NASA moon landing videos auction for $1 Million at Sotheby’s.

On Saturday July 20, the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, Sotheby’s will auction three tapes of the historic first steps on the moon. According to the auction house, the tapes are “unrestored, unenhanced, and unmastered” and are “the only surviving first-generation recordings of the historic moon walk.”

At a combined run time of 2 hours and 24 minutes, the three tapes depict several key moments from the mission, including Neil Armstrong’s famous words, “that’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind,” and the astronauts’ phone call with President Nixon. The planting of the American flag is also captured.

Sotheyb’s says the tapes are “the earliest, sharpest, and most accurate surviving video images of man’s first steps on the moon,” of far higher quality than the network television broadcasts seen by 500 million people on July 20, 1969. For those live broadcasts, images from the lunar surface some 200,000 miles away were relayed through various microwave towers and satellites back to Houston Mission Control. Then they were sent out to various television stations around the world, with each transmission reducing the audio and video clarity.

Additionally, many of those “first generation tapes” have degraded over the years due to humidity, and repetitive playing. So these tapes—which were never broadcast beyond the Houston Mission Control room and have only been viewed three times—are seen as especially valuable.

According to Sotheby’s, NASA intern Gary George bought the recordings as part of a collection of 1,150 reels at a government surplus auction in 1976—for a grand total of $217.77—and has kept them in a climate controlled vault. The bidding on Saturday will begin $700,000, and the auction house estimates the tapes will sell for over $1 million. Items from Buzz Aldrin’s personal collection, including pages from the Apollo 11 flight plan, are also for sale.


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