Moon Landing Footage Mistakenly Sold By NASA For $217 Expected to Fetch Millions

Original tape reels of the Moon landing are expected to fetch millions at auction, 43 years after they were mistakenly sold by NASA.

The footage was found by Gary George while he was working as an intern at the NASA Johnson Space Centre in the 1970s.

He came across a single lot of 1,150 reels of magnetic tape, including 65 two-inch, reel-to-reel videotapes, at a government surplus auction.

Original, first-generation NASA videotape recordings of the Apollo 11 lunar EVA. Photo: Sotheby's

He bought the lot for $217.77, which at the time was a bargain as reels of Ampex tape sold for $260, and he intended to resell them as the tapes could be re-recorded.

However, his dad spotted three that were marked 'Apollo 11 Eva | July 20, 1969 Reel', and George made the decision to keep them.

It wasn't until 2008 that George decided to watch them -- possibly the first time they had been viewed since recorded -- after hearing NASA was searching for its original slow scan tapes.

Still image from footage. Photo: Sotherby's

George found a company with the technology to show old tapes, and the recordings were viewed and digitised on to a hard drive for safe-keeping.

The footage, which is in its original state and has not be remastered, has since been viewed only once, when Sotherby's auction house verified their authenticity.

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As the 50th anniversary of the Moon landing nears, Sotheby's is selling the original three reels and the hard drive. It's expected they will fetch between US $1 million and US $2 million (AU $1.4 million and AU $2.8 million).

Still image from footage of the engineers at Mission Control prior to landing. Photo: Sotheby's

In other Moon landing news, Australia's national science agency, CSIRO, has gifted its original broadcast of the moon landing to the National Film and Sound Archive to ensure it is preserved in history.

The footage of the broadcast was originally gifted by NASA to the CSIRO, in acknowledgement of the role Australia played in broadcasting the momentous first steps to the world.

NASA switched from its tracking team at Goldstone, California to Honeysuckle Creek near Canberra for the first nine minutes of the broadcast, which included the infamous giant leap.

CSIRO's Parkes radio telescope was then used to receive signals from Apollo 11's lunar module Eagle for the next two-and-half hours of the worldwide broadcast.

The footage, which has been digitally remastered, is just one of three official copies in the world, and the only copy outside the U.S..

Neil Armstrong and Edwin E. "Buzz" Aldrin, the first men to land on the moon, plant the U.S. flag on the lunar surface. Photo: NASA

"This footage is a perpetual reminder of what human ingenuity can achieve,” Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts Paul Fletcher said.

“The Apollo 11 moon landing inspired millions of people and helped to drive dramatic advances in computing and communications."