Earth Before Earth Day

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”

The ‘Other’ Lunar Orbiter 1 Earthrise Image

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
Related links
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”

Space Communications Antenna Supported Early NASA Missions

Editor’s note: DSS 41 at Woomera was one of the three locations where all Lunar Orbiter Imagery was received on Earth between 1966-1967
This 26 meter (85 foot) antenna operated in Woomera (Island Lagoon), Australia at Deep Space Station (DSS) 41, established in August 1960. The Island Lagoon site was the first deep space station to be established outside the United States and the first Australian antenna NASA built.
The station was operated by the Australian Department of Supply and helped support the Ranger and early Mariner missions, as well as communications from the Deep Space Network (DSN) complex in Goldstone, California via a moon bounce. Woomera’s antenna ceased operations in 1972.
Today, the Deep Space Network — consisting of three sites in Goldstone, California; Madrid, Spain; and Canberra, Australia — supports space communications for NASA and non-NASA missions that explore the furthest points of our solar system. Each complex currently has a 70 meter (230 foot) antenna, one 34 meter (111 foot) High Efficiency (HEF) antenna, and one or more 34 meter Beam Wave Guide (BWG) antenna. The Deep Space Network is operated 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days per year. To support future mission needs, construction is currently underway in Canberra, Australia to add two new 34 meter BWG antennas, Deep Space Station 35 (DSS-35) and DSS-36 by 2018.
Larger image Image Credit: NASA

International Cometary Explorer (ISEE-3) Beacon Signal Detected

“On March 1st and 2nd, 2014 radio amateurs were able to detect the beacon signal from the retired NASA deep space probe ICE (International Cometary Explorer) at the Bochum Observatory (Germany). After some changes to the ground equipment and aligning the receive antenna to the predicted position in the sky, the beacon signal could positively be identified due to its frequency, the position in the sky and the frequency shift due to the radial velocity (Doppler shift). For this detection the 20m radio telescope from the Bochum Observatory was used. In 2003, AMSAT-DL converted this former industrial monument into a fully functional groundstation for deep space probes. Since 2009 the facility is being used by volunteers almost full time as ground receive station for data from the STEREO mission with its two spaceprobes monitoring the sun from different viewing angles.”
– More at AMSAT-DL and Bochum Observatory receive signal from retired NASA spacecraft
NASA Could Try To Contact ISEE-3/ICE – But It Won’t, earlier post

Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project (LOIRP) Status 6 March 2014

Dennis Wingo Status, morning of Thursday March 6th 2014
Things are moving well. I am researching the Planetary Data Systems submittal and Austin is still configuring computers and processing frame lets. There is going to be some incredibly interesting images coming soon and they have the resolution that can be turned into big posters.
What would y’all think if we did a rocket hub to provide some of these posters to interested folks as a fund raiser?

Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project (LOIRP) Status 27 February 2014

Dennis Wingo Status Friday afternoon, February 27th 2014
Austin is doing just about all of the heavy lifting right now. I went earlier this week and got another computer from the NASA surplus that can be configured to run the software that Austin has put together to assemble framelets.
We have two other computers with pretty much the same configuration and so what we (Austin really) will do is put together everything on one computer, test it, and then clone the drives for the other computers. Interestingly, it will be far faster and easier to simply take large hard drives worth of framelets from one computer to another to install it and then let the batches run to put together images. This will process all of the images faster and get us ready for the PDS submittal faster.
This means a flood of images coming soon.

Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project (LOIRP) Status 24 February 2014

Dennis Wingo Lunar Orbiter Status, Monday February 24, 2014
Today I re-ran part of one tape, W1-069 to get a better capture of a medium resolution image.
It seems that at the end of the day, out of all of the medium resolution images, we are completely missing one, and I think it is because one was lost at the ground station. There is a 30 minute gap between two adjacent tape numbers that should have that image. We have almost all of the other medium resolution images. We also lost pieces of at least three high resolution images due to tape changes, and lost 90% of one (LO-I-042H) as the operations manager specifically told the FR-900 operator to turn the machine off on the tape.
We will be having some wow images coming out soon. Austin did a great job putting together the other “Earthrise” and Keith is doing an article on it. Austin is busily processing tapes. We have almost everything processed to the frame let level now so we have a big task of naming the frame lets, and then they start to get processed first at the frame let level for fixing problems, then they will get assembled. This is the next huge task that is in full swing now.

Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project (LOIRP) Status 20 February 2014

Dennis Wingo Lunar Orbiter Status, end of day, February 20, 2014
I am pleased to announce that we have completed the primary tape capture portion of the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project. When we started this we thought we would be lucky to get half the tapes done. It is a testament to the great work of our team and those who (both in the private and public sector) who have believed in our project and through these now five and a half years, provided us the funding to allow us to get to this point.
There will still be a few tapes run as we look at where we have poor captures and see if we can do better. We have learned a LOT about the tape machines since we started and some of the early captures could use a rerun….
This is not the end of the project as we still have a ton of digital processing to do, and the submittal to the planetary data system. However, this is straightforward though time consuming. Our greatest fear was that we would lose the ability to run tapes and now we can put that fear to rest.
Again, thanks to all who have supported us and we will begin putting images on the NASA SSERVI server en masse soon…..
A special thanks to both Austin Epps , Keith Cowing and Ken Kenneth Zin this project would have been impossible without your diligent work…
Dennis Ray Wingo
LOIRP Co-lead

Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project (LOIRP) Status 19 February 2014

Dennis Wingo Status, mid morning, February 19, 2014
Well been doing a bit of clean up paperwork so have only captured one image this morning. I also did, for everyone’s benefit but from Paul’s request, a day in the life of a lunar orbiter tape. This was recorded from Google Glass so I don’t know how it is going to turn out but as soon as the Glass is recharged I will upload the video’s to google + and then get them to Youtube and provide links. This was done in several segments so that it was not too darn boring!

Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project (LOIRP) Status 18 February 2014

Dennis Wingo Status, mid afternoon February 18, 2014
Counting down. Slowed down this week as the press of work makes me take a little time to do other things. We are just finishing M1-072. Three tapes that are very noisy due to bad link margin at the ground station. Very disappointing!
Twenty tapes to go. Tomorrow I am going to play with my google glass and see if I can record a day in the life of a Lunar Orbiter tape for those who want to know exactly what the process is….
Twenty tapes to go!!

Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project (LOIRP) Status 14 February 2014

Dennis Wingo Status, end of day, February 14, 2014
Sorry, still procrastinating on the list. Will do after the tapes are done on what looks like Tuesday.
We have made it today through tape M1-048.
This means that we are more than half way through the last ground station for lunar orbiter 1, which will mark the end of our primary capture mission.
We have 45 tapes to go…..

Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project (LOIRP) Status 13 February 2014

Click on image to enlarge
Dennis Wingo Lunar Orbiter Status, late morning February 13, 2014.
Here is a picture of the first Madrid tape on the machine. This of course means that we have completed our captures of Goldstone and Woomera tapes, and only have Madrid tapes for Lunar Orbiter 1 left to go!
Now of course there will be clean up but literally for the primary mission we have 90 tapes left. 90 tapes left. I hardly believe it myself! I will post the images from the rest of the Goldstone captures later today.
We have the Madrid tape set up and we will be off and running shortly! It is my hope that we complete this capture before Friday and have a party Friday afternoon. We will send out invites Monday. If you are in the area, please come on by!
Dennis Wingo Lunar Orbiter Status, end of day, February 13, 2014
Very productive day today. Not only did we get the last Goldstone tapes done, we made it a quarter of the way through the Madrid tapes, ending with M1-024. That leaves 68 tapes to go! Will do the listing in the morning, eyes tired…