UT Dallas students launch mission to save a piece of NASA history

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DALLAS -- The students at The University of Texas at Dallas didn't get us to the moon. But they have launched a mission to take us back.

By the time NASA grounded the Apollo program, it had compiled 11 years’ worth of conversations. Those conversations were recorded on hundreds of reels.

“And they’ve literally never been listened to,” Dr. John Hansen, associate dean for research at the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science, said.

Dr. Hansen said that in the 60s, those tapes were put in a closet and forgotten.

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“There are roughly 250 to 400 of these tapes,” Hansen said.

Most of what we’ve heard is from Neal Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, but there were hundreds of people behind the scenes who made landing on the moon possible.

“It’s part of history,” Hansen said.

Roughly 200,000 hours of their conversations were never released. Dr. Hansen and his team wanted to make that happen. First, they had to get the audio on to a computer.

“If we don’t digitize it, these tapes will just deteriorate in the long run,” Hansen said.

Unfortunately, only one machine in the world could play those tapes, and it was a dinosaur that hadn’t been used since the 60s.

Doing it that way would have taken almost 200 years. Dr. Hansen and his team modified the machine and did it in four months.

But their main goal was to create technology that could write down, word for word, all of that audio for them. However, getting to the moon may have been an easier task.

Say you want to talk to Siri on your iPhone. Now imagine 30 people are talking about different things all at the same time. Wouldn’t it be amazing if Siri could write down every single word from every single person?

That’s exactly what they developed. Their creation has transcribed 19,000 hours of audio in less than five years.

Although there’s a long way to go, they say this technology might one day help NASA reach Mars, improve education, and help people work better together.

Proof that sometimes our best future is history just waiting to be heard.