People of a certain age remember when Apollo 11 landed on the moon, and a large percentage of us were watching the live broadcast of man’s first step to the lunar surface. The picture was fuzzy and grainy, and the audio was none too good either. But you could see and hear something and it was a thrilling moment shared by hundreds of millions of people around the world.

Actually, the picture was a lot better than we ever knew
According to an article in the Washington Post, the slow-scan TV system had much better quality than we ever saw. According to WaPo, the signal:

. . . was transmitted from the moon to ground sites in Australia and the Mojave Desert in California, where technicians reformatted the video for broadcast and transmitted long-distance over analog lines to Houston. A lot of video quality was lost during that process, turning clear, bright images into gray blobs and oddly moving shapes . . . .

The high-quality slow-scan TV pictures were preserved on tape, while commercial TV cameras captured the output of the tracking station SSTV monitors – a major loss of signal quality right there – and transmitted that feed to Houston and then on to us.

Backup hell
A few years ago it occurred to some of the folks who were at the tracking stations that it would be cool to see that original high-quality SSTV picture. NASA just had one machine that could read the tapes, so time was – and data formats – were marching on.

Houston, we have a problem
After several years of searching, the couldn’t find the tapes. The original record of this historic event is likely lost forever. Conspiracy theorists who insist the lunar landing was faked may be elated, but I’m bummed.

The StorageMojo take
The preservation of electronically stored information is no simple task, as the billions of dollars spent each year on RAID, backup software and archiving software and services attest. NASA could have benefitted from LOCKSS, had it existed back in the summer of ’69. LOCKSS stands for Lots Of Copies Keeps Stuff Safe. If there is a better strategy I haven’t heard of it.

Comments welcome, of course. Moderation turned on because moderation is a virtue, except in the defense of liberty.