NASA Announces Media Teleconference on New Apollo Images

NASA will host a media teleconference at noon on Tuesday, Sept. 6, to reveal new images of three Apollo landing sites taken from the agency’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO. Teleconference participants are:
— Jim Green, director, Planetary Science Division, NASA Headquarters, Washington
— Mark Robinson, principal investigator, Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera, Arizona State University, Tempe
— Richard Vondrak, LRO project scientist, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
To participate in the teleconference, reporters must email Nancy Jones at nancy.n.jones@nasa.gov with their name, media affiliation and work telephone number by 10 a.m. on Sept. 6.
Supporting information and visuals for the briefing will be posted at 11:45 a.m. EDT Sept. 6 at: http://www.nasa.gov/lro Audio of the teleconference will be streamed live on the Web at: http://www.nasa.gov/newsaudio

Video: Comparing Lunar Orbiter and LRO Images of the Apollo 11 Landing Site


This video compares the best Lunar Orbiter Image and one of the best LRO Images of the Apollo 11 landing site. The photos were taken over 40 years apart. The Lunar Orbiter photo was taken in 1967 before Apollo 11 landed on the moon, whereas the LRO image was taken on December 22, 2009 and shows the LM Eagle’s descent stage resting on the lunar surface.
LOIRP Mentioned at Apollo 11 Anniversary Celebration, MoonViews
“Our Apollo 11 landing site image was used to set the context for the LRO picture. Mention was also made of the LOIRP – Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project. Here is a video shot with a small camera of Tyson’s comments regarding our image.”
Damaged Tape and Murky Moon Views, MoonViews
“We recently released two Apollo landing site images – Apollo 12 and Apollo 14 and had embarked upon getting an nice crisp image of the Apollo 11 landing site in time for the anniversary.”

NASA Lunar Orbiter Video: Assignment, Shoot the Moon (1967)

National Archives: “This film summarizes the exploration of the Moon conducted through unmanned Ranger, Surveyor and Lunar Orbiter spacecraft, and shows how such detailed data and photography contributed to the first manned flights to the Moon. The film describes the complexities of closeup photography of the Moon, and includes good views of craters, mountain ranges and other lunar terrain. This film received the following awards: Golden Eagle Certificate, Council on International Nontheatrical Events (CINE), 1968; and the Award of Merit, American Film Festival, 1968.”
Transcript below

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Lunar Orbiter Photographic Atlas of the Moon

By David E. Bowker and J. Kenrick Hughes, NASA SP-206, 1970
Download document (12 MB PDF) Online version (LPI)
During 1966 and 1967 the National Aeronautics and Space Administration launched five Lunar Orbiter spacecraft to obtain photographs from orbit of the surface of the Moon. The reconstructed photographs and support data are now on file at the National Space Science Data Center (NSSDC), Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. The purpose of this Atlas is to present a selection of these photographs which provides essentially complete coverage of the near side and far side of the Moon in greater detail than any publication now in existence.

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The Moon as Viewed by Lunar Orbiter

By L. J. Kosofsky and Farouk El-Baz, NASA SP-200, 1970
Download document (297 MB PDF)
THE PROGRAM
The Lunar Orbiter program was conceived, together with the Ranger and Surveyor programs, with the primary objective of providing information essential for a successful manned Apollo lunar landing. The Lunar Orbiter program comprised five missions, all of which were successful. As the primary objectives for the Apollo program were essentially accomplished on completion of the third mission, the fourth and fifth missions were devoted largely to broader, scientific objectivesphotography of the entire lunar nearside during Mission IV and photography of 36 areas of particular scientific interest on the nearside during Mission V. Photography of the farside during the five missions resulted in an accumulated coverage of more than 99 percent of that hemisphere. The detail visible in the farside coverage generally exceeds that previously attained by Earth-based photographs of the nearside; in some areas objects as small as 30 meters are detectable.
Initiated in early 1964, the Lunar Orbiter program included the design, development, and utilization of a complex automated spacecraft technology to support the acquisition of detailed photographs of the lunar surface from circumlunar orbit. The five spacecraft were launched at 3-month intervals between August 10, 1966, and August 1, 1967.
In addition to its photographic accomplishments, the program provided information on the size and shape of the Moon and the major irregularities of its gravitational field. This selenodetic information was derived from the tracking data. Micrometeoroid and radiation detectors, mounted on the spacecraft for operational purposes, monitored those aspects of the lunar environment.

