Lost Apollo moon dust tapes found in Australia

A 1960s tape recorder the size of a fridge could yield valuable information from NASA's Apollo missions to the moon. An archiving error by NASA ...

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A 1960s tape recorder the size of a fridge could yield valuable information from NASA's Apollo missions to the moon.

An archiving error by NASA meant 173 data tapes sat in Perth, Western Australia for almost 40 years.

The tapes contain information about lunar dust. This could be vital in expanding science's understanding of the moon, said ABC News in Australia.

The Apollo 11, 12 and 14 missions carried "dust detectors", invented by Perth physicist Brian O'Brien. This information was broadcast back to earth and recorded onto tapes.

Brian O'Brien had access to the tapes at Sydney University, but his papers on moon dust he published with the preliminary findings failed to generate much interest at the time.

"These were the only active measurements of moon dust made during the Apollo missions, and no-one thought it was important," said O'Brien.

"But it's now realised that dust, to quote Harrison Schmitt, who was the last astronaut to leave the moon, is the number one environmental problem on the moon."

NASA lost its copies of the tapes before they were archived. But the Perth tapes have been kept in a climate-controlled room.

A giant 1960s IBM729 Mark 5 tape drive at the Australian Computer Museum will now be used to extract the information once again.

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