I always get a little shock when I see crisp, color images from the first moon landing (like the one featured as the most recent Picture of the Week). We’re all far more familiar with the grainy video that millions watched live 40 years ago today. But it’s one thing to snap color photos that will be developed back on earth and entirely more complicated to produce live video from the moon.
There was only one small video camera on board the lunar module, and the format of the video images it produced had to be converted back on Earth to a format that could be broadcast on commercial television. That conversion resulted in degraded video quality.
The original unconverted video was recorded on 45 tapes at a radio telescope in Australia. However, the tapes have since been lost—NASA says they were likely recycled and erased in the 1970s or 1980s when the agency was struggling to keep up with a huge data influx from a growing array of satellites—and NASA turned to Plan B.
The agency searched for copies of the original video from a variety of sources, such as the original broadcast tapes from the CBS News Archive, and selected the best of those for restoration. They then enlisted the aid of Lowry Digital, a Hollywood film restorer that has remastered dozens of films, including Bambi and the Star Wars trilogy.
Last week, NASA released the first batch of remastered video; 15 scenes in total are being restored, and the remainder will be released in the fall.
Did anyone else watch the Mythbusters Moon Hoax video last year? Check out Phil Plait’s review at Bad Astronomy.