The Original Lunar Photos Were Recovered From Somebody's Filthy Backyard
From '66 to '67, five NASA lunar orbiters took pictures of the moon's surface to pinpoint the best landing sites to model Stanley Kubrick's set after. These pictures, including the first-ever earthrise image, were beamed directly into magnetic tape decks. And in deference to their lofty purpose, these tapes were preserved with the same dignity afforded to your weird uncle's collection of 1970s amateur porn. They were printed once, in really terrible quality, and then shoved in a dusty box to be forgotten
Fast-forward to 2004, when NASA hackers in an old Usenet group learned that retired archivist Nancy Evans had saved the tapes from being destroyed in 1986. And when they tracked Evans down, they found both the tapes and the refrigerator-sized drives to read them on in her backyard garden shed, surrounded by farm animals. Together, Evans and the hackers launched the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project (or LOIRP), tasking themselves with recovering the history trapped inside the hundreds of tapes. They established their base of operations in the greatest symbol of JFK's America: an abandoned McDonald's.
"Anyone else feel like we should all be wearing American flag shirts?"
Fortunately, '60s technology was built to survive Soviet missiles, so the chicken-tainted equipment was still intact (if in dire need of disinfecting). Unfortunately, not many people knew how to work the old equipment, since it was, well, old. So the LOIRP started the painstaking work of repairing the drives from scratch, which at one point involved finding a substitute for the now-banned whale oil NASA used to lubricate the tapes.
But the result was worth it. With the equipment up and running, not only could the team access photography previously thought lost, but because those Cold War cameras were actually better than most of the junk we're blasting into space right now, LOIRP was able to digitize the images with modern software, dramatically increasing their quality.
NASA"Hey, I can see a time when people could still afford houses from here!"