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Marking 40 years since man's first walk on the moon

Newly digitized scenes of Armstrong's stroll are unveiled as part of anniversary events.

July 17, 2009|John Johnson Jr.

Forty years ago today, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were well on their way to a date with history, becoming the first men to set foot on another body in space.

Events to mark the anniversary and commemorate the ever-thinning ranks of space-race veterans will include interviews with surviving Apollo astronauts and a Kennedy Center salute to the Apollo era.

One highlight was the release Thursday of 15 newly digitized scenes of Armstrong taking his first steps on the moon. The new images are part of a contract with Lowry Digital of Burbank, a leading restoration house for old movies, to restore all 2.5 hours of Armstrong's epic stroll. Lowry is working from 12 hours of recordings of television broadcasts from the U.S. and Australia and an 8-millimeter tape of the original broadcast.

"What we'll be able to re-create is a historically accurate version of the material that will be much better in quality than any of us saw on TV in 1969," Lowry Chief Operating Officer Michael Inchalik said in an interview.

The re-creations are necessary because the original videotapes of the moon walk, made with a hand-held video camera, were found to be missing three years ago. Since then, NASA conducted a worldwide search for the material, to no avail. "A final report on the investigation is expected to be completed in the near future," NASA said in a statement Thursday.

Fans can visit NASA's website ( www.nasa.gov; click on the Apollo 11 link) to listen to a complete re-broadcast of the entire Apollo 11 mission. It began Thursday, the anniversary of the launch, and will continue through July 24, the anniversary of the splashdown and crew recovery.

On Monday, the anniversary of the day Armstrong took his "small step" for man, NASA TV will broadcast a live briefing with Aldrin and five other astronauts from the various Apollo missions: James A. Lovell, David R. Scott, Charles M. Duke Jr., Thomas P. Stafford and Eugene A. Cernan.

Over the years, Aldrin has been the most visible of the three Apollo 11 crew members (the third was Michael Collins, who remained in the orbiter). Besides the briefing with reporters, Aldrin will narrate a concert Saturday night by the National Symphony Orchestra, "Salute to Apollo: The Kennedy Legacy." at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington.

Today NASA will release new photographs of the Apollo 11 landing site taken by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, which is circling the moon. The orbiter is searching for ice that some scientists think may be hidden in sunless crevices on the lunar surface.

Elsewhere, the Science Coalition, representing 45 public and private universities, has asked leading scientists to reflect on the 40th anniversary of the moon landing. Those comments are available at www.sciencecoalition.org Salute to Apollo: The Kennedy Legacy.

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john.johnson@latimes.com

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