January 2009 Archives

Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project Update (LOIRP) 20 January 2009

At the start of a new year, here is a new formal report. A lot has happened since late December.


We finally got the funding in place and to us around the 17th of December that allowed us to pay vendors that were working with us on many parts. Their status as of today is as follows:


I just visited Video Magnetics in Colorado Springs, CO last week on another trip and they have made good progress. Here in figure 1 is a nice picture of Edwardo Lailao, the last guy in the world that still knows how to refurbish these heads:

Figure 1: Edwardo Lailao, VMI Rotating Head Engineering Lead

NASA Radar Provides First Look Inside Moon's Shadowed Craters

Using a NASA radar flying aboard India's Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft, scientists are getting their first look inside the moon's coldest, darkest craters. The Mini-SAR instrument, a lightweight, synthetic aperture radar, has passed its initial in-flight tests and sent back its first data. The images show the floors of permanently-shadowed polar craters on the moon that aren't visible from Earth. Scientists are using the instrument to map and search the insides of the craters for water ice. More

FR-900 Pamphlet

Apollo Landing Sites Mapped by Chandrayaan


Nearly 40 years after Nasa's Apollo flights, which put a man on the moon, India's Chandrayaan mission launched on October 22, 2008, recently did something unique this week it mapped the landing sites of the six Apollo missions on the moon and the process ended on Saturday. The Apollo flights were launched between July 1969 and December 1972. [More]

Lunar Science Institute Picks Team

NASA has selected seven academic and research teams as initial members of the agency's Lunar Science Institute. The institute supports scientific research to supplement and extend existing NASA lunar science programs in coordination with U.S. space exploration policy. The selection of the members encompasses academic institutions, non-profit research institutes, private companies, NASA centers and other government laboratories. [More]

Other Old Photos Yield Discoveries

A long-standing astronomical mystery is "What type of star system will explode as a supernova?" It turns out that this question can be resolved by looking at century-old photographs. On studying archival data back to 1890, the result is that recurrent novae are the precursors to supernovae. With this knowledge, astronomical theorists can now perform the calculations to make subtle corrections that allow for the promise of precision-cosmology by upcoming programs involving supernovae. The lesson here is that old astronomical archives are valuable resources that can be used to produce unique and front-line science, in ways that no combination of modern telescopes can provide. [More]

Books We Recommend

Lunar Orbiter Photographic Atlas of the Near Side of the MoonLunar Orbiter Photographic Atlas of the Near Side of the Moon, By Charles Byrne

In 1967, Lunar Orbiter Mission 4 sent back to Earth a superb series of photographs of the surface of the Moon, despite severe degradation caused by scanning artifacts and the reconstruction processes involved in transmission from lunar orbit.

Using 21st century techniques, Charles Byrne, previously System Engineer of the Apollo Program for Lunar Orbiter Photography, has removed the artifacts and imperfections to produce the most comprehensive and beautifully detailed set of images of the lunar surface.

The book has been organized to make it easy for astronomers to use, enabling ground-based images and views to be compared with the Orbiter photographs. The photographs are striking for their consistent Sun angles (for uniform appearance). All features have been identified with their current IAU-approved names, and each photograph has been located in terms of latitude and longitude. To help practical astronomers, all the photographs are systematically related to an Earth-based view.

A CD is included with the book, providing the enhanced and cleaned photographs for screen viewing, lectures, etc.

The Far Side of the Moon: A Photographic GuideThe Far Side of the Moon: A Photographic Guide, By Charles Byrne

The far side of the Moon, also called the 'dark side of the Moon' was unknown to humanity until the Luna and Lunar Orbiter pictures were returned to Earth. Even since then, its nature has puzzled researchers. Now we know that a giant impact struck the near side with such force that it created the 'near side megabasin', opening the way for floods of mare and sending vast amounts of ejecta to the far side. "The Far Side of the Moon" explains this event and also documents the appearance of the features of the far side with beautiful pictures from Lunar Orbiter. As in the previous volume, "The Lunar Orbiter Photographic Atlas of the Near Side of the Moon", the author has taken the original images and cleaned them of system artefacts using modern digital image processing. The best photographic coverage of the far side of the Moon has been the 150 photos taken by the Lunar Orbiter series. The other sources are pictures taken by the Apollo Command Module, which were limited to the equatorial regions, and the Clementine mission, which took pictures at a high sun angle that washed out the topography of the features. Until now, the far side Lunar Orbiter photos have only been available with strong reconstruction lines, but appear here for the first time as complete photographs, unmarred by imaging and processing artefacts. Also, this is the first book to explain in detail how the far side was deeply covered by ejecta from the Near Side Megabasin and modified by later impacts. A CD-R accompanies the book, and contains all the enhanced and cleaned photographs for use by the reader in screen viewing, lectures, etc.

The Clementine Atlas of the MoonThe Clementine Atlas of the Moon, Ben Bussey and Paul D. Spudis

The highly successful Clementine mission to the Moon in 1994 gave scientists their first global look at the Moon, and both the near and far side were mapped. This atlas is based on the data collected by the Clementine mission. It covers the entire Moon in 144 Lunar Aeronautical Charts (LACs), and represents the most complete lunar nomenclature database in existence, listing virtually all named craters and other features. This is the first atlas to show the entire lunar surface in uniform scale and format. A section of color plates shows lunar composition and physical properties.

