Part 3: Extraterrestrial: The Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project

In Part 3 of The Invisible Photograph, see how the "techno archaeologists" of the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project digitally recovered the first photographs of the moon taken by a set of unmanned space probes in the 1960s.

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Part 3: Extraterrestrial

Obsolescence is an inherent fate of all things technological. It takes the determined efforts of self-proclaimed “techno-archaeologists” to disrupt this eventual fate. This is the case with the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project (LOIRP). Housed in a disused McDonalds at the NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California, a small team of retired scientists and engineers used their ingenuity and elbow grease to retrieve one of the most important sets of photographs ever made.

From 1966 to 1967, a time of particular historical turbulence (University of Texas shootings, protests against the Vietnam War, catastrophic earthquake in Turkey), five unmanned space probes were sent on reconnaissance missions to survey the lunar landscape, their main goal to find an appropriate landing site for the soon-to-begin Apollo program. The five Lunar Orbiter modules captured, for the first time in the history of photography, images of the lunar landscape and of…