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The Hackers Who Recovered NASA's Lost Lunar Photos 89

An anonymous reader sends this story from Wired: "The Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project has since 2007 brought some 2,000 pictures back from 1,500 analog data tapes. They contain the first high-resolution photographs ever taken from behind the lunar horizon, including the first photo of an earthrise. Thanks to the technical savvy and DIY engineering of the team at LOIRP, it's being seen at a higher resolution than was ever previously possible. ... The photos were stored with remarkably high fidelity on the tapes, but at the time had to be copied from projection screens onto paper, sometimes at sizes so large that warehouses and even old churches were rented out to hang them up. The results were pretty grainy, but clear enough to identify landing sites and potential hazards. After the low-fi printing, the tapes were shoved into boxes and forgotten. ... The drives had to be rebuilt and in some cases completely re-engineered using instruction manuals or the advice of people who used to service them. The data they recovered then had to be demodulated and digitized, which added more layers of technical difficulties."
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The Hackers Who Recovered NASA's Lost Lunar Photos

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  • by mjmcc ( 1699468 ) on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @06:31PM (#46828379)
    These images contain irreproducible (and thus priceless) data. They show the moon as it appeared in 1966, which allows comparisons to be made to the same lunar areas today. Although the surface of the moon changes very very slowly, it does change. And these pictures may allow us to measure that change. Furthermore, as the article points out, some of the pictures also show the earth as of 1966, allowing comparisons to be made with the earth of today (i.e. the extent of Arctic ice).
  • Re:A foretaste... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by cusco ( 717999 ) <brian.bixby@gma i l . c om> on Thursday April 24, 2014 @01:04AM (#46830353)

    I like the difference this demonstrates between this White House administration and the previous one, which first instructed NASA to "dispose of" old Mariner data and were so upset that NASA handed it over to the Planetary Society rather than shred it that they directly instructed NASA to destroy the still-unanalyzed Pioneer data later. (NASA administrators risked their jobs and pensions to get that data to the Planetary Society as well, with the result that today we have a likely solution to the 'Pioneer Anomaly'.) Obama ain't much, but he's better than what we had.

  • Re:A foretaste... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by silentcoder ( 1241496 ) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @02:37AM (#46830605)

    Don't be so sure, we think of history as the big things politicians, generals and kings do - but historians tend not to care much about those, if only because they are already as well documented as they are going to be.
    Generally historians are more interested in the end in how ordinary people LIVED at that time.

    One of the most valuable archeological digs ever found from the Roman occupation in Britain was an old trash-heap, because on it we found lots of things which were thrown away as worthless then - but because of that were valuable now as they hadn't been preserved through the usual channels. We found a letter sent from Rome to the wife of a Roman soldier telling stories of what the family has been up to. We found an early forerunner of the ipad (a wax covered slab on which you could scribble notes with a stylus, a quick heat-up let you smooth out the scribbles and reuse it).

    Some of the most insightful pictures we have of more recent events like the American Civil War or the Anglo-Boer war were pictures no newspaper would publish - family pictures which show what the fashions were for example.

    The point is - there is absolutely no way of predicting upfront what will have historical value someday, and the things we tend to assume will have none have a tendency to become the most valuable EXACTLY BECAUSE it was NOT valued at the time and this means that to future historians - those will be rare finds.

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