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Volunteers Recover Lunar Orbiter 1 Photographs

timothy posted about 5 years ago | from the file-systems-are-important dept.

Moon 150

mikael writes "The LA Times is reporting on the efforts of a group of volunteers with funding from NASA to recover high resolution photographs of the Moon taken by Lunar Orbiter 1 in the 1960s. The collection of 2000 images is stored entirely on magnetic tape which can only be read by a $330,000 FR-900 Ampex magnetic tape reader. The team consisted of Nancy Evans, NASA's archivist who ensured that the 20-foot by 10-foot x 6-foot collection of magnetic tapes were never thrown out, Dennis Wingo, Keith Cowing of NASA Watch and Ken Zim who had experience of repairing video equipment. Two weeks ago, the second image, of the Copernicus Crater, was recovered."

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150 comments

Richard C. Hoagland also helped (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27552177)

Due to his work, we discovered additional alien structures on the moon!

Re:Richard C. Hoagland also helped (1)

Reikk (534266) | about 5 years ago | (#27552373)

Never landed on the moon. It's obviously photoshopped people

Re:Richard C. Hoagland also helped (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27552513)

It was a soundstage on Mars.

Re:Richard C. Hoagland also helped (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27554491)

Far more likely,we might discover remnants of a high tech movie set from the 60's with satellite communications equipment in a South western US Desert. And/or Monkey and other animal poop orbiting the Van Allen belt

So... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27552255)

...where are the full-resolution pics, karma whores?

Re:So... (5, Funny)

cbiltcliffe (186293) | about 5 years ago | (#27552405)

When they recovered them, they stored them safely on 5.25" floppy disks, where they'd be readable for a long time to co....

Wait a minute....

Re:So... (2, Funny)

aliquis (678370) | about 5 years ago | (#27553161)

I can't find the correct Slashdot article, but if I could I would had linked it, anyway:

Engrave it into stone!

Or well, come to think about it, that's already been done in a 1:1 version, with auto-updates and all!

Re:So... (1)

apostrophesemicolon (816454) | about 5 years ago | (#27553717)

whattt? 5.25" floppy disks? That's gnarly.
Stop living in the old age and start using the Iomega Zip drive. It can store like jiggabillions of win!

Tape (1)

beefsprocket (1152865) | about 5 years ago | (#27552285)

Would have been much easier to restore if it was on a mile of punched tape. Proprietary hardware sucks!

Re:Tape (3, Funny)

Tablizer (95088) | about 5 years ago | (#27552335)

They filmed aliens dancing on the Whitehouse lawn and posing with Congress, but it was in Betamax and had expired DRM, preventing viewing.

Re:Tape (4, Interesting)

cbiltcliffe (186293) | about 5 years ago | (#27552429)

I was thinking along the same lines...probably the most future-proof format would be something like a jpeg, encoded into punched cards.

Even if you don't have a reader, you could use any old optical scanner, and write a (probably somewhat simple, as far as OCR goes) program to convert the images into....well, in this case, another image.

Re:Tape (1)

icydog (923695) | about 5 years ago | (#27552523)

A jpeg encoded onto punched cards? Why not just use a photo?

Re:Tape (3, Interesting)

cbiltcliffe (186293) | about 5 years ago | (#27552559)

Because every time you rescan the photo would result in data loss. Scanning-printing-scanning-printing would eventually result in a blurred mess that was unrecognizable as the original pic.

Scanning the punched cards and recreating the image from them, on the other hand, would give you the exact binary data used to create the photo in the first place.

Re:Tape (3, Funny)

careysb (566113) | about 5 years ago | (#27552735)

Except for "hanging chads".

Re:Tape (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27553033)

Some still think that the amount of hanging was actually less than that desirable.

Re:Tape (1)

Ernesto Alvarez (750678) | about 5 years ago | (#27552739)

Why not encode it digitally on microfilm then? With a printed negative on the next slide, so we have the best of both worlds.
That should last longer than punchcards.

Re:Tape (1)

cbiltcliffe (186293) | about 5 years ago | (#27552931)

In theory, yes, it would last longer.

However, will we have something capable of reading it in 20-50 years?
Probably.
But will we have something capable of reading 8 1/2 x 11 paper, which will double as a punch card reader?
Even more likely.

