The original story, now retracted, is below the fold.
Somebody is dicking around on the internet. It is possible that the Daily Express article is a “hoax” or a “fiction” … at least, this is what some are claiming. See the updates here on Bad Astronomy.
I’m not sure if I would use the word “hoax” if this is simply inaccurate reporting. A hoax is different (sort of like the difference between a mugging and a hate crime?).
I also don’t like the phrase “it is a fiction.” What does that mean exactly? This story has several elements to it, including the description of the processes the data went through, including NASA losing the tapes, including looking for the tapes, including failing to look for the tapes, including finding some kind of tapes, including thinking that the tapes that were found had the missing data on them, and including trying to get the data off the tapes.
Does the phrase “it is a fiction” mean that all of that is made up? Some of it?
The original story implies that NASA was mad because the story was being released early. Is that a fiction as well?
At this point it is entirely up to NASA to make a clear statement about what is true and not true and to give us the details. Of course, they can take their time to do this right. And if they feel that the Express overstepped their bounds, they should make that clear as well.
When the video footage of the first moon landing was seen by the world, the video data had gone through a series of degrading steps:
Technology at the time meant Neil Armstrong’s film, recorded using a special lunar camera, went through a series of processes, each of which marked a step down in quality before it hit people’s living rooms.
From the moon, the signal was beamed to the Earth’s closest tracking station at the Parkes Observatory in Australia where, along with other important data, it was recorded on to high-grade magnetic tapes.
From there, the raw images were downsized to American television resolutions by a special scanner in Sydney, heavily compressed so they could be transmitted live, and then relayed to the US via the Intelsat III satellite.
The final loss in quality came when Nasa made its US recording of the event–the one always seen in archive footage–by simply placing a 16mm film camera in front of a television monitor in the US.
The original data that was beamed to earth was put on tapes that were lost soon after.
Now, these tapes have been rediscovered and NASA is trying to get the data off them to produce high quality video.
NASA had planned to release these tapes later in July, but a reporter with the Express apparently weaseled this information out of a hapless public relations officer at NASA. The story is here (this is where the above quote is from as well).