Where is NASA’s Moon Footage?

I am often asked about the claim that NASA lost the original recordings of video shot during the moon landing. This idea is frequently breathed new life either my moon hoax conspiracultists suggesting it as proof that we never went, or by those wishing to argue that government can’t get anything right.

It’s true, too–sort of. The original master recordings of the TV footage shot on the moon are lost, as far as is known. But surprise, surprise, the actual facts don’t remotely support either either argument.

In the mid 1960’s when we were preparing for the moon landings, most TV cameras weighed about 300 pounds (plus associated equipment). Early portable cameras might weigh 80, and require a backpack for power and electronics, and drew three or four hundred watts.

Mind you, this was not to record anything, this was just to take the picture and radio it back to the station for live broadcast.
These cameras were far too heavy, and used far too much power for NASA, which had already designed the spacecraft systems and simply didn’t have room or power to transmit TV back to Earth at the normal 525 lines of resolution and 30 (interlaced) frames per second used in the US.

So NASA contracted with RCA and Westinghouse to design cameras more suitable with the space program. They ended up with several, each based on brand new and clever but cutting edge technology. These “Apollo TV Cameras” weighed in at under 8 pounds and seven watts, absolutely remarkable for the day, but they captured a 320 line picture at only 10 frames per second, and sent it back to Earth as raw, analog data.

On Earth, that data could only be decoded on a dedicated machine, built by Westinghouse, and the technology did not yet exist to convert and analog TV signal from one format to another, so it could not be converted to the NTSC standard used in America, much less to any of the other hundreds of broadcast standards in use around the world.
To get around this, RCA built a special console in which the Apollo TV Camera signal was displayed on a specially made, slow phosphor screen inside a dark housing, where a standard TK-22 camera filmed in using the NTSC standard.

This was a cool machine for the time. Among other things, it had an early hard disk used to store analog video frames in real time, and it had a special circuit to help stretch those frames to fit the NTSC standard—but effectively reducing the 320 line image to 262.5 lines!
That was considered okay though, because that was comparable to the old kinescope system used to archive TV on film, so it was considered good enough.
The signal was recorded twice. The raw, unprocessed signal was recorded along with all the other spacecraft telemetry and DCE messages straight from the antenna. The NTSC signal was recorded on a stock Ampex VR-660B video recorder.
Both these measures were safeguards against failure of the microwave circuit back to Houston. Neither was considered of value once the footage aired. People just didn’t think that way back then. TV was for real time. Film was for journalism.
Videotaping was still in its infancy and was not widely available. It was used mostly to save prerecorded programming until it’s schedules air times (in different time zones) and until mid-season reruns. Then it was usually written over, because the tapes were very expensive, and there was no way to compress the data. Keep in mind, there are probably a hundred homes in my neighborhood that contain more stored video than all the vaults of all the networks in the world in 1969, and at much higher resolution.
Years later, some of the operators who had worked at the Deep Space Network stations saw how ratty the archival network footage was and started thinking about what they’d seen on their monitors at the time. They realized the the original, 320 line data was recorded on tape—not on video tape but on the raw data tapes, before going through the machine and before all the subsequent interference. But by then, the Apollo program was over, the equipment was obsolete, and archived data had been moved and moved again over the years.
If we had those data tapes today, we could recover the 320 line video broadcast from the moon, and it would look something like this photograph taken of the converter screen at the time:

That would be cool, even though the cameras had a host of faults that introduced ghosting and artifacts even before the signal left the camera. That data might still be in a warehouse, or it might be in the garage of some technician who “saved it” and then died before telling anyone about it. Or it might be lost.
If I recall correctly, NASA closed the data analysis office that processed Apollo telemetry data years ago, but volunteers saved the necessary equipment to read the old tapes. In fact, a paper was just released announcing that this effort recovered a critical section of previously lost data from the Apollo Lunar Science Experiments left operating on the moon until the mid-1970s. And that’s awesome—but it’s also very possible that that data might have been written over the older data from the landings.

