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)

Behind the scenes with Matt Black as he photographs California’s Central Valley


Matt Black has been on my radar a lot recently, not least because of the recent New Yorker piece he did with Ed Kashi (below).

If you don’t know Matt Black’s work yet, you’re missing out. Luckily, the folks at PhotoWings recently caught up with the photographer and followed along as he worked in California’s Central Valley (above). Black talks about his process in covering the story over the years and what he hopes they say in the larger context of the ongoing story of drought and poverty in the area. It’s less than 10 minutes, but offers a telling glimpse of Black’s philosophy and passion not just for this story but for the storytelling power of photography.

If you like the New Yorker’s video featuring Black’s photography above, by the way, there’s supposed to be a nice 8-page spread in this week’s New Yorker. There’s just a single image online right now.

You should also spend some time with his ongoing project, the Geography of Poverty. The project’s Story Map, in particular, is a great way to navigate Black’s work and see how it all fits together.

And be sure to check out Ed Kashi’s first video on agriculture for the New Yorker, that time in partnership with fellow VII member Ashley Gilbertson.

AFP publishes strategy for covering ISIS, states agency will no longer work with freelancers in Syria

[I]f someone travels to Syria and offers us images or information when they return, we will not use it.”
AFP Global News Director Michèle Léridon, Covering the “Islamic State”

Agence France-Presse’s Global News Director Michèle Léridon just published a fascinating article on how the wire service covers the emerging Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) on AFP’s Correspondent blog. AFP is currently the only international news agency with a bureau in Damascus. Since August 2013, AFP has stopped sending their journalists to rebel-held territories within Syria. The post also says, “we no longer accept work from freelance journalists who travel to places where we ourselves would not venture….[I]f someone travels to Syria and offers us images or information when they return, we will not use it.”

The rest of Léridon’s post details how AFP handles handout pictures from ISIS, AFP’s efforts to find images of ISIS’ victims’ lives before their deaths, and what language to use in coverage of the region. For those of you like me who find media studies interesting, the post is worth reading for the peek it gives behind the curtain of covering one of the most dangerous regions in the world.

After the recent ISIS beheadings of James Foley, Steven Sotloff, and David Haines, there’s been increased awareness of the dangers faced by freelance journalists covering conflicts. Allison Shelley wrote a great Op-Ed for the LA Times about the issue: The dangerous world of freelance journalism. As with much of the other discussion, Shelley’s piece looks at the increasing role freelancers play in covering the world’s news and the lack of resources available to freelancers as compared to the support given staff journalists covering conflict (which we’ve covered previously).

Other publications have published articles recently about the issues, as well: The Washington Post, the BBC, CNN (speaking with Tina Carr, director of the Rory Peck Trust), and NBC News. On the Media also has a good look at how imagery of ISIS arrives in American publications, and Fresh Air’s interview with NYT Baghdad Bureau Chief Tim Arango offers a look at how the New York Times covers the group.

Digiday also has a look at how news startups such as Buzzfeed and Vice have been covering ISIS. Vice is a particularly interesting case because they seem to have gotten the closest access to ISIS in their 5-part series on the group. Vice editors spoke with the Huffington Post about how Vice was able to gain access.

PBS MediaShift also has a great article on the subject of the dangers of freelance journalism in Syria, though it was published in April 2014. Vanity Fair’s piece on the disappearances of Austin Tice and James Foley, published in May 2014, is also worth a read.

And while you’re at it, read Tom A. Peter‘s article in the New Republic: Why I Decided War Reporting Was No Longer Worth the Risk.