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NASA RESTORES HISTORIC LUNAR ORBITER IMAGE
NASA released a newly restored 42-year-old
image of Earth on Thursday. The Lunar Orbiter 1 spacecraft took the
iconic photograph of Earth rising above the lunar surface in 1966.
Using refurbished machinery and modern digital technology, NASA
produced the image at a much higher resolution than was possible when
it was originally taken. The data may help the next generation of
explorers as NASA prepares to return to the moon.
In the late 1960s, NASA sent five Lunar Orbiter missions to photograph
the surface of the moon and gain a better understanding of the lunar
environment in advance of the Apollo program. Data were recorded on
large magnetic tapes and transferred to photographic film for
scientific analysis. When these images were first retrieved from
lunar orbit, only a portion of their true resolution was available
because of the limited technology available.
The Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project, located at NASA's Ames
Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif., is taking analog data from
original recorders used to store on tape and 1,500 of the original
tapes, converting the data into digital form, and reconstructing the
images. The restored image released Thursday confirms data from the
original tapes can be retrieved from the newly-restored tape drives
from the 1960s when combined with software from 2008.
"I'm glad that we could offer our services to the project team and
play a part in the recovery of such an historic image of the moon,"
said Ames Director S. Pete Worden.
Future images will be made publically available when they are fully
processed and calibrated. The intent of this project is to
facilitate, wherever possible, the broadest dissemination and public
use of these images.
"It's a tremendous feeling to restore a 40-year-old image and know it
can be useful to future explorers," said Gregory Schmidt, deputy
director of the NASA Lunar Science Institute at Ames. "Now that we've
demonstrated the capability to retrieve images, our goal is to
complete the tape drives' restoration and move toward retrieving all
of the images on the remaining tapes," he added.
As the images are processed, they will be submitted to the Planetary
Data System, which NASA's Space Science Mission Directorate in
Washington sponsors in cooperation with NASA's Jet Propulsion
Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. The images also will be calibrated
with standard mapping coordinates from the U.S. Geological Survey's
Astrogeology Research Program in Flagstaff, Ariz.
NASA will launch the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter in 2009 to map the
moon's surface. The restoration of the Lunar Orbiter images to high
quality images will provide the scientific community with a baseline
to measure and understand changes that have occurred on the moon
since the 1960s. These data could help mission planners assess the
long-term risk to lunar inhabitants from small meteor impacts and
establish longitude and latitude lines for lunar mapping.
"This effort was made possible by the vision and dedication of
Apollo-era NASA employees, independent researchers, and a true
veteran team of engineers and young students," said Dennis Wingo, the
program lead for the project.
NASA's Exploration Systems Mission Directorate and Innovative
Partnerships Program Office in Washington provided initial funding
for the project. Engineering and logistics for the project team were
provided by Wingo of SkyCorp, Inc., Huntsville, Ala., with donated
services by Keith Cowing from SpaceRef Interactive, Inc., Reston,
Va., under the auspices of Alliance of Commercial Enterprises and
Education for Space, and the NASA Lunar Science Institute.
Date Released: November 13, 2008