August 2009 Archives

Chandrayaan-I Spacecraft Loses Radio Contact

Radio contact with Chandrayaan-I spacecraft was abruptly lost at 0130 Hrs (IST) on August 29, 2009. Deep Space Network at Byalalu near Bangalore received the data from Chandrayaan-I during the previous orbit upto 0025 Hrs (IST). Detailed review of the Telemetry data received from the spacecraft is in progress and health of the spacecraft subsystems is being analysed. More

Another Example of 40 Year Old Data With Modern Relevance

40-year-old data tackles very modern physics problem, Ars Technica

"The Large Hadron Collider is still going through a painful commissioning process--coming online in time for the winter shutdown is probably not what researchers had in mind when they broke it the first time. So, what is a physicist to do when the shiny toys are still being polished? Sit around at the pub and gossip about old experiments, of course. One such session has ended with Jorg Jaeckel, from Durham University, taking a new look at 40-year-old data from a classical electrostatics experiment. He found that this data provided the strongest constraints on a particular set of particles so far, thus proving that some experiments age very gracefully indeed."

LOIRP and LRO Confirm That Humans Walked on the Moon


Yesterday the LRO team released a new image of the Apollo 14 landing site. You can clearly make out the paths that the crew walked as well as the location of the Apollo 14 Antares Lunar Module Descent Stage.

In June 2009 LOIRP issued its own view and analysis of this landing site - as seen by Lunar Orbiter III back in 1967.

Comparing our high resolution image of the site with that taken by LRO clearly shows no feature where Antares' Descent Stage now stands [larger image]. While the resolution of the Lunar Orbiter image (0.8 meters/pixel) would probably not reveal astronaut tracks in great detail, we're rather certain that it would have seen an object the size of Antares' Descent Stage.

As such, we're pretty certain that the Apollo 14 mission landed on the Moon!

Image: a portion of our set of Lunar Orbiter data tapes at McMoon's - an abandoned McDonalds onsite at NASA Ames Research Park, home of the LOIRP - Lunar Orbiter Image recovery Project.

Here at the LOIRP (Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Process) project there are two different phases of the image retrieval process that are distinct from each other. The second phase, the production of the vast majority of all the of the Lunar Orbiter images, will simply involve putting tapes on the tape drive machines, acquiring the data, and processing them into images.

However, we're still in the first phase of the project where we need to search through tapes in a painstaking fashion just to find the images we are interested in downloading. Once we find what we are looking for, downloading is a snap and can be done in a matter of hours.

Finding the images using a jumbled nomenclature and labeling system last used more than 40 years ago is part of what we call "Technoarchaeology".

This image (LO_IV 4094) of the Moon's south pole was taken by Lunar Orbiter IV on 16 May 1967 at 16:00:08 GMT. This image is identified as Frame 4094,high resolution subframe h1. Large craters visible in this image include Shackleton, Amundsen, and Scott.

A larger web version of this image is online here. A full, high resolution version of this image is online here at the NLSI.

Video: Pulling Lunar Orbiter Images Off of Original Data Tapes

Austin Epps sitting in the LOIRP lab at "McMoons" at NASA Ames Research Center downloading imagery from an original Lunar Orbiter data tape using a restored FR-900 tape drive on 18 August 2009

Austin Epps, LOIRP Student Employee

Austin Epps, our ever vigilant (and creative) student LOIRP employee, sitting admist our all-Mac operation, downloading 40 year old Lunar Orbiter images. Click on image to enlarge.

Correcting Our South Pole Selenography

"I have been involved in the illumination analysis of the lunar south pole for a while and your reference image ( seemed incorrect based on going over such images so many times.  I checked it against Clementine imagery and it turns out that the labels you have are in the wrong places.  I have attached a jpeg of the correct placements for the South Pole and Shackleton." - James Fincannon, NASA GRC

LOIRP Releases Restored Image of Lunar South Pole


This image, LO-IV-179-H1, taken by Lunar Orbiter IV on May 24, 1967 at 16:19:23.809 GMT, shows a portion of the lunar south polar region. A much larger version [1.8 MB JPG] can be downloaded here. You can download the full resolution image [692 MB tiff] here at NLSI.

