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That's no Moon. Or a McDonald's. WTF?
May 1, 2009 11:54 AM   Subscribe

At the mostly abandoned Moffett Field in an abandoned McDonald's, digital archeologists attempt to restore, recover and archive abandoned high resolution imagery and data from previous manned Moon missions, using an abandoned Ampex 2" tape drive found in a chicken coop - the last working machine in the world, restored by the last man alive capable of rebuilding the heads. This is likely only part of their weird story.
posted by loquacious (66 comments total) 73 users marked this as a favorite

 
holy shit.
posted by shmegegge at 12:01 PM on May 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


More info at Moonviews.com, and there's lots of more links in the main link above.
posted by loquacious at 12:02 PM on May 1, 2009


OK, this is definitely best of the web. Holy Fucking Moon indeed
posted by Rumple at 12:07 PM on May 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


This is cool.
posted by ob at 12:09 PM on May 1, 2009


Nice update to this story. Thanks.
posted by steef at 12:10 PM on May 1, 2009


AWESOME.
posted by GuyZero at 12:11 PM on May 1, 2009




Damnit, I forgot to work in the abandoned salt mine in the description, too. Lost, lost, lost.

Fuck it. The post is ruined. Mods please delete kthx.

(Kidding. Actually, I'm mostly waiting to see what other links the mefi detective team unearths, err, unmoons? Which is my favorite part of posting cool stuff like this is all the other cool stuff people find and share.)
posted by loquacious at 12:12 PM on May 1, 2009


I'm really, really confused.

I cannot tell if the page is written in crazy, or if I am just lacking some crucial context.

Can anyone, you know, break this down for me or something?
posted by lazaruslong at 12:13 PM on May 1, 2009 [3 favorites]


The video is down, so I think that might have helped. A bunch of repeating articles fill out the rest with some weird comments about it being false and illegal?
posted by lazaruslong at 12:14 PM on May 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


Awesome. I missed what is now the backstory the first time around, thanks steef and Horace.
posted by loquacious at 12:15 PM on May 1, 2009


There really is "space archaeology" by the way.
posted by Rumple at 12:16 PM on May 1, 2009


the moonsite link makes a lot more sense than the first one, which initially had me expecting some to see photos of people tin foil hats.
posted by fuzzypantalones at 12:17 PM on May 1, 2009


In another 20 years we'll be looking for the last USB cable to we can download and save the digital photos of Obama's inauguration. :/
posted by marxchivist at 12:20 PM on May 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


Okay, Mr. Haven Daly in the video from the moonviews link helped to reset my crazy meter.

So, COOL!
posted by lazaruslong at 12:20 PM on May 1, 2009


Finally a McDonald's I would be happy to visit!
posted by a3matrix at 12:29 PM on May 1, 2009


M-O-O-N, that spells very seriously cool post.
posted by digitalprimate at 12:30 PM on May 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


Very cool stuff. This is the kind of post that makes MeFi so grand.
posted by caddis at 12:34 PM on May 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


In another 20 years we'll be looking for the last USB cable to we can download and save the digital photos of Obama's inauguration.

No worries. It'll be in my garage.
posted by Devils Rancher at 12:48 PM on May 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Thank you, sir. You have made my day.
posted by honest knave at 12:50 PM on May 1, 2009


What a cool story for a crappy site to have. Don't back up to the main domain for the love all that is holy!

And I agree with lazaruslong, in that too much of the info repeats, it's mostly incoherent, and the comments need to be made plain they are comments.

This is no timecube, but not far enough removed for my tastes.
posted by cjorgensen at 12:55 PM on May 1, 2009


the moonsite link makes a lot more sense than the first one, which initially had me expecting some to see photos of people tin foil hats.

They're there if you look hard enough.
posted by Kabanos at 12:57 PM on May 1, 2009


Here is a video from the AP, from the moonviews.com page.

Shows some images briefly, and I wanted to punch the report in the dick for his cadence, but still interesting.
posted by mrzarquon at 12:58 PM on May 1, 2009


really neat digitalization process. great post.

what is up with the F bullets in the powerpoint?
posted by the aloha at 1:00 PM on May 1, 2009


It's somewhat interesting and amusing to read the original thread about this at abovetopsecret.com.

Before the validity of this was confirmed, comments included:

LOL. This appears to be a blatent cut an paste job. Someone spent much time doing this. Very impressive non the less. I call Bravo Sierra on this. Please don't waste precious resources, time, and brain cells on this. Sheez!

one word springs to mind ... B O G U S. Theres no WAY a large collection of old NASA moon footage would be stored in an abandoned MCdonalds...and as for having such high res camera taking the footage it cant be seen on TV, thats a ludicrous idea. Sorry but this smacks as total flim-flamery IMHO.

posted by ShooBoo at 1:03 PM on May 1, 2009


Is this something I'd need to be high to understand?
posted by exogenous at 1:04 PM on May 1, 2009


@ Exognous--"When I tap on your foot and say 'hello Mister Sampson' you say 'hello'."