Also, microfilm is made of plastic, which melts, deteriorates and becomes cloudy, and many other ways of becoming unreadable.
Paper, no matter how much it turns yellow, will still be readable if the information on it is holes through the paper.

Re:Tape (1)

Schemat1c (464768) | about 5 years ago | (#27552979)

However, will we have something capable of reading it in 20-50 years?
Probably.
But will we have something capable of reading 8 1/2 x 11 paper, which will double as a punch card reader?
Even more likely.

Also, microfilm is made of plastic, which melts, deteriorates and becomes cloudy, and many other ways of becoming unreadable.
Paper, no matter how much it turns yellow, will still be readable if the information on it is holes through the paper.

Here's an even better paper storage [engadget.com] method that can hold much more data than punch cards.

Re:Tape (3, Funny)

pcolaman (1208838) | about 5 years ago | (#27553477)

Paper, no matter how much it turns yellow, will still be readable if the information on it is holes through the paper.

Unless your dog gets a hold of it.

Re:Tape (1)

Hes Nikke (237581) | about 5 years ago | (#27553423)

Because every time you rescan the photo would result in data loss. Scanning-printing-scanning-printing would eventually result in a blurred mess that was unrecognizable as the original pic.

the same could be said for simply opening and saving the grandparents hypothetical jpeg, as jpegs use a lossy compression algorithm. I wonder which would degrade faster, opening and saving or printing and scanning?

Re:Tape (3, Insightful)

datapharmer (1099455) | about 5 years ago | (#27555049)

unfortunately the way most people save jpegs is lossy too. The TIFF/IT ISO is what most archives use, but the PDF/A ISO actually has man benefits over TIFF including XML metadata which is useful when sorting those 2000 images.

Re:Tape (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27553409)

A jpeg encoded onto punched cards? Why not just use a photo?

Because punched photos won't fit in the card reader.

Re:Tape (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | about 5 years ago | (#27552753)

Thats a great idea... except paper is going to end up being less reliable then a current digital standard. Take for example Compact Flash or SD cards, they would last a long time and because the standard is open, its going to be trivial to even build one from near scratch ~40 years into the future. Those have the capacity to store just about any high-res image on it and is able to be easily converted to more future-proof media when the time comes. On the other hand, in a crowded warehouse, an unknowing employee might just throw away all the "Sheets of paper with holes cut out of them", or they might tear, etc. making the binary totally useless because even with a small switch of 1 and 0, the entire picture would be completely unreadable.

Re:Tape (1)

FishWithAHammer (957772) | about 5 years ago | (#27552853)

Plastic/metal cards? Sure, it might take an assload of time to scan 'em back in, but still. CF/Flash degradation rates may be as low as you say (I don't know), but barring extreme accidents, a steel plate will last a good long time.

Also, JPEG and the rest are not terribly susceptible to a bit flip, unless it's in the header info and then maybe not even then. It's not a great format for it, though, due to multiple ways of encoding and the data loss therein. Go lossless with PNG, or store it uncompressed to guard against the (remote) possibility of forgetting how PNG works.

Re:Tape (1)

pitterpatter (1397479) | about 5 years ago | (#27553065)

"but barring extreme accidents, a steel plate will last a good long time." Steel? Didn't you read Cryptonomicon? It should be on gold.

Re:Tape (2, Informative)

cbiltcliffe (186293) | about 5 years ago | (#27552969)

2000 years ago, not much hard copy information was created, but it was written on sheepskin, and the like, most which is still available now.

800 years ago, much more information was created, and it was written on papyrus, some of which has degraded, but some of which is still available now.

70 years ago, great amounts of information was created, and it was recorded on newsprint, or those new fangled "phonograph" thingies, many of which have deteriorated or been otherwise destroyed, but some of which are available now.

10 years ago, vast, incomprehensible amounts of information were created, mostly stored in electronic digital formats, the great majority of which is not accessible today, although small amounts of it is.

What in the world makes you think that in 40 years there will be a "more future-proof media"? I'd guess in 40 years we'll have data formats and storage that last on the order of minutes, rather than years.

