Apollo 12 splashdown footage recovered

By Phil Plait | July 7, 2006 3:24 pm

Here’s a neat piece of history: no footage of the Apollo 12 capsule splashing down after their trip to the Moon has been known to exist… until now. A man who served on the U.S.S. Hornet, the recovery ship, found some footage shot when Apollo 12 returned to Earth. He found it in the bottom of a storage box! What other treasures are rotting in peoples’ attics, I wonder?

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff, NASA
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Comments (17)

  1. Cindy

    My dad still has the proposal from RCA & Grunman on the lunar lander module. He worked on the Apollo project for RCA. Not as exciting as the splashdown footage.

  2. Mark Martin

    Speaking of lost. I read just a couple of days ago that there’s a hunt ongoing for magnetic tapes which store the original TV signal received from Apollo 11.

    It seems that what was seen on television around the world was a processed, inferior signal, and that the original has much more brightness and better contrast. The webpage whereat I found this offered as evidence some Polaroids taken directly from monitor screens at the time of the broadcast. There is a significant difference in image quality.

    The rub is- that the only facility known to be able to read the tape format in question is due to be shut down in the near future. That, plus the fact that the tapes, wherever they may be, are also aging and possibly losing data even as we speak.

  3. Elyk

    Amazing what you can find in weird places.

  4. Michelle Rochon

    Awesome video! Pretty neat to know that thing exists!!

  5. Joe Victorino

    I have footage my father took of the recovery of
    Walter M. Schirra`s Mercury capsule.
    It is some shaky super 8 color footage.
    My Father was serving on the USS Kearsarge.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mercury_8

  6. Kevin

    That is so very shiny!!! That’s about all I can say now.:)

  7. Ruth

    I remember avidly watching all available footage from the moon missions. To me, the most remarkable thing about this footage of Apollo 12 landing is realizing, again, how tiny the space capsules were. Has our PC-topia forgotten that there are real risks involved in any venture that charts unknown territory? The shuttle is like a luxury liner compared to the rowboat “living quarters” of the Mercury and Apollo missions.

  8. This article is not exactly correct. The footage is the NASA stock footage from the Apollo 12 landing, which we made a new transfer of at the National Archives about two years ago.

    We released the footage over a year and a half ago on our Apollo 12 DVD set, so it wasn’t exactly “lost” or “never before seen.”

    Mark Gray
    Spacecraft Films

  9. Nigel Depledge

    Mark Martin, Apollo 11 sent slow-scan TV pictures to save bandwidth (which allowed the use of a smaller antenna and a lower signal power). These could not be transmitted directly over the world’s TV networks, so they displayed the SSTV image on a monitor and pointed a normal TV camera at the monitor. THe picture from this camera was sent out to the TV networks. Hence the reduction in quality.

    Having said that, the quality would not have been what we would call “good” in the first place.

    As the Apollo programme progressed, and the engineers found out how well their kit worked, they were able to push things a little, so the later missions carried heavier payloads than the earlier ones. One aspect of this was an improvement in the TV images transmitted from the surface of the moon as the programme progressed.

  10. The biggest WoW factor from Apollo 12 was how close the LEM landed near the Surveyor Robot Probe resting on the lunar surface. Was that 600 feet or 600 yards?

  11. Nigel Depledge

    Ray, oh, yes, indeed!

    I have a picture that I use as some-time wallpaper that was taken by one of the Apollo 12 astronauts. It shows Surveyor 3 in the foreground and the Apollo 12 LM (Intrepid) in the background.

    You can even see where Surveyor 3 bounced and skidded a little on its landing, from the way the regolith preserved the imprints of its feet.

  12. Nigel Depledge

    Ray, I had a look through Chaikin’s A Man on the Moon to try to find a reference to the distance between Intrepid and Suveyor 3. The only time he mentions the distance between the two craft, Pete Conrad and Al Bean are 300 feet from Surveyor, and Intrepid looks “like a tiny replica”, so I would guess it was 600 yards, not 600 feet.

  13. I remember avidly watching all available footage from the moon missions. To me, the most remarkable thing about this footage of Apollo 12 landing is realizing, again, how tiny the space capsules were. Has our PC-topia forgotten that there are real risks involved in any venture that charts unknown territory..

  14. Mark Martin

    Nigel Depledge says:

    “Having said that, the quality would not have been what we would call “good” in the first place.”

    Yes, I’m certainly aware of that. Nevertheless, as can be seen on the following page:

    http://www.honeysucklecreek.net/Apollo_11/tapes/Search_for_SSTV_Tapes.pdf

    the quality of the raw, unprocessed signal was significantly better than what was seen in living rooms.

  15. Nigel Depledge

    Agreed, Mark. The quality of the original SSTV pictures was noticeably superior to the broadcast images.

  16. Mike Mullins

    Was onboard for the recovery. Upon splashdown , the capsule took on seawater due to one of the three flotation bubbles bursting.I was the sailor who used a garden water hose to siphon the water out of the capsule after it came onboard Hornet,Siphoned it out just like we used to do gas out of a car. Was a little worried about contamination since the seawater came out of the capsule.However,no negative lifelong effects LOL. Also retrieved a nice piece of the mylar foil from the capsule, with the permission of NASA.Great memories of Apollo 11 and 12
    Michael Mullins
    Bedford Texas
    mullinsmd48@tx.rr.com

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