After a three-year search for the lost Apollo 11 tapes and an exhaustive six-year restoration project, digitally remastered footage of the historic Moonwalk is almost complete.
Thanks to the efforts of a dedicated tape restoration team, the enhanced footage surpasses the quality of the live broadcast that stunned an international TV audience on the day of the historic event in 1969.
A five-minute highlights reel (see below) exhibits a number of the Moonwalk’s most remarkable moments including Neil Armstrong’s descent onto the lunar surface; the raising of the ‘Stars and Stripes’; and the famed phone-call between astronauts Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin and President Nixon.
Clear record of the Moonwalk
“What we have now is the clearest record of the Apollo 11 Moonwalk TV for future generations,” said Colin Mackeller, an Apollo 11 historian who edited the footage and was a member of the restoration team.
All but the first few seconds of the final two and a half hour restoration comes from video received in Australia.
On the day of the Moonwalk, three tracking stations – NASA’s Goldstone in California, and Honeysuckle Creek and Parkes Observatory in Australia (featured in 2000 movie The Dish) – were tasked with recording the live footage transmitted from the Moon.
Camera incompatible with broadcast
The images were captured by a single small video camera, attached to the lunar module, but the camera used an unusual format, slow-scan television (SSTV), which is incompatible with commercial television broadcast.
As a result, the SSTV transmission had to be converted in real-time into a standard broadcast signal before being sent to the NASA flight centre in Houston for distribution to the TV networks.