A set of original video recordings by Apollo 11 Moon Landing bought at $ 217.77 at an authorized transition auction by a former NASA intern in the 1970s has been sold at auction for $ 1.82 million.
The undamaged, unbuilt and unmasked tapes are described as "the earliest, sharpest and most accurate surviving video images of man's first step on the moon," by Sotheby's auction house.
The bands, which have a driving time of 2 hours and 24 minutes, had a pre-sale estimate of $ 1 million to $ 2 million. The artifacts were auctioned in New York on Saturday, the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 Moon Landing.
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Seen only three times since being bought directly from NASA at the 1976 auction, the tape is the only surviving first-generation recordings of Neil Armstrong's first step on the moon , according to the auction house.
The video tapes are from the collection of Gary George, who bought them while serving as an intern at NASA. In June 1976, George attended an auction in Houston's Ellington Air Force Base where he purchased a single batch of approximately 1,150 reels of magnetic tape, whose "Ewings Agency or Reporting Office" was listed as NASA.
"Among the rollers were about sixty-five boxes with 2 inch real-to-real video tapes of the type used by TV stations," explains Sotheby's statement and noted that George planned to sell the used tapes, which can be re-recorded to local TV stations.
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But after selling some of the bands and donating others to Lamar University and a local church , George's father noticed that three of the boxes were labeled: "APOLLO 11 EVA | July 20, 1969, REEL 1 [–3]" and "VR2000 525 Hi Band 15 ips."
EVA refers to Extra Vehicular Activity, the famous time Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin spent on the moon surface outside Eagle Lander. EVA lasted only 2 hours, 31 minutes and 40 seconds.
"Think these bands might be worth hanging on, George rescued the three boxes and gave them some thought until early 2008 when he learned that NASA was trying to locate its original slow video tapes of Apollo 11 EVA (Extravehicular Activity) in anticipation of the 40th anniversary of the first manned moon landing, "Sotheby explains.
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George sought a studio with equipment that could play bands and in October 2008 they were played by DC Video, possibly for the first time since they was recorded. There were to be in "flawless condition" the bands were played again next month and were digitized. "This was the last time these real-to-reel video tapes were played until Sotheby's specialists saw them to confirm their quality for this auction," the auction house explains.
The historic mission continues to be a source of fascination. A rare signed photo of astronaut Apollo 11 who made his "giant step for humanity" was recently sold in a separate auction for $ 52,247.
Last year, a checklist was sold that went to the Moon's surface with Armstrong and Aldrin on auction in New York for $ 62,500.
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In 2017, a bag of Moondust filled with Armstrong was sold by Sotheby for $ 1.8 million.
Follow James Rogers on Twitter @ jamesjrogers
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