More Photos From the Lunar Time Machine

Article written: 16 Jun , 2009
Updated: 24 Dec , 2015
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More images have been released by the Lunar Orbiter Imagery Recovery Project (LOIRP), the endeavor that has been called a “time machine” by team member Keith Cowing of NASA Watch. In 1966 and 1967, NASA sent five Lunar Orbiter missions to photograph the lunar surface to prepare for the Apollo missions to land humans on moon. Data were recorded on large magnetic tapes, and a special machine was needed to just to view the images. The LOIRP team is working on digitizing the data, and restoring the images to their full resolution. These images are especially timely, given the upcoming launch of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, hopefully this week. NASA can compare detailed high-resolution images from 1966 to the present and see what changes occurred in 40-plus years. “What this gives you is literally before and after photos,” Cowing said.

The above image was taken by Lunar Orbiter IV in May 1967 and shows the south pole of the Moon. This image shows the region without labels, and below, the image shows major features plus notation regarding processing artifacts from the spacecraft’s film processing system. The moon’s south pole is located near the rim of Shackleton Crater. The moon’s polar regions are currently of great interest as the Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) will be targeted to impact at the moon’s south pole, to occur in October if LRO/LCROSS launches this week.

Lunar south pole, annotated. Credit: LOIRP and MoonViews.com

Lunar south pole, annotated. Credit: LOIRP and MoonViews.com




Apollo 12 site annotated. Credit: LOIRP and MoonViews.com

Apollo 12 site annotated. Credit: LOIRP and MoonViews.com

This image LO3-154-H was taken by Lunar Orbiter III on 20 February 1967 and shows the landing site for both Surveyor III, which landed on April 20, 1967 and Apollo 12, which landed on November 19, 1969. The annotations show major features plus EVA routes taken by the astronauts Pete Conrad and Allan Bean.

For more images and information see the LOIRP website, Moon Views.


5 Responses

  1. Member
    IVAN3MAN says

    In 1966 and 1967, NASA sent five Lunar Orbiter missions to photograph the lunar surface to prepare for the Apollo missions to land humans on moon. Data were recorded on large magnetic tapes, and a special machine was needed to just to view the images.

    Betamax or VHS? 😉

  2. Jon Hanford says

    At least their getting the care and restoration they so richly deserve, as these will serve as images that can be compared with our new lunar mapping missions to possibly explore several avenues of lunar research. This ‘time’ record alone makes the collection irreplaceable. IVAN3MAN, surely you know these tapes preceded formats such as Beta or VHS (wish they were multispectral Hi-Definition stereo images) 🙂

  3. Manu says

    I wonder, what is being done today in this regard, to make sure the daily terabytes (ore more) of science data are usable 20 or 200 years from now, when none of the machines, software and expertise which captured it will still be around?

  4. Jon Hanford says

    @Manu, Great question, but probably a grim answer: Little or nothing to ensure long-term survivability and (most important) readability in a generation or so 🙁

  5. Member
    IVAN3MAN says

    Jon Hanford:

    IVAN3MAN, surely you know these tapes preceded formats such as Beta or VHS…

    Of course, hence the winking emoticon at the end. 🙂

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