July 20, 2009

NASA Celebrates 40 Years Since First Steps On The Moon

NASA has launched a series of events to commemorate its most notable journey into space "“ the lunar landing of Apollo 11.

It was 40 years ago on July 20 that astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin landed on the surface of the moon. Seven hours later, Armstrong became the first to leave the capsule to take that "giant leap for mankind", followed by Aldrin.

In celebration of the historic journey, NASA has released newly restored video footage from the live television broadcast of man's first steps on the surface of the moon.

The footage includes footage taken from NASA's Sydney, Australia, video switching center, where down-linked television from Parkes and Honeysuckle Creek was received for transmission to the US, the space agency said in a press statement.

"The restoration is ongoing and may produce even better video," said Richard Nafzger, an engineer at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, who oversaw television processing at the ground tracking sites during Apollo 11.

"The restoration project is scheduled to be completed in September and will provide the public, future historians, and the National Archives with the highest quality video of this historic event."

In 2006, NASA reported that it was unable to locate the original recordings of man's first steps on the moon.

However, in recent years, Nafzger discovered where the videos were, but found that they had been placed among 200,000 other tapes which had been erased in order to re-use to cut cost.

"We should have had a historian running around saying 'I don't care if you are ever going to use them -- we are going to keep them'," Nafzger told reporters.

They were relieved to find copies of the event that were being held by CBS news as well as recordings called kinescopes found in vaults at the Johnson Space Center that had not been viewed for 36 years.

NASA called on Burbank, Calif.-based Lowry Digital, a firm with expertise in restoration of old films and video.

"Under the initial effort, Lowry restored 15 scenes representing the most significant moments of the three and a half hours that Armstrong and Aldrin spent on the lunar surface," said NASA.

Nafzger said the use of a Hollywood-based film company could cause some conspiracy theorists to believe that the moon landing was staged on a set at a military base.

"This company is restoring historic video. It mattered not to me where the company was from," Nafzger said.

"The conspiracy theorists are going to believe what they are going to believe," Lowry Digital Chief Operating Officer Mike Inchalik told Reuters.

The first set of footage was released on Thursday in commemoration of the historic event.

In addition to the video release, NASA is launching a panel discussion about the Apollo 11 mission in Washington, D.C.

The National Air and Space Museum will also be home to an exhibit of paintings and drawings by Apollo 12 astronaut Alan Bean on Sunday, when Aldrin, Armstrong and Collins will conduct a sold-out lecture. The event can be seen on NASA TV.


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