Not My Job to Preserve History

The hoo hah about the 40th anniversary of the Apollo moon landing has surfaced yet another NASA organisational memory failure. It seems that NASA (economy being their thing in the 1970s and 1980s) reused the tapes storing the video footage of the moon landing. A years long search for the missing tapes resulted in the conclusion that they must have been recorded over. NASA had to beg copies from TV stations and the Australians (the signal with original footage was received first by an Australian station). Here’s the engineer in charge (who’s now responsible for refurbishing the recovered copies):

“Nafzger, who was in charge of the live TV recordings back in the Apollo years, said they were mostly thought of as data tapes. It wasn’t his job to preserve history, he said, just to make sure the footage worked. In retrospect, he said he wished NASA hadn’t reused the tapes.”

This is why records management policies and processes are important! I’m not going to tell you about the client who lost a contract, then got into a dispute with the other party, and wasn’t able to back up their position. Managers are woefully undereducated on the importance of organisational memory beyond the “decide now, let the next guy worry about the consequences” mindset.


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