Apollo 11 Backroom Loops – Relive the Apollo 11 Moon Landing For the First Time in More Than 50 Years

An exciting new website provides diehard space fans with an incredible way to relive the moon landing as it happened. A wealth of audio recordings has long been accessible online; air-to-ground communications between controllers have also been preserved. But thousands of hours of supplementary conversations between controllers have remained unseen for decades – until now.

Researchers from UT Dallas were awarded a National Science Foundation grant to develop speech technology that could decipher long conversations containing complex language or technical interference, and needed a test bed – NASA had one machine available.


Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin kept in close communication with Mission Control during their Apollo 11 lunar landing, providing air-to-ground conversations which have since been made public. Meanwhile, thousands of hours of supplementary communications (known as backroom loops) remain stored at the National Archives; now many of these audio recordings can finally be heard for the first time in more than 50 years!

These recordings feature both onboard audio and on-surface audio from Armstrong and Aldrin’s historic Moon mission, along with other activities. Onboard highlights from this mission include their delight upon launch into space, awe at Earth below them, debate over lunar surface color differences, anticipation for their first steps on the Moon, as well as conversations amongst crew members discussing activities or discussing ways of handling them while flying around, entering lunar orbit, firing Columbia’s engines to descend, landing safely, etc.

Though the tapes are fascinating to listen to, they may not be easy to access. Their audio files can be very large and difficult to download or play back – making them best listened to using a computer with fast internet connectivity. You could also stream them using websites like Internet Archive that host cultural artifacts digitally.

Internet Archive’s digital footage from lunar EVA missions is also of incredible value; these recordings show crew movements on the surface of the Moon as well as objects they were working with during EVAs.

These recordings are an incredible wealth of knowledge and the definitive record of a historic event, serving as both a testament to humanity’s resilience and proof that human commitment can produce such monumental results. Their story also serves as evidence of their creators’ dedication, helping ensure one of human history’s greatest milestones would live on for future generations to learn from and appreciate.


At Apollo 11, many things happened on the moon. Though Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were busy performing experiments, they never stopped communicating with mission control and their support teams, keeping these vital discussions going back and forth with life-or-death implications.

After their return, most of the recordings made their way into an archive for safekeeping; but gathering all of them required an enormous effort that included remastering from analog to digital formats, reorganizing files and storing fragile physical tapes in climate-controlled vaults. Only recently did all this material get digitalized and made accessible online.

At 19,000 hours of audio, all voices from Apollo 11 command module and moon landing can now be found together in one archive. This contains recordings made by astronauts and staff back at NASA headquarters as well as television clips broadcast publicly and even radio transmissions made in space or while landing.

Each video is displayed here in its original, red-and-black manufacturer’s box (11 3/8 inches by 17 14 inches x 2 3/4 inches), complete with metal reel and printed adhesive label stating “APOLLO 11 EVA [REEL 1] [3] ” and “VR2000 525 Hi Band 15 ips.” Furthermore, they come complete with individual transcripts so you can watch in any order you please to experience the mission unfolding.

Journal Text – TV Clip – 1 Frame Per Second – 16mm DAC – July 20, 1969 A television clip shows Buzz and Neil carrying out various surface activities both within camera range and beyond it. Neil collects bulk samples for solar wind experiment, while Buzz displays soil dynamics by pushing his boots into lunar surface. Soon afterwards they step off-camera to install Early Apollo Scientific Experiments Package with seismometer and laser reflector installed onto an outer module; later photograph it from outside before returning back to their lander, and finally back into their command module before returning back onto LCM after their workstation mission ended.


A new documentary puts viewers into the shoes of NASA astronauts and Mission Control teams who crafted one of its most celebrated missions: Apollo 11. Over 11,000 hours of digitized audio recordings known as “backroom loops” play an important role in this film that first premiered at Sundance to rave reviews in January and will be made widely available starting July.

As the film reveals, astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin kept in constant communication with mission control during their eight-day lunar voyage, which proved instrumental to the successful landing and understanding of space exploration. Though most communication between astronauts was technical in nature, even seemingly mundane correspondence can have life or death consequences.

Apollo 11 recordings have long been made public, but many supplementary conversations from this mission had languished until recently. A year-long project has now digitally preserved thousands of additional snippets from Apollo 11.

Onboard audio highlights include crew discussions of their first views of the Moon, hesitation to fire Columbia’s engines to enter lunar orbit and witnessing Earth rise on their return from lunar surface. According to UT Dallas researchers, one of the most significant finds was an SSTV transmission broadcast by Apollo 11 that then vanished into space.

This transmission contains a complete transcript of an SSTV image recorded onto data tape and sent back to Earth as backup in case any primary telemetry tapes were lost on the Moon’s surface. It provides one of the most detailed records of Armstrong’s lunar landing mission, featuring Armstrong’s last words to Carol from his Command Module before its landing, and Mission Control team reaction when first steps were taken on its surface. Other audio highlights include Armstrong’s final conversation before leaving for space: Armstrong and Carol spoke goodbye before landing, along with Mission Control team’s reaction upon hearing Armstrong’s final words before taking off for their lunar adventure from their Command Module before his lunar landing mission began: Armstrong spoke his final words before taking off, while his last words from Carol were heard inside his Command Module before landing, along with Mission Control team’s reaction when first steps on lunar surface were taken – providing more detailed records than ever existed before! Other audio highlights include Armstrong’s final words before taking off and Mission Control team reaction upon hearing of their first steps being taken onto lunar surface!


Apollo 11 mission communications and recordings have long been available, while additional conversations–known as “backroom loops”–were hidden away until recently when an intensive yearlong project uncovered and digitize them all, giving diehard space fans another way to feel like they’re sitting inside a Saturn V rocket’s command module.

Wiseman likened his search for these tapes as being similar to Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark: searching through an ocean of historical treasure “for that Ark in that vast sea of historical riches.”

Once they found them, however, the challenge lay in getting them playing again. A device known as a SoundScriber with outdated vacuum tube technology was necessary to play them back; Wiseman managed to revive one using retired technician assistance; by playing all 30 tracks simultaneously they reduced production time needed for digital versions to be produced.

Some recordings show astronauts laughing about school reunions and everyday trivia while other contain technical back-and-forth; all were important components in ensuring a successful mission, even the seemingly trivial correspondence could have serious ramifications for crewmembers’ survival.

Neil Armstrong arrived on the moon in 1969, where he was supposed to take immediate steps upon landing to collect surface material as a contingency sample in case his landing was aborted; but he forgot, and engineers were reluctant to remind him over live mission broadcast. Instead, Feist reports, the person designated to talk with astronauts from mission control — known as CAPCOM — was able to solve this problem by subtly reminding Armstrong over an EVA voice system reminder system during EVA time.

The site also presents one of the most complete collections ever assembled of Apollo’s historic film footage, including much 16mm film scanned and restored for recent documentary Apollo 11, while many silent clips have been meticulously lip synced to digitalized audio tracks that are now publicly accessible for the first time ever.

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