Between 1966 and 1967 NASA sent five Lunar Orbiter spacecraft to the Moon. Their job was to survey the surface to help determine landing sites for the upcoming Apollo missions. In addition to their recon role, these spacecraft also contributed to the nascent scientific understanding of the Moon.

Some 40 years after these missions were completed the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project (LOIRP) was begun with the intent of using refurbished tape drives and a complete set of original project tapes (over 1,500). Utilizing funding from NASA the LOIRP team was able to return the original drives to operation such that the data on the tapes could be accessed.

As clever as we thought we were, we were not the first team to tackle the issue of generating high resolution imagery. Someone tried to do much of what we were doing today – but did so with technology available in the 1960s. We were recently contacted by someone who had seen our project’s Facebook page. His name is Joe Watson and he worked on a project that used computer printers that worked like giant electric typewriters – but using varying sizes of squares instead of letters. With this system and a lot of creativity, Watson and his team created immense high resolution versions of Lunar Orbiter images from which topographic maps were made.

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Posted by: Soderman/NLSI Staff

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The lunar surface is both hotter (in daytime) and colder (at night) than any place on Earth.

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