The International Atlas of Lunar ExplorationThe International Atlas of Lunar Exploration, Philip J. Stooke

Bringing together a wealth of information from many sources, including some material never before published, this atlas is a comprehensive reference on lunar exploration. It tells the story of every spacecraft mission to the Moon since the dawn of the space age, illustrating each account with a unique combination of maps and annotated photographs. Many of the illustrations were created especially for this atlas, including panoramic photographs from every lunar mission. The missions are listed in chronological order, providing readers with an easy to follow history of lunar missions. Special attention has been given to describing the processes involved in choosing landing sites for Apollo and its precursors. The atlas also includes missions that were planned but never flown, before looking ahead to future missions as the world's space agencies prepare for a new phase of lunar exploration.

Voices from the Moon: Apollo Astronauts Describe Their Lunar ExperiencesVoices from the Moon: Apollo Astronauts Describe Their Lunar Experiences, Andrew Chaikin

SpaceRef Review: As we descend upon the 40th anniversary of the first humans to stand on the moon, the books, and movies, and DVDs, and websites all seem hell bent on a collision - each one trying to best encapsulate the Apollo experience. While Apollo 11 was the first mission to put people on the moon - other missions followed.  And while the experience of walking on the Moon was shared by a precious few, the opinions of the moonwalkers are remarkably diverse so as to allow everyone to identify with what it must have been like to be there.

Once again, in his book "Voices From the Moon: Apollo Astronauts Describe Their Lunar Experiences", author Andy Chaikin has managed to distill and then capture the essence of Apollo. Indeed, if there is anyone who has lived and breathed Apollo for the past 40 years, it has been Andy.  He kept the flame alive when most of us looked  at Apollo as old hat.  Now, suddenly, it is new again.

Andy did not write this book in the traditional sense. The words are virtually all from the Apollo crews. Nor did he take the pictures - they were also taken by others. Rather, Andy's artistry is evidenced in how he sat and listened as the crew spoke - sometimes from the grave.  He weaved their words and pictures into a narrative about what it was like to go, to live, and then to return from this amazing place.

Many of the images are familiar but many more are not. Often, the images chosen for this book were not what people wanted to see in Life Magazine in 1969, so they were never seen by more than a small few. My favorite in this book is opposite Chapter 9 - "Apollo 13". I am not certain if it was taken on approach or on return from the Moon. That said, it shows a small grey orb, partially lit in the distance - again it is either a destination or a memory.  Across from the image is a quote from Apollo 13 astronaut Fred Haise which captures the moment when the crew simultaneously knew that their dreams were crushed - and their lives were very much at risk.

Another favorite is a lunar panorama with a telephoto insert showing the Lunar Module "Falcon" utterly dwarfed as it is set against the vast expanse of the Moon. We seem to have forgotten just how awe-inspiring a place the Moon truly is. Maybe it is time to  go back and get re-awed all over again.

It is good that these voices were brought back together, perhaps one last time.  As we celebrate the 40th anniversary of this grand human adventure, the eyewitnesses  have already begun to dwindle in number. A decade hence, that number will be much smaller.

Soon there will only be words and pictures. This book will be at the top of the pile.

Keith Cowing, editor, NASAWatch.com, SpaceRef.com, OnOrbit.com

Apollo: Through the Eyes of the AstronautsApollo: Through the Eyes of the Astronauts, by Robert Jacobs, Michael Cabbage, Stephen Hawking, Lucy Hawking

Apollo is a photographic commemoration of the Apollo lunar missions as seen through the eyes of the astronauts. Each of the surviving 21 astronauts from the Apollo missions has chosen a favorite photograph from his space flight especially for this book. These selections are accompanied by other iconic photographs from the Apollo missions. Bestselling astrophysicist Stephen Hawking and his daughter Lucy Hawking contribute a foreword on the meaning of the space exploration. July 20, 2009, marks the 40th anniversary of the first manned landing on the Moon by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin of Apollo 11. Apollo is the only photographic book on the Apollo missions to be created by NASA, and is the perfect commemorative volume about this epochal program, where legendary achievement was recorded in powerful images.

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Moonrush: Improving Life on Earth with the Moon's Resources
Moonrush: Improving Life on Earth with the Moon's Resources

The Kaguya Lunar Atlas: The Moon in High Resolution
The Kaguya Lunar Atlas: The Moon in High Resolution

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Mission
Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Mission

Lunar Orbiter Photographic Atlas of the Near Side of the Moon
Lunar Orbiter Photographic Atlas of the Near Side of the Moon

The Far Side of the Moon: A Photographic Guide
The Far Side of the Moon: A Photographic Guide

The Clementine Atlas of the Moon
The Clementine Atlas of the Moon

The International Atlas of Lunar Exploration
The International Atlas of Lunar Exploration

Voices from the Moon: Apollo Astronauts Describe Their Lunar Experiences
Voices from the Moon: Apollo Astronauts Describe Their Lunar Experiences

Apollo: Through the Eyes of the Astronauts
Apollo: Through the Eyes of the Astronauts

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