Re:Tape (4, Insightful)

adolf (21054) | about 5 years ago | (#27553357)

All of the data I've created on a computer in the past 20 years is readable by modern machines -- it's on 3.5" floppy. Stored properly, and read on a clean drive (NOT the one which has been sucking up dust for the past six years, otherwise unused), this stuff still works fine.

I've thrown almost all of of it away, though. That's the part you missed in your synopsis of media history: The human aspect.

Some of the stuff that I've tossed, I'd like to get back, but it's in a landfill somewhere.

Some of the sheepskin documents survive; but the unimportant ones (as determined by the people of the day) are mostly gone, having been discarded.

Re:Tape (1)

TheTurtlesMoves (1442727) | about 5 years ago | (#27554057)

I have kept my different home drives for 20 years. Each time i get a new computer I copy them across. Its all now on a shiny new 1T drive. But alas getting some of the old programs to work with emulation does not work as well as I would like. In fact unless i write code to read the things myself, which often requires some reverse engineering of the format, they are dead space on the drive. But hay the old stuff is small.

But DOSbox works for some important files ;) Apparently I now sux at both UFO and syndicate. But its still fun to run over 10 pixel men with harvesters in Dune II.

Re:Tape (1)

Teun (17872) | about 5 years ago | (#27553855)

Every time I bought a new system I've converted my old data to the new one, from tapes to floppies, from Winchester drives to tapes and via ZIP disks and CD's eventually all on hard disks.

When you do it before the old tech goes out to the recycler it is easy.

In present terms the volume is nothing, the Winchester drives held 2 MB and the tapes were 10-20 MB.

The biggest problem is proprietary formats of the data, not the carriers.

Re:Tape (4, Insightful)

Patch86 (1465427) | about 5 years ago | (#27554453)

Why do you say "most of it is available now"? Do you have any idea how much written information has been lost over the last 5000 years or so of written history?

We have countless examples of information where we've lost a large part. Take the Epic Cycle http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epic_Cycle [wikipedia.org] . It would appear to be an extremely important work from the Classical period, and the only surviving examples are considered literary milestones. Yet only some 25% of the data has survived to this point.

75% loss over a few measly millennia is pretty lossy performance.

Re:Tape (1)

ijakings (982830) | about 5 years ago | (#27555305)

"Lossy Performance"?!

Oh lord, youve attracked the FLAC Loving audiophiles, you can talk to them, just dont mention mp3 and you should be fine.

how about the obvious cheap solution.... (1)

cheekyboy (598084) | about 5 years ago | (#27553079)

Man all these lame expensive 'thinker' solutions, hwo about something cheap and practical.

Print 50000 bluray copies, and send 5 copies to each university in the world.

Theres nothing like massive redundancy to protect it.

Or print 50 million copies and send it with all packets of cornflakes.

Re:how about the obvious cheap solution.... (1)

pegdhcp (1158827) | about 5 years ago | (#27553249)

Man all these lame expensive 'thinker' solutions, hwo about something cheap and practical.

Print 50000 bluray copies, and send 5 copies to each university in the world.

Yes, then cross your fingers and hope that there would be a single reader in working condition, lets say in twenty years....

Re:how about the obvious cheap solution.... (1)

flewp (458359) | about 5 years ago | (#27554199)

When new storage methods arrive, it's not like the other ones will stop working immediately and prevent you from transferring the data to a new storage method.

I think the best method is not necessarily to plan on storing data on a single medium for many years, but to have an archiving system in which many redundant copies are continually checked and backed up again, to new storage mediums as they become available.

JPEG? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27553051)

Hand in your geek badge. PNG is the only graphics format anyone ever needs.

Re:Tape (1)

Ontheotherhand (796949) | about 5 years ago | (#27553897)

I am not sure if they had something like a Jpeg in the 60's,, but JPEG was invented in 1991. by then I suspect the card reader was deprecated as a major storage medium, so it was inevitable that your idea should fail.
like so many other things, it's all in the timing...

Re:Tape (1)

mbone (558574) | about 5 years ago | (#27554775)

No, it would not. Punched paper tape dries out and cracks along punches (especially higher order bytes with mostly ones, i.e., lots of holes). After a few years, the tape splits from the cracks and you get a lot of short sections of tape.

