The internet is all abuzz over a newly declassified tape of Apollo 10 astronauts catching a broadcast of alien music on the Moon. Except the tape was not classified, not alien, and not music. Settle in and take a listen for yourself.
We’ve clipped out the relevant portion for you right here. The 90 seconds of tape features pilot Gene Cernan imitating a whistling sound coming in over his radio for his crewmates, before they move on to the truly important issue: would any of the other astronauts like some grape juice, because Commander Tom Stafford is going to make some and he is definitely not going to do it twice.
So it’s neither alien nor music, but what about the claim that this (secret! confidential! spooky!) footage has been hidden away for the past several decades, perhaps in some secret government lair?
We talked with NASA’s chief historian Bill Barry to trace the footage’s path through history:
You are right that the audio is not “newly declassified.” The very short snippet of discussion that has become a subject of wild discussion on the internet over the last 2 days comes from the inside the Lunar Module recording on Apollo 10. All of the space-to-ground communications were a matter of public record, but the cockpit voice recorder (that isn’t the official name, but that is effectively what they did) tapes were transcribed and studied on the ground after each mission. As a matter of normal procedure we don’t make those transcripts immediately available after the mission. (You can imagine the effect it would have if everyone in your office knew that everything they said would be released to the public immediately.)
Within four years after they made the recordings in 1969, though, the footage was freely available through the US National Archives and Records Administration. The recordings have even been posted online on NASA’s website since 2012. (You can listen to them in their entirety here.)
The recordings remained relatively unnoticed through the decades until two days ago, when — in perhaps the most mysterious moment in the footage’s history — Science Channel made them the cornerstone in a marketing campaign for its new series, NASA’s Unexplained Files.
NASA, however, is pretty clear that there is nothing unexplained about the little clip of audio you just heard—although Barry notes that there is now one question about the footage remaining: “Why they thought this was newsworthy is unclear to us.”