Some conspiracy. I am not high. I do not understand either.

WILL ANYONE ELABORATE WHAT IT IS THAT THEY ARE SEEING (THAT WHICH NON-HIGH PEOPLE CANNOT SEE)????
posted by zerobyproxy at 1:07 PM on May 1, 2009


Is this something I'd need to be high to understand?

Sure. I'll meet you at L2 and point it out for you.

You do have enough weed to get there, right?
posted by loquacious at 1:09 PM on May 1, 2009


I can't really make sense of this. Is it about some kind of conspiracy? Who are these people? Why is the same sentence repated in pretty much every post?
posted by Foci for Analysis at 1:13 PM on May 1, 2009


The best bit of crazy:

offtothemoon says:
This entire post is 100% wrong and needs to be taken down. Furthermore, this image of me was taken without my permission and is in violation of the law. - SOURCE

posted by smackfu at 1:17 PM on May 1, 2009


L4 and L5
posted by daniel9223 at 1:19 PM on May 1, 2009


You do have enough weed to get there, right?

Negative. However, I can make it to the blue room.
posted by exogenous at 1:20 PM on May 1, 2009


I should have added in my above comment: For this to make sense, it's helpful to read the original thread about this at abovetopsecret.com as it puts the comments in context.
posted by ShooBoo at 1:20 PM on May 1, 2009


Furthermore, this image of me was taken without my permission and is in violation of the law. - SOURCE

But then the picture is marked private on flickr! Disappointment!
posted by gac at 1:20 PM on May 1, 2009


I was in a Starbucks the other day and in the bathroom there was another Starbucks. So I went inside THAT Starbuck's bathroom. In three of the stalls there were stacks of data from the Venera 17 mission to Venus. It was all recorded on Certron cassette tapes due to some deal the Soviets made with the Japanese. I went to the university here to get assistance, but when we went back to Starbucks, the Starbucks inside the Starbucks restroom had vanished. :(
posted by crapmatic at 1:30 PM on May 1, 2009 [9 favorites]




Terribly inaccurate post. The images are NOT from NASA's manned moon missions. They were captured on "Mac Missions" to the McDonalds Lunar Base.
(Clowning aside, this is a Whopper of a story)
posted by prinado at 1:34 PM on May 1, 2009


... data from the Venera 17 mission to Venus

And you thought you were joking:

Some of the raw digital data from Venera-9 was found on a tapes exchanged between the Soviet Union and Brown University.
posted by ShooBoo at 1:38 PM on May 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm not following the real-and-cool vs. tinfoil-hat-crazy aspect of this discussion, but those of you who enjoy the techno-archeology of old space projects aspect should check out Don Mitchell's work on the early Soviet exploration of venus.
posted by madmethods at 1:44 PM on May 1, 2009


Actually, prinado is mostly correct, so a correction is in order. Sometimes I get a little too excited about a post and don't do enough homework before hitting the post button.

The imagery is from the Lunar Orbiter program, which predates the Apollo missions, but the LO program was the precursor to the manned Apollo missions, and the main original reason that the high resolution imagery was captured by the LO program was to look for landing sites on the moon for the manned missions.

The imagery was too high of a resolution for public consumption back then because that would have revealed the level of technology and capabilities of then-current spy satellites. Spy satellites didn't used to have film scanners on board, or high res digital imaging at all. They used to have to actually drop physical film payloads back to earth, which was often captured in mid-air by terrestrial, air-breathing aircraft.

One of the totally insane things about all of this is that the imagery was captured on 70mm film, developed and then scanned all on board the Lunar Orbiter crafts automatically, as the LOs were, of course, unmanned. That data was then sent back and recorded on the tapes in the main link of the article, and only some of that data was ever re-printed to film and imagery.

Think about that for a second. That's one hell of a flying, scanning film lab attached to a telescope. It's technically likely beyond our engineering skills today, as the easy answer would be "A film lab and a scanner? WTF? Just stick a dime-sized CCD or CMOS image sensor in there and save about 3 tons of launch weight!"
posted by loquacious at 1:54 PM on May 1, 2009 [7 favorites]


It's technically likely beyond our engineering skills today

Well, that's a bit like saying a 20-story high-rise made out of brick is beyond our skills. No, there's probably nobody who can do it well, true, but that's because we've come up with better techniques in the meantime. This is the mortar-less Roman stone bridge of spy satellites. Impressive but basically a brute force solution.
posted by GuyZero at 2:07 PM on May 1, 2009


Also, can anyone explain how they could scan 70mm film but not simply image the optics directly onto the scanner? Was it a line scanner or something slow like that?
posted by GuyZero at 2:08 PM on May 1, 2009


I would think all that grease on the floor is not good for the film.
posted by Big_B at 2:16 PM on May 1, 2009


Well, that's a bit like saying a 20-story high-rise made out of brick is beyond our skills.