When I was at MIT in the late 1970's, already it was very hard to read Apollo data on punched paper tape, and an undergraduate was hired to feed in the punched paper tape and put it on disk, one 4 to 5 foot section at a time. He also had to determine the value of the byte where the tape split. I have always thought that that was one of the worst summer jobs of all time.

Any news on lost Apollo 11 tapes? (5, Interesting)

Tablizer (95088) | about 5 years ago | (#27552297)

NASA lost the original tapes of the greatest technological milestone ever, and they were allegedly twice as good as what was available to the press in 1969. Has anybody seen any news on this? It's a crying shame.

Re:Any news on lost Apollo 11 tapes? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27552461)

God bless us every one.

Outside this frigid tumble-down shack, dry leaves before the wild winter hurricane fly. Here within, at the corner by the cold hearth rests an empty stool. A crutch without a master stands perched against the wall. These forlorn and lonely objects serve as mute reminders of their once owner, *BSD.

This crutch and vacant stool have become orphans, not unlike the now dead *BSD. No longer will *BSD hobble about on its cripple's crutch. Like the empty hearth, and the vacant stool, *BSD lies cold and still. *BSD's corpse, lifeless beneath frozen earth and December snows, will see no more Christmas cheer. No, there will be no Christmas ever again for *BSD, for *BSD is dead.

Goodbye, *BSD. The pain of life forever stilled, sleep for all eternity in that long winter's nap. Fade gently into Earth's frozen bosom where in dreams even cripples walk and blind men see.

Re:Any news on lost Apollo 11 tapes? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27553067)

I hope you didn't put too much intellectual effort into this turd. I've heard better dialog in porn flicks. Loser.

Re:Any news on lost Apollo 11 tapes? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27554875)

Yeah, sure they 'lost' the tapes.

Secondly - why would it require a $300,000 tape reader to get the data off these tapes? Are they saying that a read head connected to any modern $200 PC would be incapable of taking the data off and turning it back into images?

Thirdly - why the big deal anyway - I thought there was a Japanese orbiter that was taking HD film of the moon, just last year... but so far we haven't seen ANY of the HD footage...

And how much would it cost to send a Lunar rover to the moon nowadays, with a super hi-res video camera, live linked back to Earth, which would film the entire Lunar surface for years? Surely there must be millions of people who would pay a couple of dollars a month to view such images?

Structural problem... (4, Interesting)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 5 years ago | (#27552305)

It's a pity, and a pattern that runs through a lot of projects. The up-front part of the project is the really exciting, easily "sold" part, so getting it funded and executed goes mostly without incident. The later followup/maintenance phase is also necessary; but is far, far less interesting so getting the necessary money and support is a problem.

It would be nice if there were way in which commitments to projects could, during the upfront phase, bake in the necessary support for the entire life of the project. Unfortunately, any method of doing that would have potential drawbacks of its own.

Re:Structural problem... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27555289)

Kind of the like the sub-prime mortgage crisis.

Irony (5, Insightful)

Evets (629327) | about 5 years ago | (#27552309)

$250,000 and 20-some years to rebuild the tape drives to get the images back with twice the dynamic range and none of the grain of the 35mm snaps that were taken of these images originally and what do we get?

a 35K jpeg.

hopefully NASA intends to release something a little more high-res.

Re:Irony (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27552331)

Don't worry. I'm working on a project that will, in 40 years, be able to extrapolate the missing details for the jpeg images, producing ultra-high resolution 3d videos. I will then make those videos available on YouTube.

Re:Irony (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27552419)

you mean YouTube3

Unnecessary (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27552437)

Or we could just ask the Las Vegas crime lab to enhance it on their computer a couple times. As soon as the giant red fingerprints stop flashing, we'll be able to zoom in on a single rock 10000x.

35mm? (5, Interesting)

viridari (1138635) | about 5 years ago | (#27552455)

NASA made extensive use of medium format cameras back then. It's very likely the film from back then carried a higher resolution image than a professional DSLR made today.

Re:35mm? (2, Interesting)

moosesocks (264553) | about 5 years ago | (#27552783)

NASA are prolific Hasselblad [hasselbladusa.com] users.

A digital medium-format camera today will be better than a medium-format camera from the 60s (although expensive medium format cameras have always been stunningly good in terms of optics and resolution)

The DSLR claim might be debatable, given that some modern full-frame DSLRs have incredibly high resolutions.

