NASA admits destroying hundreds of mystery Apollo-era tapes and two computers

NASA destroyed a set of mysterious Apollo-era tapes and TWO computers which were discovered in a Pittsburgh basement after the Agency had claimed the ‘video material and computers were of no historical value’ new documents revealed.

NASA computers
Surely the Computers belonged in a museum and not in the trash? Image Credit

NASA has admitted destroying HUNDREDS of Apollo era tapes and two Apollo-era computer which was utilized by experts during the space race, new documents have revealed.

The tapes were wiped clean in 2015 and were unmarked, and included data from the Pioneer 10 and 11 missions to Jupiter and Saturn.The computers, however, bore markings which indicate they belonged to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

According to reports, the material was destroyed because they had no historical value, and were extremely difficult to recover.

Logically, and as expected in today’s society, the destruction of the tapes sparked numerous conspiracy theories claiming NASA is trying to hide ‘something.’

The historic files were kept in a basement belonging to an IBM engineer for more than 50 years.

The engineer was employed by NASA during the 60’s and 70’s. As reported, the materials were in extremely poor condition but bore markings which indicate they belonged to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Massive computers
Yes, the computers are MASSIVE, but they were worth saving… right? Image credit

The tapes were handed to a scrap dealer in 2015, and just before Christmas of that year, the dealer contacted NASA in order to return the materials, since apparently his consciousness kicked in, and he wanted to do the right thing.

According to official reports, the engineer’s heir told the scrap dealer in 2015: “Please tell NASA these items were not stolen. They belonged to IBM Allegheny Center Pittsburgh, PA 15212.”

“During the 1968-1972 time frame, IBM was getting rid of the items so [the engineer, whose name has been redacted] asked if he could have them and was told he could have them.”

Since the computers were clearly marked with a plate reading Goddard Space Flight Center NASA Property, the scrap dealer decided to contact NASA.

NASA opted against recovering the computers as they were ‘too heavy to be moved manually’ and a crane was likely required to transport them.

NASA wrote: No. We do not need the computers. We have no use for those computers.”

Furthermore, the official report reveals how a NASA official order all tapes to be destroyed, since there was absolutely no valuable data in the computers.

Ars Technica posted the report published by the NASA Goddard archivist:

I conducted an initial assessment of the material on December 10, 2015. This assessment confirmed the approximate number of 325 magnetic data tape reels that each measured 14″ in diameter with a magnetic tape dimension of ½” and contained by a metal reel. The assessment also showed that the magnetic tapes were in poor condition and almost all were affected by moderate to severe mold, which is identified as a health risk. Most of the tapes were not labeled and of the tapes that were labeled, the content appeared to be space science related with missions including Pioneer and Helios and the inclusive dates range was 1961-1974. A final assessment of the tapes on April 3, 2016, further broke down of the content of the tapes into the following:

PN8 [Pioneer 8]: 1 reel

PN9 [Pioneer 9]: 2 reel

PN10 [Pioneer 10): 40 reels

PN11 [Pioneer 11]: 53 reels

HELl [or] HEL-A [Helios 1]: 10 reels

HESA [possibly an abbreviation for Helios A]: 2 reels

Intelsat IV: 2 reels

Unlabelled or labeled without mission-related identifying information: approximately 215 reels

“Based on the decision reached by the Goddard science experts and myself, there is no evidence that suggests this material is historically significant, and the lack of contextual contract-related information about the creation or the content of this material, coupled with the poor condition and the potential health risk posed by this material, I recommend disposal through the immediate destruction of all magnetic tapes,” the archivist wrote.

Interestingly, as reported by The Sun, one of the two mystery computers was labeled with a contract number which had no record whatsoever in the US government. It’s as if it never existed.

“CONTRACT NO. NAS5-2154,” simply does not appear to exist, these particular Jupiter and Saturn files from the 70s may be gone, writes the Sun.

The entire report from NASA is here.

(H/T Ars Technica)

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  1. I doubt there was anything of significant value on those tapes….probably just a bunch of nothing telemetry numbers which would mean absolutely zilch to a collector….Those Pioneer and the two Helios missions were for scientific data gathering of ions, solar winds, galactic dust…..stuff the normal person really doesn’t care about. The data is so archaic and in such a small bitrate, (PONG had a higher bitrate), there is absolutely zero cover up of any kind here.
    Unless you are a whiney crybaby liberal who thinks there is a conspiracy involving Donald Trump and the Pioneer missions….

  2. Whatever those documents contained, they were property of the U.S. Government, and, therefore, of the U.S. people. They should have been properly archived. As a former (now retired) paralegal for the Justice Department, I am well aware that stuff like this should NEVER be destroyed, unless they were ALL reviewed by the proper people in NASA.

    1. NASA is an independent agency outside the scope of “property of the US Government”.

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