Time and again, NASA pops up as an example of an agency that has lost or mis-managed knowledge. There is an urban legend that NASA lost the notes and information used to create the final designs of many of the rockets of the Apollo program. Many of the original draft notes were on paper, which has not been preserved well, and worse many of the early drafts went through multiple hands-on real time revisions that were never documented at all. Many of the engineers from the period have retired or passed away and the knowledge they developed from the apollo program is now lost to the ages.
Last week, it was reported that a mock up of Skylab that had been held at a space museum in Alabama was recovered from a parking lot where it had been stored under shrink wrap for several years. The shrink wrap had been donated by the Army, but over the years fell apart until birds and teenagers had their way with the replica of SkyLab. Now volunteers are working to restore this vestige of the Apollo program built from spare parts.
Massive Library Fine?
So now it comes as little surprise that the National Archives who held the original tapes of the lunar landing has no record of receiving the tapes back from NASA after NASA checked them out back in the 1970’s.
The tapes were special in that they were filmed at 10 frames per second so that the video could be transmitted from space to a specially built TV that could play that format. This TV was then filmed by live television and transmitted around the world. NASA was preparing to scrap the now antique machinery capable of replaying the tapes, and when they went looking for the Apollo 11 tapes, there were no tapes to be found???
The loss of knowledge in the tapes has fueled the fire of conspiracy theorists that claim that the lunar landing was a staged hoax. The tapes were magnetic and can decay if not stored correctly so tracking them down is a time sensitive issue.
For more on this story see One Giant Mystery for Mankind