“We Should Have Had a Historian”: Live Television and the Accident of the Moon Landing Tapes

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Forty years after the first moon landing in 1969, National Aeronautics and Space Administration announced that it had likely recycled the tapes containing the original footage of the landing. Although the mission was a monumental event viewed by millions of people around the world, the production and handling of the recorded materials was a matter of little concern to more than a small group of employees, historians, and space enthusiasts. This article argues that despite the fact that the erasure of these archival materials was accidental, it was not an accident per se but rather a fulfillment of a logic designed into the apparatus of magnetic tape recording from its very inception, and therefore a generative event for the media archeologist. By evoking histories and theories of broadcast and magnetic recording, I argue that erasure is a process that discloses networks of economic, cultural, material, and aesthetic discourses and interests.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)799-814
Number of pages16
JournalTelevision and New Media
Issue number7
StatePublished - Nov 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2020.


  • broadcast history
  • erasure
  • liveness
  • magnetic recording
  • media archeology
  • moon landing


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