASA’s Landsat program (the first Earth observation space program for civil purposes) encountered a great lack of data tapes. Because of this shortage, it is likely that the SSTV tapes on Apollo 11 were erased and reused at that time for other programs.

After reporting from the Australian press, NASA formalized a project for searching the lost tapes of the Apollo 11 mission. Although NASA has carried out tireless research, it has been widely accepted since 2009 that the original tapes no longer exist. During the research, only scan-converted records were found in various archives around the world. Currently, these records have been digitized through NASA’s technology.