Last week marked the 49th anniversary of the Apollo 11, the first human mission to land on the Moon, and NASA has now released over 19,000 hours of audio recordings from that eight-day, three-hour-long mission.
Creating a digital library from this recording was not an easy task. NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC) worked with researchers at the University of Texas at Dallas to use the only remaining tape recorder that can read the original tapes. The 170 tapes reveal the incredible details of what happened second by second on Earth and in Space.
“The effort,” said John H.L. Hansen, principal investigator for the effort, is a way “to contribute to recognizing the countless scientists, engineers, and specialists who worked behind the scenes of the Apollo program to make this a success. These are truly the ‘heroes behind the heroes’ of Apollo-11!”
The archive is full of intriguing material. There is the famous conversation from the Eagle (the Lunar Module), where the computer systems threatened to abort the landing. There is the reaction from the Mission Control in Houston after they heard the historic “The Eagle has landed”. There are also some funny moments with Buzz Aldrin, such as him asking if NASA can turn Earth a little because he wanted to see more land. Another good one had technicians worried over Aldrin’s malfunctioning breathing sensors, a situation in which the astronaut quipped “well, if I stop breathing, I’ll be sure to let you know!”
“We’re approaching the 50th anniversary of Apollo, and I’m really pleased that this resource is becoming available,” said JSC Director Mark Geyer in a statement. “Experience is one of the best teachers, so as we continue our work to expand human exploration of our solar system, go back to the Moon and on to Mars, we stand on the shoulders of the giants who made Apollo happen. These tapes offer a unique glimpse into what it takes to make history and what it will take to make the future.”
The digitalization process started in late 2013 and ended early this year. The team also made a transcript of all the audio files. The achievement is incredible but the 19,000 hours represent only one-quarter of the full Apollo Project audio archive. The rest, yet to be turned digital, includes Apollo test flights, the test missions that sent Apollo 8 around the Moon, Apollo 10, and the “successful failure” that was Apollo 13.