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NASA’s Basement Tapes

April 29, 2010

Scientists resurrect satellite data from old NASA tapes.


Looking back at the moon. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

In the 1960s, the Lunar Orbiter took the first high-resolution images of the moon, and the Nimbus spacecraft took pictures of the Earth. The data were stored on magnetic tapes. But the machines that played them slowly rusted away. Now engineer Dennis Wingo and his colleagues have rescued and rebuilt one of the machines. Wingo says the old data reveal how lunar craters age, and how often asteroids hit the moon’s surface, while the earth photos show the shrinking arctic ice.

These also have applications towards looking at hurricanes, looking at climate change, just all… there’s a plethora of things this information is valuable for, again as a time capsule 40 years back in time of the state of the earth, and its climate system.

They’re posting the imagery on-line for use by scientists all over the world. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.