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More Lost Apollo Data Tapes Discovered

WA physicist’s ‘Moon Dust’ tapes may hold keys to future lunar landings
“A set of original NASA data tapes from moon landings in the 1960s now held in Western Australia may hold the keys to overcoming problems associated with the effects of lunar dust on future moon missions. They are also set to help kickstart the Australian Government’s recently launched space research program. The 177 original (or primary) data tapes – most likely the only tapes of their kind in the world – contain the results of experiments using dust detectors on the surface of the moon by Apollo 11, 12 and 14 astronauts. They have been recently supplemented by secondary data from Apollo 12, 14 and 15 missions.”

LOIRP Mentioned at Apollo 11 Anniversary Celebration


On Monday evening a lavish reception was held at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission. The emcee for the event was Neil deGrasse Tyson. At one point, Tyson talked about the recent LRO images taken of the Apollo landing sites – and the hardware left behind. Our Apollo 11 landing site image was used to set the context for the LRO picture. Mention was also made of the LOIRP – Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project. Here is a video shot with a small camera of Tyson’s comments regarding our image.

Damaged Tape and Murky Moon Views


Image: Our retrieved image with the location of Apollo 11’s Eagle Descent Stage.
With the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11’s landing on the Moon upon us, everything old is new – or so it would seem. Yesterday we saw digitally re-mastered footage released showing the first steps on the Moon in unprecedented clarity. Also this was made from a copy that itself was a copy. The original video, recorded live as the Moon walks were underway has slipped into history – either misfiled or, more likely, erased and reused years later – much like a floppy disk. That said, the new footage does provide a window into the past with detail heretofore unseen.
Another place where windows are being opened into the past is the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project (LOIRP) housed at NASA Ames Research Center. Utilizing ancient FR-900 tape drives, thousands of pounds of long forgotten image tapes, lots of loaned help including retired engineers and scientists, some money (from NASA ESMD, ARC, IPP, and NLSI, SkyCorp, and SpaceRef Interactive, and Odyssey Moon) and an old abandoned McDonalds restaurant (it was available – we call it “McMoons”), we’ve been able to bring these images back to life at resolutions greater than ever seen before. In many cases, until Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) takes new images, thee tapes represent the highest resolution images of the Moon ever taken from orbit.
As we ponder the sad news that the original Apollo 11 video has been lost, it is important to note that our Lunar Orbiter tapes might otherwise have been destroyed several years ago had not a stop order been placed on their destruction due to NASA’s search for Apollo 11 tapes and data. One project’s sad news is another’s execution reprieve.
Among our successes has been bringing the iconic Earthrise and Copernicus back to life in unprecedented detail. This time we need to report a major disappointment.
We recently released two Apollo landing site images – Apollo 12 and Apollo 14 and had embarked upon getting an nice crisp image of the Apollo 11 landing site in time for the anniversary.
Alas, unlike the unprecedented resolution we obtained for these two sites, Apollo 11 was a let down. The image is murky and far less clear than previous images. This is not due to the Lunar Orbiter spacecraft or our restored hardware. Rather, we expect, it had to do with someone playing this tape years ago and getting it jammed for an instant. Alas, the interesting part of this tape is framelet 411 which shows the Apollo 11 landing site. So, if there was a natural place on this tape to be paused, rewound, and played again and again and again, it is this location. Little surprise that the chance for damage to this portion of the tape occurred.
Our collection of tapes covers the entire five mission Lunar Orbiter project. While we are getting better at deciphering the nomenclature and labeling on the tapes, we still have much to learn. We can now find a specific tape and image in a straight forward process but have still only scratched the surface. And, paradoxically, we seem to have more tapes marked “Lunar Orbiter V” than we need to contain all of the images from that mission. We suspect that we have two (or more) archival collections mixed in or (for some reason) multiple copies of the same images. The only way to know for sure is to look at every tape – one by one.
The path to getting this Apollo 11 landing site image was complicated. The image was taken by Lunar Orbiter V on 12 August 1967 at 22:21:13.809 GMT at an altitude of 98. km. Properly retrieved, the resolution of our image should be 2.387 meters per pixel.
After our first round of image retrievals, the heads for our FR-900 tape drive needed to be refurbished. This is an expensive and time consuming process with only one or two places in the world capable of doing it. With the heads refurbished we were prepared to run the tape. As we did we found out that our custom made frame grabber had a bad chip which needed to be replaced.
Once the gear was good to go, the process of running the tape began. There was an ominous note on the tape can that a section of the tape might be damaged. We soon discovered that indeed there was some damage to a 4 minute segment and it was the portion we were most interested in.
Undaunted, Ken Zin, our experienced video tape drive engineer, Al Sturm our electronics guru, and Austin Epps, our vigilant student intern worked long hours to get everything working to see what sort of image we could get. Austin ran the tape multiple times os as to get multiple images we could use to produce a super resolution image of the landing site.
Despite this attempt to coax a little clarity out of the noise, the damage to the tape precluded an image of the quality we had hope for – and had achieved for other images. That disappointment aside, we feel that it is important to show our failures and disappointments as well as our crowning achievements. As you will see when you compare it to the best Lunar Orbiter images, the resolution is low. Yet if you compare it with the new LRO images you can clearly see that something appeared in the image and that the regolith was disturbed around that object (humans).
We will be combing through the Lunar Orbiter tapes this weekend with the hope that there is another (hopefully undamaged) version of this image.
We feel that it is equally important to reveal our failures and disappointments as it is to crow about our successes. We expect to have many of both.
Such is the curse of Apollo 11 – for an event so epic in its nature, the frail means where by we captured it and the planning that led up to it – are fleeting. One more reason why all of this fragile history needs to be maintained with constant vigilance – else we lose all of this to the dust of time.
For more information on the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project (LOIRP) visit http://www.moonviews.com
For information on NASA’s Lunar Science Institute visit http://lunarscience.arc.nasa.gov/


