Chandrayaan-I Spacecraft Loses Radio Contact

Radio contact with Chandrayaan-I spacecraft was abruptly lost at 0130 Hrs (IST) on August 29, 2009. Deep Space Network at Byalalu near Bangalore received the data from Chandrayaan-I during the previous orbit upto 0025 Hrs (IST). Detailed review of the Telemetry data received from the spacecraft is in progress and health of the spacecraft subsystems is being analysed. More

Another Example of 40 Year Old Data With Modern Relevance

40-year-old data tackles very modern physics problem, Ars Technica
“The Large Hadron Collider is still going through a painful commissioning process–coming online in time for the winter shutdown is probably not what researchers had in mind when they broke it the first time. So, what is a physicist to do when the shiny toys are still being polished? Sit around at the pub and gossip about old experiments, of course. One such session has ended with Jorg Jaeckel, from Durham University, taking a new look at 40-year-old data from a classical electrostatics experiment. He found that this data provided the strongest constraints on a particular set of particles so far, thus proving that some experiments age very gracefully indeed.”

LOIRP and LRO Confirm That Humans Walked on the Moon

Yesterday the LRO team released a new image of the Apollo 14 landing site. You can clearly make out the paths that the crew walked as well as the location of the Apollo 14 Antares Lunar Module Descent Stage.
In June 2009 LOIRP issued its own view and analysis of this landing site – as seen by Lunar Orbiter III back in 1967.
Comparing our high resolution image of the site with that taken by LRO clearly shows no feature where Antares’ Descent Stage now stands [larger image]. While the resolution of the Lunar Orbiter image (0.8 meters/pixel) would probably not reveal astronaut tracks in great detail, we’re rather certain that it would have seen an object the size of Antares’ Descent Stage.
As such, we’re pretty certain that the Apollo 14 mission landed on the Moon!

Technoarchaeology: Finding The Right Image in a Room Full of Tapes

Image: a portion of our set of Lunar Orbiter data tapes at McMoon’s – an abandoned McDonalds onsite at NASA Ames Research Park, home of the LOIRP – Lunar Orbiter Image recovery Project.
Here at the LOIRP (Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Process) project there are two different phases of the image retrieval process that are distinct from each other. The second phase, the production of the vast majority of all the of the Lunar Orbiter images, will simply involve putting tapes on the tape drive machines, acquiring the data, and processing them into images.
However, we’re still in the first phase of the project where we need to search through tapes in a painstaking fashion just to find the images we are interested in downloading. Once we find what we are looking for, downloading is a snap and can be done in a matter of hours.
Finding the images using a jumbled nomenclature and labeling system last used more than 40 years ago is part of what we call “Technoarchaeology”.

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Correcting Our South Pole Selenography

“I have been involved in the illumination analysis of the lunar south pole for a while and your reference image ( seemed incorrect based on going over such images so many times.  I checked it against Clementine imagery and it turns out that the labels you have are in the wrong places.  I have attached a jpeg of the correct placements for the South Pole and Shackleton.” – James Fincannon, NASA GRC

LOIRP Releases Restored Image of Lunar South Pole

This image, LO-IV-179-H1, taken by Lunar Orbiter IV on May 24, 1967 at 16:19:23.809 GMT, shows a portion of the lunar south polar region. A much larger version [1.8 MB JPG] can be downloaded here. You can download the full resolution image [692 MB tiff] here at NLSI.
The altitude of the spacecraft when this image was taken was 3,591.83 kilometers. The resolution of the image is 78.432 meters per pixel.
Spacecraft Position: Altitude: 3591.83 km, Latitude: -71.38°, Longitude: -96.22°
Principal Point: Latitude: -69.52°, Longitude: -74.07°
Illumination: Sun Azimuth: 68.15°, Incident Angle: 82.85°, Emission Angle: 11.24°, Phase Angle: 94.08°, Alpha: -11.23°

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Lockheed Martin Donates Clean Room to the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project

Lockheed Martin Corporation has donated the labor required to erect a class 10,000 clean room to the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project (LOIRP).  This clean room will help protect our refurbished 1960’s era Ampex FR-900 tape drives from the environment inside NASA Ames Research Park Building 596 aka “McMoons”, which was originally constructed to house a McDonalds restaurant.
In the 1960’s these tape drives were operated in an old style computer room, with raised floors ultra-clean air, and constant air conditioning.  Since our building’s air conditioning system was sized for the heat of the kitchen and lots of customers, we are able to maintain the temperature to near optimum conditions.  However, dust and dirt are still a problem with the finely tuned machine.  
One large dust particle could break a head tip if it went into it in the wrong direction.  As such, this 10 x 12 foot clean room will provide a more optimal environment for both of the tape drives.  
The clean room has a positive air pressure and heavy filtering of the air to reduce dust particles in the air.  The positive air pressure also helps to keep outside floor dirt from being sucked up in the fans that cool the machines.
The Lockheed Martin team who helped in the assembly of the portable clean room were Bob Allen, Lance Ellingson, Robert Phillips, and David Leskovsky.
“This generous gift from Lockheed Martin will help us to keep the our tape drives operating better in an environment similar to what they were designed for” said Dennis Wingo, LOIRP project lead.

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LOIRP Releases Enhanced Restored Version of the “Image of the Century” Plus Additional Subframes of Crater Copernicus

This is a re-release of Life Magazine’s “Image of the Century” from 1966. The performance of our hardware and software image processing methods has been significantly enhanced to remove some of the banding artifacts that are derived from imperfections in the spacecraft image scanning hardware. This image of Copernicus crater was taken from a spacecraft altitude of 45 km (27.1 miles) and is approximately 207.7 km (~125 miles) to the center of the image.
An interesting aspect to this image is that with this oblique view, recent impacts of small craters have much more brightness than older craters of the same size. This suggests the value of oblique photography in doing crater aging studies as well as multispectral remote sensing of excavated materials from the craters. You can view a larger version [900 K JPG] of this image on your screen here. You can download the full resolution image [505 MB TIFF] here at the NLSI.

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Lunar Orbiter In The News

Local engineer critical to NASA’s Lunar Orbiter project
“A crescent earth appears suspended in black space in the upper portion of the image with the lunar landscape dominating the foreground. That image may have never been captured if not for a Boeing crew member who suggested turning the spacecraft around so the camera pointed toward Earth, a move not designed in the original mission playbook, explained Knittel. “It was pretty awesome,” Knittel recalled about the first time he saw the photograph which was taken Aug. 23, 1966. The image transmitted back to Earth from the satellite in several separate strips of 35-mm film and was eventually assembled side by side to create the finished photo. Since the picture arrived in pieces, at first the crew monitoring its arrival only saw the moon surface and were momentarily dejected believing that the camera on board the spacecraft had missed photographing the earth, said Knittel. Then the earth’s round image slowly appeared. “When they saw that picture, I understand that there were a lot of teary eyes,” he said. “It was sort of like birthing a baby, I guess. It was such a big event.”