The altitude of the spacecraft when this image was taken was 3,591.83 kilometers. The resolution of the image is 78.432 meters per pixel.

Spacecraft Position: Altitude: 3591.83 km, Latitude: -71.38°, Longitude: -96.22°
Principal Point: Latitude: -69.52°, Longitude: -74.07°
Illumination: Sun Azimuth: 68.15°, Incident Angle: 82.85°, Emission Angle: 11.24°, Phase Angle: 94.08°, Alpha: -11.23°

Lockheed Martin Corporation has donated the labor required to erect a class 10,000 clean room to the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project (LOIRP).  This clean room will help protect our refurbished 1960's era Ampex FR-900 tape drives from the environment inside NASA Ames Research Park Building 596 aka "McMoons", which was originally constructed to house a McDonalds restaurant.

In the 1960's these tape drives were operated in an old style computer room, with raised floors ultra-clean air, and constant air conditioning.  Since our building's air conditioning system was sized for the heat of the kitchen and lots of customers, we are able to maintain the temperature to near optimum conditions.  However, dust and dirt are still a problem with the finely tuned machine.  

One large dust particle could break a head tip if it went into it in the wrong direction.  As such, this 10 x 12 foot clean room will provide a more optimal environment for both of the tape drives.  

The clean room has a positive air pressure and heavy filtering of the air to reduce dust particles in the air.  The positive air pressure also helps to keep outside floor dirt from being sucked up in the fans that cool the machines.

The Lockheed Martin team who helped in the assembly of the portable clean room were Bob Allen, Lance Ellingson, Robert Phillips, and David Leskovsky.

"This generous gift from Lockheed Martin will help us to keep the our tape drives operating better in an environment similar to what they were designed for" said Dennis Wingo, LOIRP project lead.

This is a re-release of Life Magazine's "Image of the Century" from 1966. The performance of our hardware and software image processing methods has been significantly enhanced to remove some of the banding artifacts that are derived from imperfections in the spacecraft image scanning hardware. This image of Copernicus crater was taken from a spacecraft altitude of 45 km (27.1 miles) and is approximately 207.7 km (~125 miles) to the center of the image.

An interesting aspect to this image is that with this oblique view, recent impacts of small craters have much more brightness than older craters of the same size. This suggests the value of oblique photography in doing crater aging studies as well as multispectral remote sensing of excavated materials from the craters. You can view a larger version [900 K JPG] of this image on your screen here. You can download the full resolution image [505 MB TIFF] here at the NLSI.

Lunar Orbiter In The News

Local engineer critical to NASA's Lunar Orbiter project

"A crescent earth appears suspended in black space in the upper portion of the image with the lunar landscape dominating the foreground. That image may have never been captured if not for a Boeing crew member who suggested turning the spacecraft around so the camera pointed toward Earth, a move not designed in the original mission playbook, explained Knittel. "It was pretty awesome," Knittel recalled about the first time he saw the photograph which was taken Aug. 23, 1966. The image transmitted back to Earth from the satellite in several separate strips of 35-mm film and was eventually assembled side by side to create the finished photo. Since the picture arrived in pieces, at first the crew monitoring its arrival only saw the moon surface and were momentarily dejected believing that the camera on board the spacecraft had missed photographing the earth, said Knittel. Then the earth's round image slowly appeared. "When they saw that picture, I understand that there were a lot of teary eyes," he said. "It was sort of like birthing a baby, I guess. It was such a big event."

This image (LO_V-5030) of Earth was taken on 8 August 1967 at 09:05:11 GMT by the Lunar Orbiter V spacecraft in orbit around the Moon at an altitude of 5,872.85 km. This image has been described as being the first image ever taken of a "full Earth" from space. [Larger image]

Lunar Orbiter V was launched on 1 August 1967 arrived in a nearly polar orbit on 5 August at 12:48 p.m. EDT. Images were taken between 6-19 August and were sent back to Earth on 27 August 1967.

