Engineers Are Rescuing Some of the First Photos Ever Taken from Lunar Orbit , Smithsonian
“The tapes that recorded the data beamed back to Earth, though, captured the photos in all their glory. Unfortunately, NASA held on to the tapes but tossed out the equipment used to read them. The efforts of the team behind the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project, says Bierand, has so far given 2,000 old photos new life, including the Earthrise photo above, captured in 1966 and re-released a few years ago.”
Our plan is simple: we intend to contact the ISEE-3 (International Sun-Earth Explorer) spacecraft, command it to fire its engines and enter an orbit near Earth, and then resume its original mission – a mission it began in 1978. ISEE-3 was rechristened as the International Comet Explorer (ICE). If we are successful it may also still be able to chase yet another comet.
Working in collaboration with NASA we have assembled a team of engineers, programmers, and scientists – and have a large radio telescope fully capable of contacting ISEE-3. If we are successful we intend to facilitate the sharing and interpretation of all of the new data ISEE-3 sends back via crowd sourcing.
NASA has told us officially that there is no funding available to support an ISEE-3 effort – nor is this work a formal priority for the agency right now. But NASA does feel that the data that ISEE-3 could generate would have real value and that a crowd funded effort such as ours has real value as an education and public outreach activity.
Time is short. And this project is not without significant risks. We need your financial help. ISEE-3 must be contacted in the next month or so and it must complete its orbit change maneuvers no later than mid-June 2014. There is excitement ahead as well: part of the maneuvers will include a flyby of the Moon at an altitude of less than 50 km.
Our team members at Morehead State University, working with AMSAT-DL in Germany, have already detected the carrier signals from both of ISEE-3’s transmitters. When the time comes, we will be using the large dish at Morehead State University to contact the spacecraft and give it commands.
In order to interact with the spacecraft we will need to locate the original commands and then develop a software recreation of the original hardware that was used to communicate with the spacecraft. These are our two greatest challenges.
The funding we seek will be used for things we have not already obtained from volunteers. We need to initiate a crash course effort to use ‘software radio’ to recreate virtual versions all of the original communications hardware that no longer physically exists. We also need to cover overhead involved in operating a large dish antenna, locating and analyzing old documentation, and possibly some travel.
This activity will be led by the same team that has successfully accomplished the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project (LOIRP): SkyCorp and SpaceRef Interactive. Education and public outreach will be coordinated by the newly-formed non-profit organization Space College Foundation.
Our trajectory efforts will be coordinated by trajectory maestro Robert Farquhar and his team at KinetX. We are also working in collaboration with the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters, NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center, and the Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI) at NASA Ames Research Center.
Please consider making a donation to our project by visiting our RocketHub crowdfunding page.
For information contact Dennis Wingo at 310-403-1346 or by email at wingo -at- skycorpinc.com
McMoon’s revealed: Inside the hacker project that’s saving NASA’s lunar photos, Imaging Resource
“We’ve all been there: Media comes and goes, and despite your best efforts to keep your photo archives current, eventually you find a stray. Perhaps it’s an old Iomega Zip disk that got misplaced, or a floppy from your Sony Mavica that you found at the bottom of a drawer. Either way, you know there are photos on there, but you lack the hardware necessary to get at them. Your Zip drive long ago succumbed to the click of death, and seriously… when’s the last time you saw a computer with a floppy drive? It might surprise you, though, to learn that the same thing happened to photos shot by NASA while it was seeking out the best potential landing sites for the Apollo program.”
Lost 1960s moon photos recovered from analog tapes
“As the Beatles warmed up to play Shea Stadium for the second time, in August of 1966 a NASA satellite was quietly snapping images of the moon onto 70mm film and processing them in its robotic body before beaming the resulting images back to the Earth over analog radio waves.”
How hackers restored NASA’s lost lunar photos from inside an old McDonald’s, ExtremeTech
“The Lunar Recovery Project team has released new footage of restored lunar photos from NASA’s early probes and the difference in image quality between the old publicly released photos and the new material is simply stunning. The story of how the material was rescued is equally inspiring — the quest to preserve this material dates back to 1986, when JPL archivist Nancy Evans decided she could not, in good conscience, simply throw the old material away.”
The Hackers Who Recovered NASA’s Lost Lunar Photos, Wired
“Sitting incongruously among the hangars and laboratories of NASA’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley is the squat facade of an old McDonald’s. You won’t get a burger there, though-its cash registers and soft-serve machines have given way to old tape drives and modern computers run by a rogue team of hacker engineers who’ve rechristened the place McMoon’s. These self-described techno-archaeologists have been on a mission to recover and digitize forgotten photos taken in the ’60s by a quintet of scuttled lunar satellites. The Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Progject has since 2007 brought some 2,000 pictures back from 1,500 analog data tapes. They contain the first high-resolution photographs ever taken from behind the lunar horizon, including the first photo of an earthrise (first slide above). Thanks to the technical savvy and DIY engineering of the team at LOIRP, it’s being seen at a higher resolution than was ever previously possible.”
