Keith Cowing: The Image we think we have - detective story

Keith Cowing: This is part of the detective work I used to help narrow down what image we may have found.

1. If you listen to this audio [ http://images.spaceref.com/news/2008/loirptest5.mp3] from a data tape you will hear the technician state that it is an analog copy of an earlier tape - but that it is only a copy of the portion with the Earth and moon on it and that it was originally recorded on GMT date 237.

2. In 1966 day 237 was 25 August. Lunar Orbiter 1 was launched on 10 August 1966 and imaged the moon from 18-29 August 1966.

3. This image of a page from a Lunar Orbiter planning document [ page 70 of Lunar Orbiter I - Photography NASA-CR-847 http://hdl.handle.net/2060/19670023005] clearly shows an image of the Earth from the moon being planed for Lunar Orbiter 1 on day 237.

http://images.spaceref.com/news/2008/day237.earth.moon.jpg

4. Apparently this was attempted more than once. Recall that Lunar Orbiter 1 was the first mission and they had a lot of bugs to work out with the imaging system.

5. According to http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/imgcat/html/object_page/lo1_h102_123.html Lunar Orbiter 1 took the first two remote images of earth from the distance of the Moon, August 23rd 1966."

6. This is the series of three images stitched togetehr showing Earthrise above the lunar surface taken on 23 August 1966

http://images.spaceref.com/news/2008/lo1_h102_123.gif

Location & Time Information
Date/Time (UT): 1966-08-23 T 16:36:23
Distance/Range (km): 1476
Central Latitude/Longitude (deg): -14.68/104.34
Orbit(s): N/A

Imaging Information
Area or Feature Type: crater, global view
Instrument:  High-resolution Camera
Instrument Resolution (pixels): N/A
Instrument Field of View (deg): 20.4 x 5.16 
Filter: Clear
Illumination Incidence Angle (deg): 21.30
Phase Angle (deg): 95.07
Instrument Look Direction: N/A
Surface Emission Angle (deg): 80.94

Ordering Information
CD-ROM Volume: N/A
NASA Image ID number: L01-102; H1, H2, H3
Other Image ID number: N/A
NSSDC Data Set ID (Photo): 66-073Z-01D
NSSDC Data Set ID (CD): N/A
Other ID: N/A

7. Apparently there was some controversy about doing things like this with the spacecraft:

"Despite the malfunctions in the photographic subsystem the spacecraft succeeded in taking many historic pictures. Command and maneuver requirements were developed to take, [241] in near real-time, such pictures as those of the morning and evening terminator on the lunar surface, the Earth as seen from the Moon's vicinity, numerous farside pictures, and additional photographs of sites of interest on the near side. Lunar Orbiter I photographed such areas as potential targets for Mission B, major craters, and mare and upland areas useful as Apollo navigation landmarks and was mostly able to satisfy the requirements to take these photographs.

Of all the pictures which Lunar Orbiter I made, one of the most spectacular was the first photograph of the Earth taken from the vicinity of the Moon. This picture was not included in the original mission plan, and it 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.

Robert J. Helberg, Boeing's Program Manager for Lunar Orbiter, opposed such a hazardous unnecessary risk. The spacecraft would be pointed away from the Moon so that [242] the camera's lenses could catch a quick view of Earth tangential to the lunar surface. Then, once the pictures were made (flight controllers would execute two photo sequences on two different orbits), Lunar Orbiter I would disappear behind the Moon where it would not be in communication with ground control. If, for some reason ground control failed to reestablish communications with it, the Apollo-oriented mission photography would probably remain undone, Moreover, Boeing had an incentive riding on the performance of the spacecraft, and Heiberg did not think it prudent to commit the spacecraft to a series of maneuvers for which no plans had been made.30

The understandably conservative Boeing stance was changed through a series of meetings between top NASA program officials, including Dr. Floyd L. Thompson, Clifford H. Nelson, and Lee R. Scherer. They convinced Heiberg that the picture was worth the risk and that NASA would make compensation in the event of an unexpected mishap with the spacecraft. After agreement had been reached, Lunar Orbiter flight controllers executed the necessary maneuvers to point the spacecraft's camera away from the lunar surface, and on two different orbits (16 and 26) it recorded two unprecedented, very useful photographs.

[243] The Earth-Moon pictures proved valuable for their oblique perspective of the lunar surface. Until these two photographs, all pictures had been taken along axes perpendicular or nearly perpendicular to the Moon's surface. On subsequent Lunar Orbiter missions oblique photography was planned and used more often.31"

8. We know that we have an image on this particular tape.

LOIRP
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