So yeah, NASA recorded over or lost master tapes of an historic event that had done the job they were capture for and were recorded in a bespoke format that could only be read by antiquated, one-off machinery. Anyone who’s ever worked in a an actual government office can tell you stories of similar bureaucratic penny pinching, but yeah, in this age of nearly free, nearly perfect digital storage, you can be excused for finding this a tad short sighted.

But you know what else was short sighted? In the early 1960s, RCA Victor decided to demolish the Camden, New Jersey warehouse housing four floors of audio masters, many of them wax and metal disc recordings, test pressings, lacquer discs, matrix ledgers, and rehearsal recordings. Out of all of that, RCA saved a set of recordings by the (then famous) Enrico Caruso, but that was it. Shortly before the building came down, some collectors were permitted to enter the building and salvage whatever they could carry for their personal collections. Then the building was dynamited, bulldozed, pushed into the river and used as fill for a new pier.

And in 1973, when RCA decided to remaster its Rachmaninoff recordings to mark the composer’s centennial and capitalize on the growing high fidelity audio market, they had to buy them back from private collectors. Today, the wax and other obsolete recordings could be remastered using laser scanners and computer signal processing to produce reproductions far better than the originals–but they are landfill. Obviously, RCA never really had a record business, and you can’t trust private enterprise to make a buck, right?

Who Started the Moon Hoax Myth?

A while back, a reader of my moon hoax debunkery asked who started the hoax idea rolling in the first place.

Naturally, at the time of the Apollo Program, some folks didn’t believe it, just as many people don’t believe anything they ought to or do believe what they shouldn’t. I had a high school teacher who didn’t believe in the Titanic because “nothing that big could float” (never mind the fact that by the time I was in high school, about a third of all ships on the oceans were larger than the Titanic).

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A Little Help From Our Rivals

During the Apollo 13, nations around the world did what they could to render aid to the United States and our three beleaguered astronauts. Those who are fans of space history may be aware that this included our Cold War rivals, the Soviet Union, who had worked through scientific back channels to keep Apollo radio frequencies clear at least as early at Apollo 8. During Apollo 13, Premier Aleksei N. Kosygin sent a message to the US government saying:

I want to inform you the Soviet Government has given orders to all citizens and members of the armed forces to use all necessary means to render assistance in the rescue of the American (Apollo 13) astronauts.

In addition, two Russian merchant vessels were diverted into the expected South Pacific recovery area in case they were needed to aid in search and rescue. Similarly, the UK send six navel vessels to the Indian Ocean and France and Italy put naval and air forces on alert to cover the Mediterranean.

But there’s another story of cooperation you may not have heard about. In September of 1970, the Soviet Union gifted the United States with a recovered Apollo capsule.


Yep, but maybe not quite what that sounds like.

NASA had about thirty boilerplate capsules made for training of recovery crews. On of these, BP-1227 was lost at sea during training of recovery forces (sources are unclear as to whether these were British forces or US Naval forces based in Spain). The wayward capsule was found by a Russian fisherman in the Bay of Biscayne, recovered by the Soviet Navy, and inspected by Soviet scientists who were disappointed to learn it was only a training mock up. When the US Coast Guard cutter Southwind made a goodwill stop at the port of Murmansk a year later, the Soviets surprised them by returning it.

The capsule was returned to the US, cleaned up, and put in storage for several years before finally being donated to the Public Museum of Grand Rapids in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where it remains on display.

Cool huh? Had you heard this story? Have you seen the capsule? Leave a note and let us know.

What the Evidence Actually Says About the Moon Landings

An Internet denizen asked whether there is any “real evidence” that the moon landings were faked. There isn’t, of course, but the blathering of those who think otherwise provides ample evidence for an alarming level of popular ignorance. To wit, some answers to this question, properly addressed:

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Flying by the Waist of Your Pants

There’s a scene in Ron Howard’s wonderful film, Apollo 13, when the crew is preparing to fire the LEM engine in space and Commander Lovell is Seen ensuring that his socked feet are firmly attached to the velco floor. That might well be authentic, but it leaves audiences with a mistaken notion of when flying the LEM was like during a landing.