Long before man journeyed to the moon and looked back at the tiny, fragile planet that houses humanity, remote orbiters were sending back pictures of home.
Sent to scope out potential landing sites on the Moon, the series of five Lunar Orbiters also sent back the earliest views of Earth from another celestial body. This image, taken in 1966 by Lunar Orbiter 1, is among the first views of Earth from the Moon. In the black-and-white image, a crescent Earth floats majestically behind the lumpy surface of the Moon.
Continue reading “Earth Before Earth Day”
A newly enhanced image of Earth taken from lunar orbit 47 years ago has been released. The image, taken by Lunar Orbiter 1 in 1966, is the latest in a series of images released by the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project (LOIRP).
This image is actually one of a pair of images taken of Earth by Lunar Orbiter 1. Its twin image, taken first, was much more famous and captured the world’s imagination when first released by NASA nearly half a century ago. That “Earthrise” image, as it came to be known, was also the first image re-released by the LOIRP in November 2008.
These two pictures were not included in the original mission plan. Taking these images required that the spacecraft’s attitude in relation to the lunar surface be changed so that the camera’s lenses were pointing away from the Moon. Such maneuvering meant a calculated risk and, coming early in the flight, the unplanned photograph of Earth raised some doubts among Boeing management about the safety of the spacecraft – especially on the very first Lunar Orbiter mission. (see How the Photo Was Taken)
Larger images (various enlargements of 10% of full size image): [medium] [large] [very large] [raw 100% full sized TIFF – approx 1 GB in size – online at NASA soon]
This second earthrise image (Frame 1117) was taken two days after the first image (Frame 1102) on 25 August 1966 at 13:02:05 GMT. As with the earlier earthrise image, you can see a crescent Earth hovering above the limb of the Moon. Most of what you see on the Moon is the farside with the Sea of Tsiolkovsky prominently featured in the medium resolution image. A flaw in the onboard processing of the first image left a large flaw whereas this second image, although it has a similar flaw, is far more uniform in its quality than the first image.
The data chart on the right (larger version) shows time that the two Earth images were taken.
This second earthrise image was taken under circumstances nearly identical to the first earthise image. Indeed the two images look very, very similar. As was the case with virtually all Lunar Orbiter images, this second earthrise always been available to the public albeit in its original, murky, 1966 resolution. But for some reason, this other earthrise never got the same amount of visibility in 1966.
This is not an unusual – the first image was, well, the “first”. This happens a lot. Most people are unaware that Yosemite Valley has a nearby twin, called “Hetch Hetchy”. It is flooded with water nearly a century ago and has served serves as a reservoir, much of its majesty obscured. People used to know about both as equals – but not any more.
The highest resolution versions of Frame 117 previously available are online at the Lunar and Planetary Institute. You can compare Frame 1117 with the earlier Frame 1102 and see that the images are of similar composition.
The first earthrise image, Frame 1102 (top) and the second earthrise Frame 1117 (bottom) show similar composition and viewing angles. larger image Image credit: LOIRP/NASA
As was the case with Frame 1102, comparing the detail of Earth in the newly reprocessed LOIRP Frame 1117 on the left with that of the original image on the right shows a dramatic increase in dynamic range and resolution. Larger image.
This image shows the orientation of Earth as seen from the Moon at the time that Frame 1117 was taken on 25 August 1966 at 13:02:05 GMT.
NASA flew five Lunar Orbiter missions between 1966 and 1967 to do photo reconnaissance of possible landing sites for the upcoming Apollo Moon missions as well as to conduct scientific research on the nature of the lunar surface.
The LOIRP retrieved this image from the original magnetic tape recorded in 1966 using restored 60s era FR-900 tape drives coupled with modern digital image capture and processing techniques. This process brought out detail that would have been impossible to see in the 1960s.
The LOIRP’s goal is to recapture the images from all five Lunar Orbiters and to provide the high resolution images for scientists and the public. All of the imagery and accompanying data will be submitted to the NASA Planetary Data System (PDS) as is the case with all modern NASA missions. The PDS did not exist at the time that the Lunar Orbiter missions were flown.
The primary data capture of all Lunar Orbiter images has been completed. The LOIRP expects to complete these process of retrieving all images and submitting data to the NASA Planetary Data System by the end of 2014.
Support for this project has been provided by NASA, the Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute, SpaceRef Interactive Inc., SkyCorp Inc., and hundreds of donors via a RocketHub crowd funding campaign last year.
More information on the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project can be found at http://220.127.116.11
– Another Lunar Orbiter Earthrise Retrieved and Enhanced
– How Life Magazine Revealed “Earthrise” in 1966
– Nimbus II and Lunar Orbiter 1 Imagery: A New Look at Earth in 1966
– LOIRP Releases Recovered Lunar Orbiter V Image of “Full Earth”