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Video: Oscilloscope Trace of Lunar Orbiter Image Playback

Dennis Wingo: This is a two minute video that shows, about every 42 seconds, a shift in the video. This occurs when the line is scanned to the end of a framelet, over the calibration features that were pre recorded in the tape. Keith has posted images here that show the relationship between the scope trace and the dynamic range of the tapes. This gives us a qualitative measure of the performance of the tape drive. Even in its sub optimized state today, the scope trace almost exactly matches the original transfer function of the spacecraft film, thus giving us a means to evaluate the quality of the analog data derived from the tape.

Click on image for PDF version of poster

Poster presented at the 42nd Lunar and Planetary Science Conference by N. G. Moss, T. M. Harper, M. B. Motta, A. D. Epps

"While some candidate craters were observed that appeared in LROC data but not in Lunar Orbiter data, these were all very near the edge of discernable feature size and are almost certainly explained by various differences between the images (e.g. sun angle or viewing geometry). While our initial search did not find any discernable new cratering, we have shown that data from the original analog Lunar Orbiter tapes, as recovered by the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery project, possesses the characteristics necessary to discern new craters at reasonably small sizes. If the entire Lunar Orbiter data set was recovered in this manner it may be possible for future researchers to apply automated methods to detect changes with much better chances of success."

Figure 1: Lunar Orbiter II sub-frame 2070H2 superimposed on LROC NAC image M116154252LE.

N. G. Moss1 and T. M. Harper2, M. B. Motta3, A. Epps4
1LOIRP Project P.O. Box 375 Moffett Field, CA 94035,, 2 LOIRP Project P.O. Box 375 Moffett Field, CA 94035, 3 LOIRP Project P.O. Box 375 Moffett Field, CA 94035., 4Skycorp, Building 596, NASA Ames Research Park, Moffett Field, CA 94035,

Submitted to 42nd Lunar and Planetary Science Conference.

Introduction: In 1966 and 1967 NASA sent five Lunar Orbiters to photograph nearly the full surface of the moon. Each orbiter launched took images of different areas of the moons surface, or very high resolution images corresponding to lower resolution images previously taken. Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project (LOIRP) is one of the several projects using these images for research. We are in possession of 1,478 2" original analog tapes from 3 Deep Space Network ground stations. We have taken hundreds of those analog tapes and converted them to digital form; with the majority of them being from Lunar Orbiter II which took images with .8 to 1 meter resolution.

Analysis of Lunar Orbiter Images Recovered From Analog Tape

D. R. Wingo1 and C. J. Byrne2, 1Skycorp Incorporated, P.O. Box 375 Moffett Field, CA,,

Submitted to 42nd Lunar and Planetary Science Conference

Introduction: The Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project (LOIRP) was founded in 2008 with funding from NASA ESMD to recover Lunar Orbiter images from the original 2" analog magnetic tapes that had been held in protective storage by the National Archives and NASA for 40 years. Of the three central questions that had to be answered for project success, (can the tape drives be brought back to life, are the tapes any good, what is the quality of the data the best available), the final question, whether or not the analog image data on the tapes was superior in quality to the existing film was the ultimate criterion for success.

Saving Old Data

How Data Dies (and How It Can Be Saved), Gizmodo

"What we're talking about is digital rot--or data rot or bit decay or whatever you'd like to call it--systemic processes which can mean death to data. Kind of a problem when you'd like to keep it around forever. Let's paint this in broad strokes: You can roughly break the major kinds of rot into hardware, software and network. That is, the hardware that breaks down, the formats that go extinct, and the online stuff that vanishes one way or another."

New Hardware

Keith Cowing at McMoon's (Bldg 596) at the NASA Ames Research Park preparing to install five 2 TB drives in a new Mac that will be used for post-downloading image processing.

Buying Lunar Orbiter Tape Drive Parts on eBay

Dennis Wingo: Last night on the Ampex mailing list the following message was posted:

Over on the oldvtrs list, someone pointed out this eBay item: 110459620505

Several of us immediately identified them, not as quad modules, but as VPR-7900 modules. Then another member pointed out that they were the wrong size which caused me to take a closer look. I have just checked the actual machines to be certain, and also checked the manuals and the Ampex part number guide. Now, this has turned into a major mystery. Here's what I can tell you with absolute certainty:

1) The style of the front panels is like the 7900 series (ground jacks and board function listed at the bottom of each module...they are upside down in the pic), but the module functions, layout and part numbers do not match the 7900 (or 7800) series. They are also the wrong size.

2) The part numbers listed are all in the range of the part numbers used for the quad machines! The part numbers for the 7900 series was entirely different.

The seller seems quite sure that these were from a 2" quad. The part numbers seem to indicate that could be the case. Anyone have any ideas????? Perhaps something from special products division???? This is extremely curious!!!


I thought this was interesting and since I am always looking for spares for our LOIRP FR-900's I checked it out on eBay. Here is the page I found.

Larger view

When I looked I was pretty certain that these were boards from our FR-900 machines. It had the right part numbers, so I called Ken Zin at home the night before Thanksgiving and asked him to verify, which he did and noted that these are newer version boards of the ones that we have!! So I bid on them and won them today.

I got this message from Don Norwood later:


Oh my, from the limited info I have, I can see that now! And in fact, they're not upside down in the pic as that orientation is correct for the FR-900. Wow! I hope you can use them!

So, after winning the boards on Ebay, we are pursuing the boards to get them shipped to us and to see if this fellow has some more. We will try to get the story from him of his dad and how he might have come by these extremely rare boards. In the year and a half of our project, this is the FIRST time that we have found anything related to the FR-900 hardware that did not come from Nancy Evans.

A Day in the Life of LOIRP

Louisa Smith visiting the lab today.

Engineer Ken Kledzik designing and building a new VCO for the FR-900

Ken still working today on the VCO design and build

Our pirate flag, with the sun behind it.

Lunar Orbiter II_092 image tape being run.

LOIRP Works To Bring Second FR-900 Tape Drive Online

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Keith's note: we are working to get our second FR-900 tape drive restored and operational. Once that is accomplished the LOIRP will embark upon a new program with a dramatically enhanced capability to retrieve - and release images.

Image: This is one of our original FR-900 Ampex heads with two new preamps. Part of our upgrade program - a Silicon Transistor Preamp and Germanium Preamp

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."

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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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