Figure 1 Our retrieved image with the location of Apollo 11’s Eagle Descent Stage.


Figure 2 Comparing our retrieved image and that scanned by the USGS


Figure 3 Comparing our retrieved image, one scanned by the USGS, and LRO’s recent image.

Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project (LOIRP) Releases New Image of Apollo 12/Surveyor III Landing Site

This image LO3-154-H was taken by Lunar Orbiter III on 20 February 1967 and shows the landing site for both Surveyor III (landed 20 April 1967) and Apollo 12 (landed 19 November 1969).
Figure 1 shows the region without labels. Figure 2 shows major features plus EVA routes.

Figure 1: Apollo 12/Surveyor III landing site as seen by Lunar Orbiter III (larger image)

Figure: 2 Apollo 12/Surveyor III landing site as seen by Lunar Orbiter III with prominent features and EVA routes (larger image)


This image has been recovered in its original high resolution format from original Lunar Orbiter project data tapes using restored tape drive hardware and will eventually be submitted to the PDS (Planetary Data System).
LOIRP Note: We will be putting the full resolution version of this image on the NASA Lunar Science Institute website with the layers preserved for Photoshop for all you folks to have fun with! We only ask that you send us copies of what you do and credit us if you publish it anywhere.
For more information on the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project (LOIRP) visit http://www.moonviews.com
For information on NASA’s Lunar Science Institute visit http://lunarscience.arc.nasa.gov/

Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project (LOIRP) Releases New High Resolution Image of The Apollo 14 Landing Site With EVA Details

