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'Lost' tapes of first moonwalk to be sold; former NASA intern may make millions

Adrianna Rodriguez

A former intern at NASA may become a millionaire when he sells three metal reels that contain original videotape recordings of man’s first steps on the moon.  

The videotapes will be offered in a live auction on July 20th at Sotheby’s New York, but interested parties are able to place bids now at Sothebys.com. The sale coincides with the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission. The price could reach $2 million.

According to the auction site, Gary George was awarded a cooperative work internship at the NASA Johnson Space Center in June 1973. Three years later, he bought more than 1,100 reels at a government surplus auction for $218, Reuters reported.

“I had no idea there was anything of value on them,” the 65-year-old retired mechanical engineer from Las Vegas said in an interview with Reuters. “I was selling them to TV stations just to record over.”

George sold about eight reels for $50 each before his father spotted the three tapes labeled “Apollo 11 EVA,” the Sotheby’s bio said.

“He was really into the space program, and he said, ‘I think I’d hang onto those. They might be valuable someday,' ” George told Reuters. And that’s exactly what he did for decades.

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In 2006, NASA admitted losing the tapes after the Goddard Space Flight Center began an informal search for them. Personnel thought they could have been in the 2,614 boxes of Apollo mission tapes that were sent to a storage facility in late 1969.  

After hearing the agency was unable to track down the tapes, George contacted video archivist David Crosthwait in California, who had the studio equipment capable of playing the vintage videotapes. In December 2008, George played them for the second time since their purchase.

NASA had abandoned its search after concluding that the reels had been erased and recorded over.

Running at about three hours, the tapes show what Mission Control saw July 20, 1969. Captured on the reels are Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon and Buzz Aldrin’s demonstration of lunar gravity. The tapes show the astronauts’ solar wind experiment and their deployment of the American flag on the surface of the moon, as well as their “long distance phone call” with President Richard Nixon.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'Lost' tapes of first moonwalk to be sold; former NASA intern may make millions