Houston, we have a problem …

Sci-Fi & Fantasy

spaceballsDo you remember those plastic tabs on videotapes that you broke off if you wanted to prevent yourself from accidentally taping over something important? If you mastered that technology, you can officially consider yourself smarter than a rocket scientist.

In an embarrassing acknowledgment, NASA said Thursday it must have erased the footage of man’s first moonwalk years ago so that it could reuse the videotape.

I could have spared them a few high-quality VHS tapes from my homemade collection of Babylon 5, if only they had asked.

NASA’s not alone in its shortsightedness. The BBC once destroyed many early episodes of the cult British sci-fi series Doctor Who in a misguided effort to save money and storage space. They never saw the phenomenon of TV-on-DVD coming, I guess.

But the loss of a few episodes of a TV series hardly compares to wiping out the original recording of the live moon broadcast, one of the great cultural touchstones of the 20th century. Historians and AV nerds everywhere are laughing at NASA — hardly a new development, as the agency that answered President John F. Kennedy’s call to get America to the moon before the Soviet Union just isn’t what it used to be.

Ironically, many old episodes of Doctor Who that were long thought lost have been saved through the diligence of fans and the skills of digital artists. And thanks to Hollywood magic, we will still be able to watch the Apollo 11 crew’s triumph: Four copies that NASA scavanged from all over the Earth are being used by Hollywood technicians to restore and remaster the historic footage.

This time, it’s probably safe to say there will be a backup.

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