Nasa recently destroyed hundreds of mysterious tape reels and two Apollo-era Nasa computers used during the height of the Space Race, documents have revealed.
Most of the tapes, wiped in 2015, were unmarked, but some were related to Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11 – Nasa’s missions to Jupiter and Saturn during the Apollo moon landing era.
The space agency said the documents were destroyed because they were of no historical value and were too difficult to recover.
The discovery has sparked the interest of conspiracy theorists who claim that Nasa has something to hide.
The long-lost files were stored in the basement of an IBM engineer for more than 50 years.
The engineer had worked for Nasa in the 60s and 70s and, when he died, bequeathed the files to a scrap dealer in late 2015, FOI documents seen by Ars Technica reveal.
The more than 40-year-old artefacts were in poor condition, but bore the markings of Nasa’s Goddard Space Flight Center and Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Just before Christmas in 2015, the scrap dealer contacted the agency to return the files, saying he ‘wanted to do the right thing.’
‘Please tell Nasa these items were not stolen,’ the engineer’s heir told the scrap dealer in 2015, according to the files.
‘They belonged to IBM Allegheny Center Pittsburgh, PA 15212.
‘During the 1968-1972 timeframe, IBM was getting rid of the items so [the engineer, whose name has been redacated] asked if he could have them and was told he could have them.’
Nasa staff came to inspect the files and found that most of the magnetic tapes were dated between 1967 and 1974.
The documents reveal that Nasa workers told the family of the deceased engineer, whose identity is redacted in the documents, that they would have to remove the computers themselves as they ‘had no use for them’. […]