Re:35mm? (2, Informative)

toby (759) | about 5 years ago | (#27552977)

You're wrong - but only by about an order of magnitude. A 6x6cm Hasselblad frame records at least 400 megapixel equivalent (according to my tests with medium format frames and drum scanners).

Re:35mm? (5, Interesting)

Brunellus (875635) | about 5 years ago | (#27553023)

Resolution isn't the whole story here, either--there's also dynamic range. Black and white film emulsions, properly exposed and processed, have extremely wide dynamic ranges. Big negatives show tones better. (If you want to be blown away, have a look at some of Edward Weston's photographic work, done on 8"x10" view cameras). NASA probably went with Hasselblads as a compromise: they needed something reasonably portable that could give useful dynamic range images, too. I

Re:35mm? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27553573)

NASA probably went with Hasselblads as a compromise

Actually, they probably went with Hasselblad because one of the astronauts (I forget which) was an avid photographer who used Hasselblads personally.

Higher res image on this page... (4, Informative)

jerk (38494) | about 5 years ago | (#27552493)

http://www.moonviews.com/archives/2009/03/newly_restored_picture_of_the.html [moonviews.com]

And a little bit more background on the LOIRP here: http://www.collectspace.com/news/news-111408a.html [collectspace.com]

I thought it was funny seeing all the tapes in the kitchen of an old McDonalds, with the tape drive in the lobby.

Re:Higher res image on this page... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27553269)

Holy shit. We've been to the moon!

Go USA!

Re:Irony (1)

Kingrames (858416) | about 5 years ago | (#27552797)

That's amazing.
To think that each jpeg could be worth $250,000.
Dude, your porn collection dwarfs the stimulus package.

Re:Irony (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27552983)

my dwarf porn collection stimulates my package just fine, thank you.

Re:Irony (5, Informative)

Anenome (1250374) | about 5 years ago | (#27553049)

Here's a nice hi-res image: http://images.spaceref.com/news/2009/lo2.copernicus.med.jpg [spaceref.com]
Approx 2160px × 1825px and 700 kb

And if you're really brave, there's a 2gb scan online!!!
http://lunarscience.arc.nasa.gov/files/LOVframe162h3.tif [nasa.gov]

I imagine that might take awhile to load into your browser. I can't imagine pictures being posted online in the gigabyte range... maybe 50 years from now that will be a standard porn format, who knows o_O

Re:Irony (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27554377)

Where did you locate the link to the 2GB version? I can't find it on the LOIRP site.

Re:Irony (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27553235)

Don't worry. We can use the same software that is used on CSI to improve the pictures. They can take surveillance video, and see what someone was looking at by the reflections in their eyes.

Imagine what would happen if applied to these pictures.

JPEG unsuited for B&W image masters (0)

SgtChaireBourne (457691) | about 5 years ago | (#27554195)

hopefully NASA intends to release something a little more high-res.

I couldn't see a specific mention of JPEG in the LA Times version. However, I've seen a number of other digital preservation efforts fail massively due to re-mastering as JPEG. Yeah, really, a lossy format for the digital master. Go figure. So the risk is there for this one.

JPEG is unsuited for master images, especially since these images will count as digital masters. GIF and even PNG are surprisingly compact and if only 256 shades of gray are needed, the GIF is usually the way to go for size.

Re:JPEG unsuited for B&W image masters (1)

petermgreen (876956) | about 5 years ago | (#27555275)

GIF and even PNG are surprisingly compact and if only 256 shades of gray are needed, the GIF is usually the way to go for size.
In my experiance png nearly always beats gif in a fair (same colordepth on both and no extranuous metadata) comparison.

Don't make the mistake of comparing truecolor png with indexed color gif and neglecting the existance of indexed color and greyscale png.

To me png seems like the best choice for lossless master images, it has suppor for truecolor, better compression than gif and the common variants of tiff and very wide software support. It is also a relatively simple format (avoiding a mess like tiff where many tools can only read a subset of the format).

A classic problem (5, Interesting)

davebarnes (158106) | about 5 years ago | (#27552315)

The oil industry has been dealing with this problem for decades.

We have the data, but there are no readers available.

The only solution that they have come up with is to re-record onto current technology. And, then, do again in a few years.

