that's a Moon
June 15, 2018 9:29 AM   Subscribe

This is super cool.
posted by PussKillian at 9:49 AM on June 15, 2018

I worked at NASA-Ames for many years; let me explain the layout and why it has an abandoned McDonalds. The Navy commisioned Moffett Field in the early 1930s as an airship base; its most prominent feature is a very long runway adjacent to the dirigible Hangar One (which you can't miss, driving north on the 101 through Silicon Valley). In 1939, a section of this base was given over to the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics (NACA, the predecessor of NASA) for research, and its biggest feature now is a huge air tunnel. Inside NASA our only dining option is the cafeteria, but when it was still a military base there was a gym, chapel, movie theater, various stores including a Baskin-Robbins and this McDonalds. Although the Navy left in 1993 it's still a Federal Airfield with a military presence, but all those amenities have gradually closed. This is where Google parks their airplanes, sometimes Air Force One drops off the president there, and Hangar One was de-skinned in 2012.
posted by Rash at 10:16 AM on June 15, 2018 [7 favorites]

The Lunar Orbiters never returned to Earth with the imagery. Instead, the Orbiter developed the 70mm film (yes film)

It’s so weird to me when people make this surprise about film. I’ve been big into space stuff lately because I just saw 2001: A Space Odyssey in 70mm film a couple of weeks ago, and I shoot with a Hasselblad film (yes, film) camera that NASA had once taken into space. I know digital is probably more popular right now, but film isn’t dead just yet, and a lot of people know what film is.
posted by gucci mane at 10:30 AM on June 15, 2018

Other than that one stupid nitpick I’m really enjoying the first link so far :P
posted by gucci mane at 10:31 AM on June 15, 2018

I think the "(yes film)" is more about the surprise that 1960s era technology could manage developing film on a space probe orbiting the Moon rather than returning the undeveloped film for processing on Earth.

There's an explanation of the camera system, with diagrams, near the bottom of this page. It used a special processing system that avoided the need for liquids, but it was still a pretty complicated setup.
posted by jedicus at 10:40 AM on June 15, 2018 [4 favorites]

Unsurprisingly, most of the technology for developing film in space was done first on the spy satellites (WS-117L and SAMOS). That technology lost out to CORONA and GAMBIT which just dropped the film from space to be developed.

My other favorite "strange place to develop film" is the Howard Hughes XF-12 prototype which had a full darkroom so that reconnaissance could be processed and analyzed in flight.
posted by scamander at 11:18 AM on June 15, 2018

Obviously, the high-definition images had to be classified until NASA and the Pentagon had determined that, in fact, the bee women didn't have a base there.
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:16 PM on June 15, 2018

This is amazing!
I'm trying to make the resolution of these images relate-able in my head.
If they are scanning 70mm film at 200 lines/mm then that's 14,000 Lines of resolution, correct?
The interwebs reference a ~2.2:1 aspect ratio for 70mm, so if there are 14K lines of resolution, that would make for images of 30,800 x 14,000 pixels, yeah? So something like 430 Megapixels per image?

Also, what's the "meters per pixel" spacial resolution (is that the term)?

Also, holy crap, they were able to perform automated development of film, in space, and then optically scan the film and beam it back at those resolutions in 1966?!?!

It never ceases to amaze me what engineers and mathamagicians can make possible at the limits of a given era's technology.
posted by The Legit Republic of Blanketsburg at 2:30 PM on June 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

favorite "strange place to develop film" is the Howard Hughes XF-12

That's a beautiful aircraft.
posted by Rash at 5:55 PM on June 15, 2018

Half a century later and our decision to go the moon is still a gift that keeps giving. Mind blowing.
posted by adamt at 9:12 PM on June 15, 2018

Fascinating. And it's actually worth reading the comments, because the project lead is there with additional detail.
posted by cheshyre at 6:45 AM on June 16, 2018

This looks amazing; while I love the high-res originals I'm tempted to reprocess these to smaller sizes. I love using space images for desktop pictures and just for general viewing.
posted by caphector at 10:31 AM on June 16, 2018

IIUC, the craft that took these photos were deorbited onto the lunar surface, which means that some of the actual film may still survive, I guess the ability to recover it would imply that we could actually recreate the images directly, and probably at an even higher resolution, but what a record of lunar exploration that would be.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:58 PM on June 16, 2018

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