Everyone recognizes "A small step for man," Neil Armstrong's quote of July 21, 1969, when he stepped for the first time from the lunar lands to the dusty regolith of the lunar surface.
What has been lost over the years, however, are the hours and hours of conversations, commands and jokes passed down by Apollo 11 and Houston astronauts. Now the public can hear it all: Researchers have just released more than 19,000 hours (or more than two years) of Apollo 11 audio, including Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin, with NASA.
When you search the collection randomly in the NASA archive, much of the sound is air, waiting for someone to say something, and then someone on mission control who lights the radio with a "roger" or set of numbers and directions. But also the everyday back and forth from the earth to the astronauts seems significant. They hear space through time and in the truest sense of the word ̵
University of Texas Dallas researchers developed a technique to analyze and detect the massive sound archive of the Apollo missions: more than 200 14-hour analogue tapes with 30 audio tracks each. In addition to this challenge, the original tapes can only be played on a 60s SoundScriber device located at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston.
John HL Hansen and the scientist dr. Abhijeet Sangwan led the team through the digitization of audio and development algorithms to parse and transcribe everything.
The researchers describe the tedious process of digitizing the tapes:
The device was only able to read one track at a time. The user had to mechanically rotate a handle to move the tape-reading head from one track to another. In Hansen's estimation, it would take at least 170 years to digitize only the Apollo 11 mission audio with this technology.
"We could not use this system, so we had to design a new one," Hansen said on UT Dallas's blog. "We've developed our own 30-track read head and developed a parallel solution to capture all 30 tracks simultaneously, which is the only solution on the planet."
You can go to the NASA archive page or Listen to the much simpler UT Dallas website "Explore Apollo".