Some cool surface grinding photos:

surface grinding
Image by jurvetson
Behind the counter of an abandoned McDonalds lie 48,000 lbs of 70mm tapeā€¦ the only copy of really higher-resolution photos of the moon.

These tapes have been recorded 40 years ago by Lunar Orbiter 1 to map the lunar surface to program landing spots for Apollo 11 onward. They have never been seen by the public due to the fact at the time, they were classified as they reveal the extreme precision of our spy satellites. Rather, all we have ever observed are the grainy photo-of-a-photo photos that have been released to the public.

The spacecraft did not ship this film back to Earth. As an alternative, they developed the film on the Lunar Orbiter and then raster scanned the negatives with a five micron spot (200 lines/millimeter resolution) and beamed the information back to Earth utilizing yet-to-be-patented-by-other individuals lossless analog compression. 3 ground stations on Earth (1 was in Madrid) recorded the transmissions on these magnetic tapes.

Recovering the information has established to be very challenging, requiring technological archeology. The only operating version of the Ampex tape player (0K when new) was found in a chicken coop and restored with the aid of the original designer. There is only one person on Earth who still refurbishes these tape heads, and he is retiring this year. The expertise to read this data archive are on the cusp of disappearing forever.

Some of the applications of this project, beyond accessing the very best photos of the moon ever taken, are to appear for new landing websites for the new Google Lunar X-Prize robo-landers, and to examine the new craters on the moon today to 40 years ago, a measure of micrometeorite flux and danger to future lunar operations.

Toss on a Bicycle
surface grinding
Image by TimothyDavidGreenfield

Dry Mud Texture
surface grinding
Image by GrungeTextures
Closeup of dry soil.

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