Sure, we could come up with some sort of modern, perfectly functional film/scanner combination, but to engineer it as is, with the technology of that day? Not today. Out of the technology available then. I would bet that it would be a nearly impossible task for today's engineers. Nearly. Keep in mind like a good engineer I'm also considering real-world costs - not pie in the sky "Oh, sure we could build it, but only if...

That said, when was the last time someone built a 20 story brick building, or a mortar-free stone bridge?

Dead technology is dead. Not living. The people who knew it and used it best - as well as the socio-economic conditions that made it feasible - are dead.
posted by loquacious at 2:16 PM on May 1, 2009


> Also, can anyone explain how they could scan 70mm film but not simply image the optics directly onto the scanner? Was it a line scanner or something slow like that?

The film was acting as an analog buffer: Expose image to negative, develop, scan and transmit at your leisure.

There would be no way to cache or store any direct optic to sensor image that could process megapixel size images in real time until recently.
posted by mrzarquon at 2:21 PM on May 1, 2009


> or a mortar-free stone bridge?

People are still doing that, actually.
posted by mrzarquon at 2:23 PM on May 1, 2009


when was the last time someone built a 20 story brick building, or a mortar-free stone bridge?

I'm saying we've lost the desire, not the ability.

Also, that think probably cost way, WAY more in today's dollars than a modern spy satellite. Brute force methods usually also have brute force costs. For what that thing cost then NASA could probably put a dude with a theodolite on the moon to make those same maps. ok, probably not, but I bet it was damn expensive.
posted by GuyZero at 2:38 PM on May 1, 2009


People are still doing that, actually.

I know people still make dry stone walls and fences and such. I want to see a dry-stone roman style arch, done as the Romans did it, before I concede my point about dead technology being dead, or at least mostly dead. Similar is not the same as same.

(Yeah, I'm splitting hairs, but the counterpoints people are providing aren't actually addressing the points I made. And, well, I'm argumentative, if frequently wrong. :) )
posted by loquacious at 2:39 PM on May 1, 2009


I'm saying we've lost the desire, not the ability.

I still say we've lost both. Economically unfeasible engineering projects are unfeasible engineering projects, and I will argue (from general intuition) that there's a lot of important but small details we've long forgotten about how to engineer something like this.

Sure, we're at a point where non-governmental private entities are possibly going to land private unmanned probes on the moon. Sure, an amateur could conceivably send up their own orbiter with an off the shelf 10-megapixel camera and optics for a fraction of a fraction of the cost and obtain better results in full color.

The goal itself isn't my argument, my argument is that I'm going to maintain that I think scratch building something like the LO as it was, using the mechanics and tech and tools of the day would be nigh-impossible for today's engineers.
posted by loquacious at 2:45 PM on May 1, 2009


> The goal itself isn't my argument, my argument is that I'm going to maintain that I think scratch building something like the LO as it was, using the mechanics and tech and tools of the day would be nigh-impossible for today's engineers.

I do get what you are saying.

It is very different being on the cutting edge of development compared to being the guy who has the manuals already. Standing on the shoulders of giants and what not.

If you were to get a group of engineers the same tools and base knowledge that those people were working with, only about 10% would probably be able to recreate it.

At the time, NASA was made up of only those 10% folks, literally Rocket Scientists.
posted by mrzarquon at 3:24 PM on May 1, 2009


I still say we've lost both. Economically unfeasible engineering projects are unfeasible engineering projects, and I will argue (from general intuition) that there's a lot of important but small details we've long forgotten about how to engineer something like this.

That's definitely true of, for example, a lot of the launcher and spacecraft hardware that was around at the time these images were captured. Even if blueprints are still around, a lot of production and operational details are simply lost. So it's not surprising the same is happening with other technologies of the period, like the tape drive discussed in this story.

Have we lost the ability to re-make these things? Certainly we've lost (or are in the process of losing) the knowledge and experience to make them. The human race as a whole still has the ability to re-learn all that if we had to. We could re-do it, but we'd have to learn how again, first.