Landings were dangerous because there was a big moon outside, just waiting to smash into you. The LEM had to maneuver, and the crew could be tossed around as it did so, just as they needed precision control. If something went wrong (as it did in Apollo 10) such an upset could elevate a minor problem into a crisis, but even under the best of circumstances, landings could be hard, and the last thing you wanted was for a suited astronaut to bang to into a bulkhead, breaking the suit or the LEM.

NASA needed a way to hold the astronauts down so they could focus on their jobs while giving them the mobility needed to move about the cabin as needed. It had to be light, it had to be reliable, and it had to be dead simple. Their solution? The Apollo LEM Crew Restraint System:



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How Did Apollo Astronauts Get Through The Van Allen Belts?

Speed and trajectory.

It is a common misapprehension that all radiation is some sort of magic death ray. It isn’t. Type, dose, and duration of radiation make all the difference. We evolved on a radioactive planet. Sunlight is a type of radiation. Nuclear radiation can kill–or be stopped by our outer layer of dead skin cell. Even our bones are weakly radioactive, and we evolved to handle the gamma rays they produce within our bodies just fine.

Long before Apollo, NASA launched a fleet of probes to map and characterize the Van Allen belts. The belts primarily consist of an inner band of energetic protons and an outer band of electrons, all trapped from the solar wind by the Earth’s magnetic field.https://i1.wp.com/svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/vis/a010000/a011200/a011212/Mona_2.jpeg?resize=1011%2C566&ssl=1

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Proof of Neil’s Giant Leap

Someone recently asked, “How can I convince my dad that Apollo 11 went to the moon?…He thinks later missions may have gone, but that Apollo 11 was faked just to meet Kennedy’s goal and beat the Reds”.

Simple. The Russians were watching. And listening.

The only way to convincingly fake a transmissions from the moon is to send transmissions from the moon. In addition to the high-capacity S-band transmitter in the CSM, the Apollo Command Module, Service Module, Lunar Module, and S-IVB upper stage each had their own independent omni-directional VHF transmitters which they used to communicate with each other and with ground stations and to support radio range finding.

Could the Soviets track these signals? You betcha.

  • A Kentucky HAM radio operator named Larry Baysinger (W4EJA) did just that. On July 20, 1969, he listened in on 35 minutes of VHF chatter between Mike Collins (in orbit) and Neil and Buzz (on the surface), including the president’s “phone call,” all of which arrived in his headset about five seconds before it reached the TV inside the house. Baysinger used a home-brew chicken-wire 8×12 foot corner horn antenna he had built earlier for radio astronomy. This was sensitive enough that his buddy had to continually adjust his aim or the moon’s orbit would carry the transmissions out of focus. The Soviets and other national governments of course had far larger and more accurate antennas, and would have had no trouble telling the CSM in orbit from the landing site, or in decoding the S-band transmissions.


  • Apollo 11 communications were independently recorded by the Bochum Observatory in West Germany using a 20 meter dish. The page, A Tribute to Honeysuckle Creek Tracking Station, has a link to the Bochum recording (heard in the right stereo channel only, with the Goldstone voice added in the left).

  • A compilation of independent astronomical observations of the mission appeared in Sky and Telescope magazine, November 1969, pp. 358–359. These could not have been faked except by placing multiple alternate spacecraft in the announced positions at the announced times—which would rather defeat the purpose.
  • Apollo 11 was tracked by the Madrid Apollo Station in Fresnedillas, Spain. Most of the personnel were not with NASA, but Spain’s Instituto Nacional de Técnica Aeroespacia. Were they all in on a conspiracy together? I think not.
  • The Lick Observatory in San Jose not only tracked Apollo 11 and let throngs of journalists and well wishers see the spacecraft through their telescopes, they were standing by to use the new laser retro-reflector as soon as it was deployed.
  • The Table Mountain Observatory in South Africa tracked Apollo 11 and published pictures in “Observations of Apollo 11”, Sky and Telescope, November 1969, pp. 358-359. Here is a 20 minute exposure from that article showing the spacecraft (as a streak) right where NASA said it should be:

  • The Jodrell Bank Observatory in the UK tracked the mission in both optical and radio frequencies. Jodrell was tracking the Soviet Luna 15 probe at that time and knew when it had failed. They certainly would have known if Apollo 11 had not really landed.