This is the orientation of Earth as Lunar Orbiter V snaped its photo from Lunar Orbit

It is easy to make out a number of geographic features in this image. [Larger image]

In addition, you can see that the detail of the clouds - especially over the Indian Ocean is much greater in this image. Further processing of this image should yield even greater detail. [Larger image]

This is one of only three images of the Earth taken from the five lunar orbiter spacecraft. In its full resolution form, you can easily see Sicily, Cyprus, the Caspian Sea, lake Bakial, and other features such as the Nile delta. The Chinese coast is visible on the upper right as well as India and Ceylon in the center of the image. In the lower right the Indonesian islands are also visible. The estimated resolution of the image on the Earth is approximately 5 kilometers.

This is the 2 inch tape reel on which this image was stored. Note on the label [much larger image] that "L.O.E." refers to "Lunar Orbiter E" aka "Lunar Orbiter V". The tape was recorded on day 238 of 1967 local time i.e. 26 August 1967. Starting at 06:34:38 GMT and ending at 07:26:10 GMT

This image was not in the original mission plan. According to Destination Moon: A History of the Lunar Orbiter Program (NASA TM X-3487):

"Photography commenced at 7:22 p.m. EDT on August 6. At this time the spacecraft took its first photograph of the Moon at a distance of about 6,000 kilometers from the lunar surface. The target was a previously unknown area of the far side. Then it executed a maneuver early on August 7 [294] that lowered the perilune to 100 kilometers while maintaining a 6,023-kilometer apolune. The spacecraft continued farside photography, exposing eighteen out of nineteen frames during the first part of the mission. The nineteenth was a "film set" frame, moved through the photo subsystem in an eight hour interval to prevent film from setting and Bimat from drying out. While this was a planned item In the film's budget, the decision which program officials made early on August 7 changed the next scheduled "film set" frame significantly. They decided to use it to take a photograph of the Earth with the 610 mm high-resolution camera lens instead of passing It unexposed through the system.

Site VA-9, as the Earth photograph was identified, had not been in the original plan. Program officials decided, however, that the position of Lunar Orbiter V relative to the Moon and the Earth and the Earth's position relative to the Sun afforded a very fine opportunity to take such a picture. The Langley program planning staff together with flight controllers implemented a plan to make an Earth photograph when the spacecraft neared apolune between orbits 7 and 8. Since the spacecraft's orbit geometry kept it in view of Earth at all times, the Moon would not appear in [295] the photograph.

Exactly seven hours twenty-three minutes elapsed between the exposure of the previous photograph of Site VA-8 and the moment when Lunar Orbiter V's camera made the historic picture of the nearly full Earth on August 8 at about 9:05 Greenwich Mean Time. Shutter speed was 1/100 second, but the Earth's high albedo caused some overexposure of the film. This was unavoidable. Later Langley Research Center photography specialists successfully applied image enhancement techniques, using magnetic tape video records of the readout of the photograph, to bring out details which would not have shown up in a negative reconstructed from the raw readout data. (Note that enhancement techniques did not involve any "doctoring" of photographic data in order to "show" something which was not there.)

Approximately 149° of arc of the Earth's surface appeared clearly in the photograph. It illustrated the possible synoptic weather observations that a satellite could conduct in cislunar space or that could be made from the Moon."

This image has been recovered in its original high resolution format by LOIRP staff from original Lunar Orbiter project data tapes using restored tape drive hardware and will eventually be submitted to the PDS (Planetary Data System).

A full resolution version of this image is now online at the NASA Lunar Science Institute here (1.07 GB TIFF)

The first image recovered by LOIRP was the iconic "Earthrise" image taken by Lunar Orbiter a year prior to this Lunar Orbiter V image.

The Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project (LOIRP) is located at the NASA Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, CA. Funding and support for this project has been provided by NASA Exploration Systems Mission Directorate, NASA Innovative Partnerships Program, NASA Lunar Science Institute, NASA Ames Research Center, Odyssey Moon LLC, SkyCorp Inc., and SpaceRef Interactive Inc.

For more information on the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project (LOIRP) visit

For information on NASA's Lunar Science Institute visit

For information on NASA's Exploration Systems Mission Directorate visit

Dennis Wingo, from the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project (LOIRP), recently conducted a seminar on the LOIRP and our progress to date for students attending the current session of the Singularity University at NASA Ames Research Center. Next week Dennis will conduct a similar session for students attending the International Space University, also in residence this summer at NASA Ames.

This is all in keeping with our continued interest in having students participate in our project. To date, students have made a significant contribution to the success of the LOIRP.

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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

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