Web Extra Monday, November 6, 2006
Moon tapes still missing
NASA officials ramped up a search in August for missing Apollo 11 moon
landing tapes, the team continues to investigate their whereabouts. But
while the tapes in question have not yet been located, the search has
turned up some interesting leads, including some lunar data found on the
other side of the globe.
After hearing about the NASA search, Brian O'Brien, who was the principal investigator of an experiment carried to the moon by Apollo 11, recalled boxes of tapes that he brought with him when he moved from Sydney to Perth, Australia, in 1971, according to Collin Mackellar, who provides the tape search program support in Sydney. The tapes, O'Brien remembered, were stored below a lecture room at Curtin University of Technology in Western Australia, where they remained for 35 years, says John de Laeter, who was the head of Curtin University's physics department, and helped O'Brien store the tapes.
The storage-room tapes, however, do not include the "Apollo 11 romp on the moon by the astronauts," says Stan Lebar, who worked to design the Apollo Lunar Television Camera that recorded the moon landing. Still, they include data from the Early Apollo Scientific Experiment Package (EASEP), dropped off on the moon by Apollo 11.
of EASEP was to test the impact of lunar dust, radiation and other debris
on solar cells, to find out if a glass cover would protect them. Temperature
and voltage information from the experiments were beamed from the moon
back to Earth and recorded on tapes.
"While they aren't the tapes we're after, I hope that this discovery
will spur others to look in unlikely places," Mackellar says. And
the NASA team continues to search, "running down every lead,"
Wood says. But budget cuts at NASA after Apollo "make this difficult,"
he says, as many of the necessary records became lost when records divisions
at Goddard were reorganized or cut. Still, the team is working to contact
retired employees to find out where the tapes might be. "So the search
continues," Wood says.