Washington, Nov 14 : NASA has released a newly restored 42-year-old image of Earth rising above the lunar surface, as taken by the Lunar Orbiter 1 spacecraft in 1966.
In the late 1960s, NASA sent five Lunar Orbiter missions to photograph the surface of the moon and gain a better understanding of the lunar environment in advance of the Apollo program.
Data were recorded on large magnetic tapes and transferred to photographic film for scientific analysis.
When these images were first retrieved from lunar orbit, only a portion of their true resolution was available because of the limited technology available.
The Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project, located at NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, California, is taking analog data from original recorders used to store on tape and 1,500 of the original tapes, converting the data into digital form, and reconstructing the images.
Using refurbished machinery and modern digital technology, NASA produced the image at a much higher resolution than was possible when it was originally taken.
he restored image confirms data from the original tapes can be retrieved from the newly restored tape drives from the 1960s when combined with software from 2008.
The data may help the next generation of explorers as NASA prepares to return to the moon.
"It's a tremendous feeling to restore a 40-year-old image and know it can be useful to future explorers," said Gregory Schmidt, deputy director of the NASA Lunar Science Institute at Ames.
"Now that we've demonstrated the capability to retrieve images, our goal is to complete the tape drives' restoration and move toward retrieving all of the images on the remaining tapes," he added.
As the images are processed, they will be submitted to the Planetary Data System, which NASA's Space Science Mission Directorate in Washington sponsors in cooperation with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
The images will also be calibrated with standard mapping coordinates from the U.S. Geological Survey's Astrogeology Research Program in Flagstaff, Arizona.
The restoration of the Lunar Orbiter images to high quality images will provide the scientific community with a baseline to measure and understand changes that have occurred on the moon since the 1960s.
These data could help mission planners assess the long-term risk to lunar inhabitants from small meteor impacts and establish longitude and latitude lines for lunar mapping.