Priority vs Final Readout of Lunar Orbiter Images

Dennis WIngo: This image (click on image to enlarge) shows the sequence of images that were read out during what is termed "priority" readout vs the "final readout". The priority readout was an opportunistic scanning of processed photos on the lunar orbiter before all of the images were taken. The photo process with the 70mm film began with an image being simultaneously taken by the 610 mm high resolution camera and by the 80 mm medium resolution camera. In a process remarkably similar to the old polaroid dry process instamatic cameras, the film was dry processed by a "bimat" dry processor. The bimat would separate from the film (most of the time) but would sometimes due to the timing would leave artifacts on the image, which are readily identified on the film.

The film would then be fed into the readout looper where it could be scanned and the images sent back to the Earth. During the mission when photographs were still being taken the film would run one direction through the looper. After all of the images were taken a command would be sent to cut the bimat and then the film could be read in the opposite direction.

Thus when we start with a low numbered tape, the first images that come off are from the priority readout in ascending order. However, the ascending order is not linear, jumping because images are still being taken and the film advancing while the spacecraft cannot transmit. The image of the day today shows what images are taken in ascending sequence (orbit) format. You can see the jumps. If you are really good you can see what images we are recording and then predict what the next images will be ... At least during the priority readout.

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