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Australian Apollo 11 Footage Ready To Be Publicly Viewed

September 28, 2010

An astronomer stated today that long-lost footage of Neil Armstrong descending the ladder of the Apollo 11 lunar module will be screened in public for the first time in Sydney next week.

John Sarkissian told AFP that the footage runs for a few minutes and is considered to be some of the best footage of the moonwalk.  However, the film was lost in archives for many years and was much damaged when found.

The footage depicts the first few minutes of Armstrong’s descent, which Australia recorded as NASA was still scrambling for a signal, showing a far clearer image than was initially screened around the world.

Australian telescopes played a key role in the Apollo 11 mission, including provision of the television signal.  Armstrong decided to attempt the moonwalk early, which put the U.S. just beyond the horizon.

Sarkissian told AFP the unseen minutes “were the best quality of Armstrong descending the ladder.”

“NASA were using the Goldstone (California) station signal, which had its settings wrong, but in the signals being received by the Australian stations you can actually see Armstrong.”

“In what people have seen before you can barely see Armstrong at all, you can see something black — that was his leg.”

The segment will be screened at the awards night of Australian Geographic magazine next Wednesday, at which Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin will be the chief guest.

“When we heard Buzz was going to be the guest of honor we thought ‘what a great opportunity’,” Sarkissian told AFP.

He added that the Armstrong footage, which was only previously seen by Apollo veterans and other members of the astronomy community, would form part of a highlights reel at the awards.

Sarkissian told AFP that there was a “long detective story” involved in the search for the footage.  He said it took frame-by-frame work to shift the material from the deteriorating black and white film to digital format.

“It was very damaged tape as well, that segment of Armstrong at the beginning,” he said.

Sarkissian told AFP that digitizing the recording was “significant in the space flight history context,” allowing it to be preserved and copied for future generations.

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