NASA dumpster dives forgotten moon photos in an abandoned McDonald’s decorated with pirate flags

By Steve Jurvetson from Menlo Park, USA (Pirate McDonald's  Uploaded by shoulder-synth) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
By Steve Jurvetson from Menlo Park, USA (Pirate McDonald’s Uploaded by shoulder-synth) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Inside an abandoned McDonald’s adorned with pirate flags in NASA’s Ames Research Center in California, a motley collection of hackers and old technology is working to recover lost and damaged photography from NASA’s early moon exploration. Dubbed McMoon’s, but officially known as the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project, the site was chosen because of the project’s particular requirements for heating, cooling, and water. Inside the former fast food restaurant, the LOIRP is basically “dumpster diving for science.”

Two buildings near the research center were identified as possible work sites, a former barber shop and this McDonald’s. The fast food restaurant had closed a couple weeks before the image recovery effort started in 2007 and offered more storage space and adequate parking for employees. You can see a few more photos from inside McMoon’s in Flickr user agentmouthwashfanclubpresident’s photostream.

In July of 2008, the project had finally moved in to the McDonald’s and in November of that year, the team announced the successful recovery of a 1966 photo of the Earth rising as seen from the moon’s surface. In fact, it was the first photo taken of the Earth from the moon. To recover the image, the team found the last set of tapes containing the data and restored 1960s-era tape drives to operational condition using both original and modern parts. There’s also a brief explanation of how the 1966 photo was taken.

You can see a comparison of the original image and the recovered image below.

"First View of Earth from Moon" by NASA (left) and "First View of Earth from Moon - reprocessed" by NASA/LOIRP - from Wikimedia Commons
“First View of Earth from Moon” by NASA (left) and “First View of Earth from Moon – reprocessed” by NASA/LOIRP – from Wikimedia Commons

The team has an actively updated website about the project called Moonviews, which includes information about recovered pictures. They started by working to recover and restore images from the 5 Lunar Orbiter missions flown between 1966 and 1967. The first three of these missions were done to identify and survey potential landing sites for the subsequent Apollo moon missions, while the last two were of a more scientific nature. The posts at the Moonviews website are fascinating. In this piece about a Lunar Orbiter image last seen 47 years ago, there’s some detail about the method by which photos were sent back from the moon.

Now, the team now also works on other historical satellite imagery and, with the help of a crowdfunding campaign, have now taken over an abandoned NASA satellite with an aim to open up satellite data for anyone who wants to use it. The website, A Spacecraft for All: The Journey of the ISEE-3, offers information about this new project.

And while we’re on the subject of lunar photos, computer graphics card manufacturer NVIDIA just released an odd little video that debunks moon landing conspiracy theorists by modeling the lighting in the well-known shot of Buzz Aldrin leaving the Apollo 11 Lunar Module. Aldrin appears to be illuminated from the side opposite the sun, but there were no other light sources on the moon. The engineers recreated the shot in a computer model and analyzed other footage available, eventually realizing that Neil Armstrong’s white spacesuit worked as a reflector in the image.

(via Metafilter)

Windows on the World – a glimpse inside the World Trade Center in August 2001

Konstantin Petrov - Windows on the World - August 2001
Konstantin Petrov – Windows on the World – August 2001

I never realized it until reading this New Yorker piece, but I have absolutely no idea about what the World Trade Center might have looked like on the inside. The only images that come to mind are of the Twin Towers standing, exploding, falling, or being jumped from. As described in Take Picture, a Talk of the Town piece in this week’s New Yorker, a young Estonian immigrant named Konstantin Petrov worked at Windows on the World, the restaurant at the top of the North Tower of the World Trade Center, and was an avid photographer.

Working the night shift, he’d take pictures with a point-and-shoot in the hallways and offices of the towers and of the banquet halls and dining room sitting empty and ready for the next day’s customers. It’s an odd little piece of photography that fills in a piece of my personal geography that I didn’t even know needed filling. Petrov worked the night of September 10th, and started driving home a little after 8am on the 11th. He noticed some debris as he was leaving, but didn’t know what happened until he’d gotten home. His pictures from inside the towers, some uploaded as late as August 2001, and from after the attack, are available on Petrov’s Fotki site, last updated around 12 years ago. A number of the images were used in a National Geographic documentary, 9/10: The Final Hours. This image seems to be a self-portrait of Petrov.

On the subject of images from inside the World Trade Center, seek out the documentary 9/11 (IMDB) by French filmmakers Jules and Gedeon Naudet and FDNY firefighter James Hanlon. The filmmakers had been following young firefighters in the Engine 7/Ladder 1/Battalion 1 Firehouse on Duane Street in Lower Manhattan for several months; the firehouse was one of the closest to the World Trade Center site. The filmmakers were there gathering footage on the morning of September 11th, and were among the first people on the scene after the first crash. Their footage in the documentary is the only video taken that morning from inside the Twin Towers. That footage, as papers and bodies fall to the ground outside the towers, is chilling.

By the way, Esquire’s article The Falling Man, a modern classic of long-form journalism, is now a fund-raiser for the James Foley Scholarship Fund at Marquette University. Read it now if you haven’t already. And if you have, read it again.

Yale Photogrammar: searchable, organized archive of 170,000 FSA photos

Yale Photogrammar - Photos from the FSA organized
Yale Photogrammar – Photos from the FSA organized

A Yale University initiative has made 170,000 FSA photos available online in an easily searchable archive called Photogrammar. The US Farm Security Administration’s Office of War Information photography project during the Great Depression was an unbelievable undertaking. A handful of photographers spent a decade chronicling life in the United States as a way to build support for government programs. The work continues to be an inspiration (see Facing Change, for instance, or Everyday USA), but it’s always been tough to take it all in. The Library of Congress’ archive is difficult to navigate; some images might also be on the Flickr Commons, but it’s hard to tell.

You can search by keyword or photographer, but for me the county-by-county map of photos is the best way to navigate. No matter where you are in the US, you can probably find a photo taken within 50 miles. Check out the dot map, too; you can easily see Jack Delano‘s route between Chicago and Los Angeles there, for instance. And looking up Delano, I learned that he was a composer and earned $2,300/year while photographing for the FSA, the equivalent of $39,270.57 in 2014.

I could spend hours looking through this website…

(via a friend on Facebook)