It's also harder to figure out how to re-do something exactly the same way (as would be necessary to be able to read old tapes), than to re-do something in just a similar way with the same level of available technology. Building a new analog tape drive kind of like the one in the article is much easier than building one compatible with the exact one that was used originally. So as the last working examples of some of these things disappear, we're also losing some of the supporting tools we need to re-do things, and reproducing those tools is pretty hard.
posted by FishBike at 3:28 PM on May 1, 2009


What I particularly LOVE about this site are 900px × 1350px images.
posted by johnj at 3:37 PM on May 1, 2009


YESSSS!!!! Quirky, noble, and historically important. This is one of the best links I've seen here in a long time. I love how the linked site and story have attracted interested people and even additional assistance in recovering more data, I wish I could help. Wonderful!
posted by hellslinger at 3:52 PM on May 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


This would be a crazy-cool post if it just had the story of LOIRP, without linking to the page of a bunch of conspiracy nuts.

The conspiracy nuts make it even awesomer.
posted by miyabo at 4:01 PM on May 1, 2009


I saw the pirate flag in the window of this Mickey D's back in November and wondered what was going on. What a crazy awesome tale.
posted by oneirodynia at 4:37 PM on May 1, 2009


I kinda got lost in the post -- I know I didn't click on all the links -- but somewhere along the way people started talking about Dennis Wingo and identified him as the person saying, "You published a picture of me and that's illegal!" I don't know if that ID was correct or not and I don't know which photo was being talked about (if it's still there) but I did look up Dennis Wingo. Some people call him names ("fascist", "liar"), others think he's a crank, Still others think he's doing a great job. Here's something good he seems to be doing with this stuff. And he is the guy who helped rescue these tapes. Anyway, is Wingo a nut case? A fascist liar? Doing a great job? All of the above?
posted by CCBC at 5:33 PM on May 1, 2009


The "abandoned McDonalds" thing is a bit misleading.

A McDonalds was located at a NASA airfield, and then the McDonalds closed down, so the old McDonalds building, which is located on NASA property, was available to house this project.

It's not like a bunch of enterprising nerds sneaked into an abandoned McDonalds and defiantly commandeered it for their project.
posted by jayder at 6:13 PM on May 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


I used to go to that McDonalds when I worked at NASA Ames. Glad to see it's being put to better use than selling Chicken McNuggets. They should sell Moon images from the take-out window.
posted by lukemeister at 7:51 PM on May 1, 2009


The goal itself isn't my argument, my argument is that I'm going to maintain that I think scratch building something like the LO as it was, using the mechanics and tech and tools of the day would be nigh-impossible for today's engineers.

I'm not sure I get what you are saying here. Are you saying that if a present day engineer or team of engineers were transported back in time that he wouldn't be able to design the LO. Or are you saying that engineers of today wouldn't be able to build a LO today?

Also I'm not sure what exactly the point of this argument is. The number of people on the teams that built these were massive, as was the budget used to build the the LO's. With enough money, people, and time most technological problems are trivial. And the LO program gave it five goes, luckily all five were successful.

By 1966, they had been working on getting vehicles to the moon since Pioneer 4 - that was in 1959. It's not like these was the first attempts to get photos of the moon, we had plenty of practice. As for the ingenious camera, it was ingenious - but it would have been total obvious to an engineer of 2009. Not only do I think it's doable by today's engineers, I think that they would have done it faster. Since we are talking about knowledge here, there have been some knowledge gains, and even without modeling software and Unix - our knowledge today trumps the knowledge of engineers in 1966, even without or PDAs. While our slide rule skills aren't as up too par, but our algorithms are better.

The only knowledge that has been demonstratively lost in this topic rests on the repairing of an analog head of tape reading machine. I would venture a guess, that even if this man had died, given the proper money, people and time this technological problem would be trivial.
posted by bigmusic at 9:46 PM on May 1, 2009


Oh and here's a diagram of the LO camera.
posted by bigmusic at 9:52 PM on May 1, 2009


@loquacious - was it manned or unmanned? Some conflicting info here...either way the whole thing (original technology and subsequent recovery) is unbelievably cool.
posted by SNACKeR at 5:17 AM on May 2, 2009


They should sell Moon images from the take-out window.

*cough*
posted by Sys Rq at 12:15 PM on May 2, 2009


please, even though they are in a mcdonalds, nobody eat these tapes. thx
posted by sergeant sandwich at 12:40 PM on May 2, 2009


There was a McDonald's at Moffett Field? My first grade field trip-taking self feels cheated.
posted by queensissy at 5:41 PM on May 2, 2009


I wish they'd find and convert the missing Apollo 11 tapes.
posted by pashdown at 2:38 PM on May 3, 2009


Oh, those are missing, are they? How convenient.

Have they checked the soundstage?
posted by Sys Rq at 6:45 PM on May 3, 2009


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