All of which is to say, the moon landing could not have been faked. Not the first landing. Not the last. Not any of the in-between. Will hoax monkeys never learn? Yes Virginia, We Really Did Land On The Moon

Eavesdropping on Apollo 11

Otter Creek – South Harrison Observatory

Apollo 11 anniversary: Lick Observatory scientists recall landmark experiment 40 years ago

Bill Keel’s Space Bits

That Our Flag Was Still There

I was recently asked about this pair of images, suggested by moon hoaximonkians that the whole Apollo program was one big load of bull, as real and Donald Trump’s hair:main-qimg-91095b3a66dea9ae83e04217569e73a3

The flags in these two shots are suspiciously similar…These side-by-side comparisons reveal the startling fact that BOTH flags are billowing positively towards the camera…blah blah, blah.”

Originally, I suspected these had been modified as is often the case with hoax monkeys, who either twist things to fit their narrative or simply don’t bother to go find decent quality source material open which to base their flights of fancy. After all, the image on the left was used in a well-known composite called “Flag and Earth,” created in 2003 by Ricardo Salamé Páez.

However, good quality scans are available at Apollo 11 Image Library. Neither is from the Data Acquisition Camera. Both are from magazine 40, loaded into the Hasselblad used for the first EVA. The image on the left is cropped from magazine shot 5905. The one on the left is cropped and blown up from shot 5885.

If the images appear similar, it’s because they are pictures of the same flag photographed from opposite vantage points. For analysis, NASA compiled this map of all features, equipment, and photos taken at the Apollo 11 landing site:

So the images are real, just carefully cropped and manipulated from low quality source and presented with a false claim that they are impossibly “billowing” in the wrong directions. How this is any sort of hoax claim is hard to imagine. After all, someone would have to go to a lot of trouble to MAKE this happen, it’s not like a flag would be very likely to “billow” identically in two different directions in two different shots on its own.

In fact, the flag is not billowing at all. It’s hanging motionless from a metal rod. The rod is too short for the flag so that the fabric can be gathered like a curtain, to sort of simulate waving, but w the moon, they found the end retained the curl from having spent months packed tightly inside a narrow plastic tube. There may also be static electricity at play, this being nylon in a perfectly dry environment.

But okay, it’s a silly claim, but let’s take a look.

First the right image. This is the highest resolution available for this image, blown up to match the size of the left image, and I defy anyone to definitively determine whether any of the folds are towards or away from the camera. The only thing clear in this fuzzy frame is that the flag is fairly opaque. It’s hard to tell from this frame, but we know from the log and from the other picture that the curl near the end of the strips is not a simple bend or roll but is bunched, so it makes sense that it will cast a similar shadow on both sides (it is is similar, but not identical).

Now the left image. Here it’s quite clear that this is not a flag billowing in the breeze but is creased and crumpled cloth. The “billow” indeed appears to project toward the camera on both sides–it isn’t a billow, it’s a gather or bunch.: The shadow is similar but not identical on each side, and what should be the upper left corner (the little flap protruding a third of the way from the bottom, clearly is on the side facing the camera. Going back, the same protrusion is clearly behind the flag in the right image.

And the more you compare the images, considering the stripes are pointing almost directly into the sun, you can see that we are looking at mirror faces of the same, non-moving flag. The fold in the lower stripes in the left image covers one star that remains visible in the right image. A fold at the bottom of the “billow” in the right image is covered in the left. Looking at the ripples where the stars attach to the the rod, the ripples occur in precisely the same spot in each frame, but the prominently lit star in the upper right of the left image is hidden in shadow in the right–the ripples are reversed as they should be.

So like everything put forth by the hoax monkeys, close analysis of good source material only counters the claim.