Re:A classic problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27552401)

I bet you'll find some readers at Fort Meade, but getting to use them for oil industry data and/or old NASA data is highly unlikely...

However, re-recording onto newer media/technology is a smart solution; the difficulty is in predicting the persistence of whatever new technology/ies come along to make the data transfers worthwhile.

Re:A classic problem (5, Interesting)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 5 years ago | (#27552485)

I'd be curious to know if(at least for the more valuable data) it would be possible/practical to build a sort of general purpose reader for obsolete media.

By the time a given medium is obsolete, and reader hardware for it is no longer available, magnetic sensor technology will presumably have advanced considerably from where it was when the medium was originally designed. Thus, it seems like it should be possible to build a magnetic sensor that can detect the magnetic structure of a tape with resolution better than the original purpose built hardware. From that, you'd work in software to duplicate the original read process. This [aes.org] would be an analog of that, with optical reading of a mechanically recorded medium.

I suspect that such a project would be quite expensive, so they would have to be very interesting data to make it worthwhile.

Re:A classic problem (2, Informative)

Goldsmith (561202) | about 5 years ago | (#27552757)

You can use an atomic force microscope with a magnetic tip to do that, but it's a very slow and tedious process. It's often called magnetic force microscopy.

It is pretty expensive ~$100k to $1M for an instrument, then you have to pay someone to run it, and the software...

If you had some good engineers and really had money to spend on development, you could probably get about 10 microns of tape per second, or about 1 meter of tape per day. That's not too bad, actually, compared to what they did.

Bad web page code (4, Interesting)

evilsofa (947078) | about 5 years ago | (#27552341)

The Copernicus Crater link is the first time I've ever had Firefox 3 resize its window. WTH?

Re:Bad web page code (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27552395)

Your browser messes up and you blame the webpage. Why not go all the way and blame NASA, fanboi?

Re:Bad web page code (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27553183)

The Copernicus Crater link is the first time I've ever had Firefox 3 resize its window. WTH?

It's called javascript, numbnuts. You can turn it off with noscript or Tools - Options - Content - Advanced.

Re:Bad web page code (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27554123)

Options -> Content -> Enable JavaScript -> Advanced -> Untick "Move or resize existing windows"

Why so 3D-ish without 'real' 3D? (1)

WgT2 (591074) | about 5 years ago | (#27552353)

I'm impressed as the accidental affect of the pic looking somewhat 3D-ish.

It must have focused and unfocused areas that mimic how our eyes put things together for us.

Re:Why so 3D-ish without 'real' 3D? (2, Insightful)

Quantos (1327889) | about 5 years ago | (#27552443)

That's the contrast of the image and depth of field(aperture) setting on the camera. Another factor would be the film stock itself, they like to use super fine grain.

Re:Why so 3D-ish without 'real' 3D? (1)

cbiltcliffe (186293) | about 5 years ago | (#27552541)

Looking at the picture, I'd say it's probably the light and shadow areas, as well as the obvious layers of rocks, which fool our brain into seeing a 3D image where none exists.

I've seen a similar thing before where it shows a pic of what looks like a bunch of dents lit from above, then asks if that's what it is, or if it's bumps lit from below.

Kinda neat, and warps your mind in weird and wonderful ways. :)

Anonymous Coward. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27552375)

OMG there are no stars in this picture. It must have been doctored like the Lunar Landing pictures. I knew we never went to the Moon.

yay ! More Lunar Pr0n ! Fap ..Fap.. (1)

goga_russian (544604) | about 5 years ago | (#27552539)

would love to see the machine itself... so they stored it digitally, how? scanning? digital camera? what format?

Re:yay ! More Lunar Pr0n ! Fap ..Fap.. (2, Informative)

HonIsCool (720634) | about 5 years ago | (#27554079)

The photographic system on the spacecraft was 70mm optical film that was processed on board the spacecraft and then electronically scanned and transmitted to earth.

An Interesting Historical Link (5, Interesting)

InklingBooks (687623) | about 5 years ago | (#27552579)

This is very interesting. I worked at Eglin AFB from 1966-68, part of that time at a radar site (A-20) that provided radar tracking during the Mercury and Gemini projects. One of our FPS-16 radars would take up the track of a spacecraft from a radar at White Sands and pass it on to one at Cape Kennedy. During reentry into the Atlantic, our track was particularly important because the craft was often so far into reentry that the on-board beacon was difficult to track by the time it appeared over the horizon for Cape Kennedy.

