Holding on to historic footage is not rocket science — which may be exactly why Nasa officials were forced to say on Tuesday, “Houston, we have a problem”. The problem is that Nasa seems to have lost more than 13,000 original tapes recording the Apollo moon missions, including the historic 1969 Neil Armstrong-Buzz Aldrin first moonwalk. While Richard Nafzger, a senior Nasa engineer put in charge of the search-and-rescue operation, insists that the tapes are not lost (he simply “doesn’t know where they are”), there has been a sudden peak in activity among conspiracy theory circles, especially among those who maintain that the whole moon-landing business was a hoax.
A few years ago, matters got serious enough for Nasa to launch a point-by-point ‘explanation’ to refute claims that the moon missions were all conducted in a studio somewhere in the US. How was the American flag fluttering on the airless moon when Armstrong and Aldrin were prancing about on the moon? Rejoinder: when astronauts were planting the flagpole, they rotated it back and forth to penetrate the lunar soil. So the flag kept ‘waving’ in the vacuum with its stored angular momentum. How come there were no stars visible in the broadcast from the moon? Rejoinder: the sunlight bouncing off the spacesuits rendered invisible everything else ‘bright’ in the pictures. (Which is why photos with flashes don’t capture anything beyond the foreground.)
But now with the original tapes ‘lost’, could there be some Nasa secret out in the open? Like the director’s cut with a voice saying in the background, “Cut! No, no, Neil! It’s ‘One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind’, not ‘One step for man...’ Can’t you read the script?”