Forget the conspiracies. Get some intentional fiction free from C Stuart Hardwick

About This Moon Malarky

I try to be tolerant and understanding of other people’s positions, but moon-hoax conspiracultists really get my dander up. I mean….I mean…no, we’ll come back to that.
My recent post, Yes virginia we really did land on the moon has been very popular, and prompted someone on Quora to asked what are the best pieces of evidence that the moon landings were faked. Well, there are none. No, really. None at all. There are only assertions made by people who have absolutely. No. Clue:
  • No stars in pictures (camera stopped down for lunar surface )
  • Flags waving (held by wire)
  • Apollo 11 flag “billowing ” (it was curled from long storage)
  • No blast crater under the LEM (early engine cutoff was to prevent cratering)
  • Dust around the lander. Or something.
  • Non-parallel shadows. (The moon has terrain)
  • Seemingly identical backgrounds. (when kilometers away)
  • Lander unable to balance itself on a rocket. (Like Surveyor and Lunakod did? Like space-X did–YESTERDAY–with six times the gravity and cross winds?)
  • Lunar trainer impossible to fly. (It was not, except when it broke).
  • No flames from lunar launch. (small UDMH engine in a vacuum)
  • Herky-jerky movement of LEM (in low frame rate engineering camera films)
  • No RCS plumes (in same footage with shutter speed less than thruster duration)
  • Astronauts footage shot in slow-motion (demonstrably not so)
  • Why was every picture perfect? (Because NASA didn’t put the crappy ones in Life—but they are on the website)
  • Missing crosshairs in photos (because LIGHT)
  • The deadly radiation of space (is not deadly for a mere camping trip)


Every single assertion made by these hoaxicanians only demonstrates their own ignorance of physics, optics, basic science, basic math, how to keep a secret (tell only two people–then kill them), how rockets work, how air works, how inertia works, the effects of radiation on the human body, how static charge affects objects, the state of electronics in the 1960s, how TV works, gravity–and EVERY OTHER SINGLE THING

But that’s okay. If it will make the world a better place and my blog a busier nexus of nerd-dom, I’m prepared to refute every single claim by any hoaxicanian anywhere, no matter how daft or ditsy–if that’s what you all would like.

But first, what think ye of this quick and dirty stab? Does this do it in a nutshell? Want more? Have a few dozen more assertions to add to my list (I’ve heard some doozies)? Let me know. The more the merrier.

Why Are There No Stars On the Moon?

Moon hoax wackadoos have long complained that we couldn’t have gone to the moon because there are no stars in the pictures. It all had to have been shot on a sound stage. By idiots. Too stupid to think of the stars.

Right. Actually, prominent stars in the Apollo picture would have been suspicious. As anyone who’s ever played around with a camera at night can tell you, stars are only a little brighter than moon hoaxers. We went to the moon in the daytime. When you set a camera’s exposure to capture shiny spacecraft and smiling ‘nauts posing on a gleaming lunar surface, the stars kinda fade away. They ARE there, though, if you look for them.

This is frame 5905 from magazine 40 shot during Apollo 11. Stars are clearly visable at full res (http://www.hq.nasa.gov/alsj/a11/AS11-40-5905HR.jpg).as11-40-5905hr
AS14-64-9197, from EVA2 on Apollo 14:https://i0.wp.com/www.hq.nasa.gov/alsj/a14/AS14-64-9197HR.jpg?resize=948%2C954&ssl=1
That’s Earth up in the sky, and Venus to the right of the antenna. Blow this image up and you can see a number of the brighter stars.
Here is 9207 from magazine 64, with a number of stars clearly in evidence even without full resolution:
And here is a color shot from magazine 67 showing a few dim stars, the brightest directly above the lunar ranging retroreflector:
The stars are right where they are supposed to be. The only mystery is, why a bunch of numnuts who don’t understand such a fundamental aspect of photography as exposure, presume to attempt photoanalysis in the first place.
By the way, these are all scans from prints, available at Apollo 14 Lunar Surface Journal


As always, skepticism is healthy, paranoid delusion, less so. Have your own favorite example of moon hoaxican tripping over their own brains? Leave a comment and share.