This photo (Frame 133-H2) of the future Apollo 14 landing site was taken by Lunar Orbiter III on 20 February 1967 at an orbital altitude of 46.7 km. The resolution of the image is around 0.8 meters per pixel. The area covered by this image is 4.52167 x 5.77666 km.
Figure 1 shows the image unlabeled. In Figure 2 we have overlaid the EVA route upon this image so as to show where the crew set foot. While the crew were supposed to visit Cone crater they stopped 20 meters short of doing so due to some confusion as to their exact location. That said, they did visit some large rocks located adjacent to Cone crater’s rim. The enlargement of this Lunar Orbiter image clearly shows some large rocks poised near the crater’s rim. The inset photo shows the largest outcropping as photographed by the crew on the surface.
NOTE: We originally posted these files in an incorrect orientation. This was due to how the images originally show up when they are retrieved from the original tapes. Thanks to all of you eagle-eyed viewers we caught that. We have replaced those earlier files with ones that are correctly oriented to North, South, East, and West.

Figure 1 Lunar Orbiter III Frame 133-H2 unlabeled [larger view]

Figure 2 Lunar Orbiter III Frame 133-H2 labeled to show EVA route. [larger view]


This image has been recovered in its original high resolution format from original Lunar Orbiter project data tapes using restored tape drive hardware and will eventually be submitted to the PDS (Planetary Data System). The full resolution is online here at NLSI.
LOIRP Note: We will be putting the full resolution version of this image on the NASA Lunar Science Institute website with the layers preserved for Photoshop for all you folks to have fun with! We only ask that you send us copies of what you do and credit us if you publish it anywhere.
For more information on the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project (LOIRP) visit http://www.moonviews.com
For information on NASA’s Lunar Science Institute visit http://lunarscience.arc.nasa.gov/
Related Links
Apollo 14 Surface Operations Overview
Apollo 14 Preliminary Science Report
Apollo 14 Mission Report
Apollo 14 Lunar Surface Journal

Apollo Landing Sites Mapped by Chandrayaan


Nearly 40 years after Nasa’s Apollo flights, which put a man on the moon, India’s Chandrayaan mission launched on October 22, 2008, recently did something unique this week it mapped the landing sites of the six Apollo missions on the moon and the process ended on Saturday. The Apollo flights were launched between July 1969 and December 1972. [More]

Lunar Orbiter Imagery and Apollo Landing Site Selection

Source: Apollo Expeditions to the Moon Chapter 5.5 – Mapping and Site Selection
Meanwhile the third member of the automated lunar exploration team had already completed its work. The fifth and last Lunar Orbiter had been launched on August 1, 1967, nearly half a year earlier. When JPL and Hughes began to experience difficulties with Surveyor development, and with the Centaur in deep trouble, NASA decided to back up the entire proaram with a different team and different hardware. The Surveyor Orbiter concept was scrapped, and NASA’s Langley Research Center was directed to plan and carry out a new Lunar Orbiter program, based on the less risky Atlas-Acena D launch vehicle. Langley prepared the necessary specifications and Boeing won the job. Boeing’s proposed design was beautifully straightforward except for one feature, the camera. Instead of being all-electronic as were prior space cameras, the Eastman Kodak camera for the Lunar Orbiter made use of 70-mm film developed on board the spacecraft and then optically scanned and telemetered to Earth. Low-speed film had to be used so as not to be fogged by space radiation. This in turn required the formidable added complexity of image-motion compensation during the instant of exposure. Theoretically, objects as small as three feet could be seen from 30 nautical miles above the surface. If all worked well, this system could provide the quality required for Apollo, but it was tricky, and it barely made it to the launch pad in time to avoid rescheduling.

A photo of the crater on the Moon,Tycho

The youngest big crater on the Moon is Tycho, which is about 53 miles across and nearly 3 miles deep. These Orbiter V photographs reveal its intricate structure. (Area in the rectangle above is pictured in higher resolution below.) A high central peak arises from the rough floor, and the crater wall has extensively slumped. The comparative scarcity of small craters within Tycho indicate its relatively recent origin. Flow features seen in both pictures could have been molten lava, volcanic debris, or fluidized impact-ejected material. Surveyor VII landed about 18 miles north of Tycho, in the area indicated by the white circle above. Enlargements of these pictures show an abundance of fissures and large fractured blocks, particularly near the uppermost wall scarp.

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