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Inside TDV - The Data Vault Blog

Overwritten Magnetic Tapes Lead To Lost NASA Recordings

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Remember the old sitcom setup where a wife goes to watch video from their wedding day, only to discover that her husband has overwritten the tape with Super Bowl footage?

Turns out this scenario very much based in reality, except with far more serious consequences. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has been living this nightmare since 2009, when it was discovered that the magnetic tape drives holding the original video footage from the Apollo 11 mission had been overwritten to hold simple satellite data. While bountiful copies of the network TV coverage exist in the public domain, the original recordings was much higher quality and held significant scientific value.

“We’re all saddened that they’re not there, hindsight is 20-20.” says Dick Nafzger, a TV specialist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, who helped lead the search team. “I don’t think anyone in the NASA organization did anything wrong, honestly it slipped through the cracks and nobody’s happy about it.” Converting the video from its original lunar recording format to broadcast ready footage heavily degraded the quality, resulting in murky images that looked fuzzy and dark to home viewers. At the time this didn’t seem like a huge issue since the originals remained on file, but after decades of storage and technology advances it is a tragedy that they were destroyed due to data storage restraints.

Thankfully, with advances in magnetic tape drive technology, this should never be an issue again. With storage capacity per drive increasing exponentially as the years go by, organizations are finding that they can store more data on fewer actual drives than ever before. Earlier this year Sony unveiled a product capable of holding the equivalent 18,500+ DVD’s on each tape, shocking even the industry experts who’ve been seeing the progress made in increasing capacity.

If your organization is running out of space with your storage solution, give us a call today and we can work out a way so that you don’t end up like the unlucky staffers at the agency with missing overwritten data. Our large selection of media supplies can fit any need or budget, and we’d be more than happy to walk you through the entire process step by step.

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