A few weeks before each mission, NASA would put the upper stage of an Atlas into orbit, so the range could practice by skin tracking it (no beacon transmitter responding). The NASA crew chief told me, with quite a bit of pride, of one such launch, where on the first orbit the radar in Africa, Australia, Hawaii (I believe) and White Sands couldn't pick up that upper stage. The radar at A-20 not only picked it up, it picked it up as it broke over the radar horizon some 1200 miles. out.

Now to the interesting part. We had an Ampex video recorder (S/N 32) in a back wall in data processing that, as best I can remember, looked precisely like the one they're using to recover that long-ago data. We used it only occasionally to capture radar data during ECM missions. I can't recall it ever being used during a NASA mention though. What mattered then was the digital position data, which with an FPS-16 is extremely accurate.

That said, it would be interesting if a historical link did exist a USAF radar site used by NASA and the recorder now being used to recover that data.

There's a more detailed account of recovering this data at:

http://www.thenewstribune.com/news/nationworld/v-lite/story/682783.html [thenewstribune.com]

Re:An Interesting Historical Link (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27552629)

Very interesting. I wonder, were there a lot of gay airmen at Eglin AFB during the 1966 to 1968 time-frame? Hopefully not. Please enlighten us on that aspect of the story. Many (most?) of us here at Slashdot are of the fruity persuasion. My many thanks in advance.

Re:An Interesting Historical Link (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27553767)

Mostly AC and trolls like ourselves. Wanna get a room?

Bittorrent (4, Insightful)

Ernesto Alvarez (750678) | about 5 years ago | (#27552789)

When they're finished, why don't they make a torrent of the data and post it to TPB?
This data is supposed to be in the public domain, so there should be no reason not to do it, and P2P might turn out to be a good failsafe, in case this happens again with whatever medium they use this time.

Piracy saved lots of BBC content once, why not try to do it for NASA?

I doubt this very much. (4, Interesting)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 5 years ago | (#27552883)

Magnetic tape is magnetic tape. Unless the data was stored using a helical system (a la VCR), which is highly unlikely given it was the '60s, then the only important variables are the number and size of the tracks on the tape. A new device could probably be cobbled together from parts for a hell of a lot less than $330,000. Probably a few hundred max.

Re:I doubt this very much. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27552939)

Ah, the Slashdot know-it-alls strike again. Yes, you know Sooooooooo much more than NASA about their equipment.

To: Anonymous Coward (2, Informative)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 5 years ago | (#27553035)

"Ah, the Slashdot know-it-alls strike again. Yes, you know Sooooooooo much more than NASA about their equipment."

I made no such claim. However, there is a very good chance I know more about it than a volunteer biologist and a few other volunteers who were not trained in computers and electronics as I have been. Not to mention the reporter who wrote the article.

The manufacturer was Ampex, a maker (at that time) of tape recorders and tape drives, and the technology is not particularly exotic. I have no doubt that they were very expensive to make at the time, but then so were computers. Today, my several-years-old Palm Pilot is more powerful, in every meaningful way, than a computer that filled rooms and cost millions of dollars back then.

So why is there any surprise here? Much less sarcasm.

You know what? never mind. I shouldn't be feeding the trolls anyway.

Re:To: Anonymous Coward (4, Interesting)

adolf (21054) | about 5 years ago | (#27553325)

Another poster says that the tapes are helican scan, which does make it a little more difficult... But even then, armed only with the original heads and an educated guess of what the results should look like, it should be doable with far less than 2,000 pounds of additional gear. We don't need a bunch of fancy, twiddly, analog feedback sections with failing discrete components to keep things in check anymore, as this is a job better suited to a fast microcontroller and some software. The demodulation of the signal, once things are scanning right, can be done completely in software after a simple preamp and A/D stage.

Would it cost less? It'd certainly be cheaper to reinvent most of the wheel if they wanted to create a lot of these readers, but for one machine? Who knows...

Meanwhile, I'm just happy they've accomplished something.

