Watch: Former NASA intern allegedly possesses only surviving recording of moon landing

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By Sinead Barry  with Reuters
Watch: Former NASA intern allegedly possesses only surviving recording of moon landing
Copyright  REUTERS

A one-time NASA intern is on the brink of making millions for possessing what Sotheby's auctions say is the only surviving original recording of the moon landing.

Retiree Gary George interned at NASA as a university student in 1976. During his time there he purchased more than `1,100 videotapes for around $218. At the time, NASA was attempting to reduce costs by recording over or selling old videotapes.

"I had no idea there was anything of value on them, I was selling them to TV stations just to record over," said George.

Among the tapes George bought was a video of Neil Armstrong's first steps on the moon, along with his iconic quote, "that's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."

Some of the other invaluable moments captured in the tapes are the astronauts planting the American flag on the moon, Buzz Aldrin bouncing around on the minimal-gravity surface and a call in with Richard Nixon, the U.S. president of the time.

Shortly after buying the tapes, George sold about eight reels of tape to television stations for $50 each. In an attempt to get a tax write off, George decided to pack his station wagon with tapes to donate to a church.

It was only while packing the truck, that his father noticed that three of the tapes were labelled "Apollo 11 EVA," referring of course to the moon landing. Being interested in NASA's space programme, George's father advised him to keep the tapes, telling him "they might be valuable someday."

It was not until 2006 that NASA admitted that they were unable to locate the original tapes of the moon landing. While on holidays with a friend working at NASA, George remembers being told that the original Apollo 11 tapes had been lost and that his friend had been given the apparently impossible task of finding them.

"Quite frankly, I was sitting at the table drinking a beer and I said, 'Well damn, I have those,'" he recalled.

The tapes, which will be auctioned at Sotheby auctions on July 20, are expected to sell for more than $2 million.

Video editor • Christophe Pitiot