Lunar Orbiter Goes To The Inaugural

We just learned that our recently retrieved version of the classic Lunar Orbiter 2 oblique view of Copernicus has been chosen for the NASA publication “A Lunar Gallery: An Artistic Look at Earth’s Moon”. This booklet will be part of the official presidential inaugural handout package next week. You can download a copy of the complete publication here.

LOIRP Team Presents Poster at LPSC

Integrating LRO Data Products for Preliminary North Pole Rover Mission Planning
“The authors believe that the selection of future sites for unmanned exploration of the Lunar surface should be driven by several short and long term objectives to maximize not only the scientific value of the selected site, but also the applicability of ground- truth data obtained from the surface to the longer term goal of Lunar resource utilization. Sites selected for unmanned surface science missions, such as the one being proposed in this document, will be a natural location of future outposts both unmanned and manned. Those outposts, in turn, become the natural beginnings for the economic development of the Moon’s resources.”
Download poster

Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project Featured in MountainView Voice

One giant leap for former fast-food joint, MountainView Voice
“Inside a shuttered McDonald’s at NASA Ames Research Center is a surreal scene: stacks of silver disc-shaped film canisters, an old reel-to-reel tape machine and the sound of NASA technicians talking during a 1960s mission to photograph the moon. What is going on is a sort of archeology of the digital age, or “techno-archeology” as it is called by Dennis Wingo, the man in charge of the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery project. Wingo, CEO of Skycorp Inc., is the space industry entrepreneur who partnered with editor Keith Cowing to promote the project in 2008.”

First Earthrise Photo Taken 45 Years Ago Today

Keith’s note: 45 Years ago today, on 23 August 1966, Lunar Orbiter 1 snapped the first photo of Earth as seen from lunar orbit (Larger view). While a remarkable image at the time, the full resolution of the image was never retrieved from the data stored from the mission. In 2008, this earthrise image was restored by the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project at NASA Ames Research Center. We obtained the original data tapes from the mission (the last surviving set) and restored original FR-900 tape drives to operational condition using both 60s era parts and modern electronics. The following links provide background on the image, its restoration, and reactions to its release.
Here is a comparison of the full image in its original, familiar context (higher res)(print quality). You can download a 1.2 GB version from NASA here. Note: this is a very large file.

Newly Restored Lunar Orbiter Image of Earth and Moon (Detail)
How the Photo Was Taken
House of Representatives Honors Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project
Nimbus II and Lunar Orbiter 1 Imagery: A New Look at Earth in 1966
Dumpster Diving for Science, Science Magazine
What Lunar Orbiter 1 Was Seeing on 23 August 1966

Lee Scherer

Lee Scherer, KSC’s 2nd leader, dies at 91, Florida Today
“Lee Scherer, who led Kennedy Space Center through its last major transition between human spaceflight programs, will be remembered in a service later this month near his home in San Diego, Calif. Scherer, KSC’s second center director from 1975 to 1979, died May 7 at age 91. … Joining NASA in 1962 on loan from the Navy, Scherer managed a program that launched five lunar orbiters mapping Apollo landing sites.”
Keith’s note: We were beyond thrilled to have Lee Scherer visit our Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project (LOIRP) operation at NASA Ames in November 2008 as we released the newly retrieved and restored “Earthrise” image taken by Lunar Orbiter 1 in 1966. As he walked into Building 596 (aka “McMoons” – it used to be a McDonalds) Lee was clearly stunned to see that we had found all of this old stuff and got it working again. We all had a tear in our eyes – it was like being in a Star Trek episode where something comes back from the past to a future where it simply should not exist.
At one point Lee told a story about some kids in his neighborhood who asked about an old picture he had hanging in his garage. Of course, it was the famous Earthrise image. You can imagine his reaction to seeing it presented in all its glory in a way not possible (technically) in 1966 – but in a way that now truly matched what one’s mind’s eye saw when this image first went viral in 1966. More than a generation later this image inspired the mission patch for STS-130 – the shuttle flight that carried a piece of the summit of Mt. Everest and four small Apollo 11 moon rocks that had been to the summit up to the International Space Station. The past meets the future once again.
Ad astra Lee.

(L to R) Greg Schmidt (NLSI), astronaut Yvonne Cagle, Lee Scherer, Lee’s son, and LOIRP co-lead Dennis Wingo. Next to Lee Scherer are the original Lunar Orbiter tapes still backed in their archival containers.

(L to R) LOIRP co-lead Dennis Wingo, Lee Scherer, LOIRP engineer Ken Zin, and Nancy Evans. Ken ZIn is explainin gthe restoration process hwereby orignal FR-900 tape drives were brought back to life after 40 years.

(L to R) Lee Scherer, Nancy Evans, and Dennis Wingo stand in front of a restored FR-900 tape drive

Lee Scherer signs the newly operational FR-900 tape drive used to read the original Lunar Orbiter data tapes.

TheLunar Orbiter 1 “Earthrise” image of Earth taken on 23 August 1966. Top: original- bottom: restored by LOIRP.

Video: Visiting McMoon’s

NASA NLSI: “I stopped by to visit the folks at McMoon, more widely known as the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project: More about the project below, but one of the cool parts is that the images are being restored in an old McDonald’s at NASA Ames Research Center. Also note the nice geek touches like empty pizza boxes 🙂 This project, LOIRP, is recovering decades old data, digitizing data from the Lunar Orbiter mission of the 1960’s, thus bringing up the highest resolution data of the Moon from that time. This will greatly complement all the great Moon missions of this time, including the upcoming Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter mission launching in two weeks!”

LOIRP LPSC Poster: Analysis of Lunar Orbiter Images Recovered from Analog Tape

Click on image for PDF version of poster
A Study of the Value of Original Data Sources for Space Science Data – Poster presented at the 42nd Lunar and Planetary Science Conference by Dennis Wingo and Charles Byrne.
“In 1966-1967 NASA sent five spacecraft to the Moon to map potential landing areas for the Apollo program as well as for the first global map of a planetary body other than the Earth. Lunar Orbiter’s I-III were in equatorial orbits with a periselene of ~44km and an aposelene of ~4000 km. Lunar Orbiter’s IV-V were in polar orbits at various altitudes for global mapping and follow up on LO-I-II. Using a visible light 70mm film camera, each spacecraft took ~210 medium resolution and ~210 high resolution images. The original Lunar Orbiter analog tapes are in a remarkable state of preservation which has allowed a recovery of the data to the limit of the original film quality on the spacecraft. With modern software and computer methods, along with the preservation of the original data sources can allow future researchers to improve the quality of older data sets to provide new science from old sources. This “technoarcheology” represents a new resource for providing time based comparisons of planetary data.”


Four decades later, recovering lunar images (photos), CNET
“Around 2005, space entrepreneur Dennis Wingo and Keith Cowing of NASA Watch learned of prior attempts at restoring the images. With a renewed interest from NASA in moon exploration and the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter set to go to the moon in 2009. Wingo and Cowing became more and more motivated to work towards restoring the tapes.”