Smith Journal - McMoons

McMoons is an abandoned McDonalds that now serves as base of operations for the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project (LOIRP), a group of self-described techno-archaeologists that have been reverse-engineering analog tape drives and developing new software in an attempt to recover and digitalize all the original footage taken from the space by the 5 unmanned Lunar Orbiter spacecrafts sent to the Moon in 1966 and 1967 to locate landing sites in advance to the Apollo missions.

The images were captured in two-inch magnetic tape, readable only by Ampex FR-900 tape drives. These refrigerator-sized, 600-pound machines were exceptionally rare, used only by governmental agencies like NASA, the US Air Force, and the Federal Aviation Administration, so once the images served its purpose and the missions were over, the massive footage (around 1500 tapes) was forgotten and preserved by the government and NASA for decades.

In 2005 Dennis Wingo, president of the aerospace engineering company SkyCorp and a long-time veteran of space and computing technologies came across the subject and along with other colleagues started the project bringing together the necessary materials and technical knowledge to start recovering the images at their full resolution, by applying modern technology, the original image information from the tapes can be recovered and digitally processed to bring out details impossible to obtain back when the images were originally taken.

The recovered data is extremely valuable and useful, as gives historians (both from today and the future) a look at the moon at a unique time.

Photographed for Smith Journal at the NASA Ames research base in Mountain View, CA

 
 
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