Image of the Earth recovered by the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project. Image Credit: NASA / LOIRP
Between 1966 and 1967 NASA sent five Lunar Orbiter spacecraft to the Moon. Images from these spacecraft were used by mission planners to select the Apollo landing sites on the moon. In the late 1960s, after the Apollo era, Lunar Orbiter analog tapes were placed in storage in Maryland. In the mid-1980s, they were transferred to JPL, under the care of Nancy Evans, co-founder of the NASA Planetary Data System (PDS).
In the late 1980's Nancy and Mark Nelson from Caltech began a project to obtain surplus FR-900 tape drives, refurbish them, and digitize the analog data on the tapes. This project was partially successful in that they were able to obtain raw analog data but due to lack of funding they were unable to continue their efforts.
Nancy Evans subsequently retired from JPL and Mark Nelson returned to private industry. They obtained the tape drives as government surplus hardware in an attempt to raise private funds for digitizing the lunar images. They were not able to get the funds and the drives sat in a barn in Sun Valley, CA for the next several decades.
In 2007, Nancy Evans tried to find someone to take the drives. Dennis Wingo heard about this and contacted Keith Cowing. Wingo and Cowng subsequetly obtained the drives and tapes and brought them up to NASA Ames Research Center.
Below are image galleries for the five Lunar Orbiter missions, as well as a collection of other related images.