Well, it turns out the rumored and much-hoped-for recovery of the original Apollo 11 EVA video is not to be. After much searching and investigating, those involved have reached the inescapable conclusion that the tapes were likely over-recorded with material from later Apollo missions.
While instances of wedding videos being wiped-out by careless husbands recording football games have been sitcom fodder ever since the rise of Betamax, this is in a class by itself. Damn! Erasing the original video data from Apollo 11? Waaaaaah!
As someone who has been responsible for a rather large videotape inventory for the past couple dacades, though, I can actually understand how it could happen. Whenever an organization has conflicting pressures of needing to constantly make new recordings while at the same time not being able for budgetary reasons to purchase new recording media, there are strong pressures to re-use recording media one would rather preserve. It kinda sucks, but in the day to day world archiving things sometimes is a secondary concern... if it's even a concern at all.
And - to be perfectly honest - I don't think the REAL importance of the Apollo 11 landing will be realized within the lifetimes of those of us who experienced it. I mean, sure, we all knew it was "important", but I don't think we fully realize that 1,000 years from now Apollo 11 will probably be the only thing people will remember and/or care about from our era in history. Had we known, we would have taken better care to preserve the original tapes.
At least the search has been made to find the best surviving tapes so they can be cleaned up and preserved for the future. They do look much improved, and I appreciate the hard work of those doing the preservation, but "if only"...
And that makes me wonder about the future preservation of digital media. Back in my day, taking pictures, for example, required an investment in film and processing and the number of exposures you could take was, relatively speaking, highly limited. When you got your stack of 24 exposures, you had a physical artifact you were more likely to hold onto and store in a safe place. Now, you can store a gazillion images on a single memory card with great ease. But will they just get deleted and forgotten? Will it be a matter of "Oh. well, taking pictures is so effortless now..." it seems more a matter of instant gratification rather than a question of preserving things for the future. But we'll see. Just a word of advice for those of you young 'uns with digital pictures/video/recordings... make sure to back up your stuff and save it for the future. You never know what will be important to someone someday.
In other news, this 40th anniversary of Apollo 11 is a groove-fest for space nerds like me. I'm totally digging the streaming audio from NASA in which they're playing the Apollo 11 mission audio in real time (plus 40 years). AWESOME!!!