Help fund the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project

Photographs of the moon’s surface taken to prepare for the Apollo landings are currently being digitized and preserved and your help is needed

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An original photo from the Lunar Orbiter mission (top), on a restored version (bottom) by LOIRP

Image credit: NASA

As history has proven time and time again, software bugs can ruin an otherwise perfectly good (and expensive) mission to space. However, thanks to all the smart and talented people working in science and space exploration, most of the time, things actually go really well. The mission often gets accomplished (more or less) as planned.

Once such mission was the Lunar Orbiter program. This was a series of five orbiters launched between 1966 and 1967, the purpose of which was to photograph the surface of the moon in preparation for the Apollo landings. All five missions went off without a hitch and 99% of the moon’s surface was photographed.

Since each of the orbiters eventually crashed into the moon (as planned), the pictures were obtained in an interesting way. A dual-lens camera on each orbiter took pictures onto a roll of 70mm film. That film was then developed on board the orbiter, the pictures were scanned and then sent back to earth as analog data.

While the missions all got amazing photographs, such as the first picture of Earth from space, the quality wasn’t the greatest. However, a new project is underway to digitize, preserve and improve this historic cache of photos. It’s called the the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project (LOIRP) and they’ve already done some amazing work as you can see from the pictures above. They call their work technoarchaeology, “mining the past to support science in the future.”

They’re also looking for help to fund their work to digitize the remaining 700 analog tapes. They’ve established a campaign on RocketHub to raise $75,000. The campaign runs until March 16 and they still have a ways to go. The high resolution pictures they create, like the originals, will be in the public domain and be free for anyone to use.

Depending on your level of contribution, you’ll receive an interesting token from the project, from a piece of one of the original microfilm copies that NASA made (for a $50 contribution) all the way up to original large lunar image prints ($1,000). Pretty neat.

So, if you’ve got a few bucks to spare, want to support the preservation of these historic photos and would like a small piece of lunar history for yourself, consider contributing!

Read more of Phil Johnson's #Tech blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Phil on Twitter at @itwphiljohnson. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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