Re:To: Anonymous Coward (2, Insightful)

JamesP (688957) | about 5 years ago | (#27554959)

Another poster says that the tapes are helican scan, which does make it a little more difficult... But even then, armed only with the original heads and an educated guess of what the results should look like, it should be doable with far less than 2,000 pounds of additional gear. We don't need a bunch of fancy, twiddly, analog feedback sections with failing discrete components to keep things in check anymore, as this is a job better suited to a fast microcontroller and some software. The demodulation of the signal, once things are scanning right, can be done completely in software after a simple preamp and A/D stage.

I agree 100% with this.

Don't try too much if the analog stuff is failing, just rebuild it with modern circuitry. Probably much cheaper and reliable.

Remember "Back to the Future"?? It's kind of like that. Replace huge discrete amplifiers with opamps. This is replacing boards the size of a book (or bigger) with the size of a thumb.

Or if this is really linear read, it probably can be rebuilt from scratch for, I dunno... $10k tops.

Of course, for the first experiments it's good to have the original reader, etc, for reference purposes.

Re:I doubt this very much. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27553173)

JQP is right. You could read those tapes using any head with track width matching the original, a microscope x-y stage to reposition the head manually to chosen track, and a simple capstan drive with a fixed-torque pickup reel. The capstan drive wouldn't even need a very stable drive speed, as long as you recorded signal from the head along with output of a resolver attached to the capstan. Hunting for original tape drives would have never crossed my mind.

Having a tape drive like they do, I would have attached a rather basic (by today's standards) wideband premp to the heads, added a resolver to the capstan, and acquired everything using some multichannel 16 bit 1MSPS A/D board. The demodulation would be much better done by a PC, why rely on old analog electronics to do it?

Cheers, Kuba

Re:I doubt this very much. (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27553153)

1961
Ampex introduced the first commercial helical scan videotape recorder. This became the basis for all videocassette equipment and is utilized in all home VTRs today

The FR 900 used helical scan heads.

Re:I doubt this very much. (4, Interesting)

carlzum (832868) | about 5 years ago | (#27553273)

According to the article, the missing device problem was solved a long time ago:

One day in the late 1980s, she got a call from Eglin Air Force Base in Florida: "We heard you're looking for FR-900s. We've got three of them. Where do you want us to send them?"

The trouble was repairing them. This is really a story about the inefficiency of bureaucracies. NASA experts estimated it would cost up to $6 million, but volunteers were able to do it for a fraction of that.

The project has so far cost $250,000, far less than the $6-million estimate by NASA.

It probably would cost NASA a lot more because of process and administrative overhead. In this case, a dedicated person refused to give up on the project. So, what other archived information can be opened to the public with so little investment? I suspect that if NASA simply offered up the equipment and media, the data would have been recovered in time.

Re:I doubt this very much. (1)

hydromike2 (1457879) | about 5 years ago | (#27553359)

if they insist on using the one machine still around from back then, price it as an relic, convert to today dollars and voila, 330k

Re:I doubt this very much. (1)

Ontheotherhand (796949) | about 5 years ago | (#27553879)

I agree, with the proviso that the size of the coil in the magnetic head would determine "compatibility" with other readers. that said, during my time as a tape drive engineer, i never saw a tape that could not be read "raw".
unless the tapes were analogue "data", in which case, it would be a lot harder. (i guess)
I could not tell from TFA whether it was digital or not. If it was really helical, which i doubt, it would definitely be analogue, like a vcr, cos we didnt get error correction good enough to do digital till the 80's, afaik.

Re:I doubt this very much. (1)

UnknowingFool (672806) | about 5 years ago | (#27555219)

I think you misinterpreted the article. The project didn't cost $330,000. The original machine cost that much when it was new. So far it has abut $250,000 to repair one machine enough to get it to work. You say that could cost hundreds of dollars to replace it with something more modern and you might be right; however, up to this point they didn't know how to replace it because they didn't know exactly how the old machine worked. That $250,000 is about reverse-engineering and machining. Your hundreds of dollar figure take advantage of economies of scale. If you need some modern part today, somebody sells it. For these old machines, nobody makes the parts and they have to be machined which is costly.

seems like a waste (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27553531)

I'm all for recovering old photos of space, but do we really need more photos of the moon?

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