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.”