New pictures of the moon discovered

November 13, 2008 7:56:30 PM PST
Here is a reminder that sometimes it pays not to throw things away. There are some remarkable photographs of the moon now available-- because of what a retired NASA employee kept in her garage all these years.

It's maybe the last place you might expect to resurrect history. There is an abandoned McDonalds near Moffett Field, with plenty of floor space for 1,894 video tapes.

"We liken it to archeology. Techno-archeology," said Dennis Wingo, an imaging expert.

In the early 1960's, NASA sent a series of orbiters to map the surface of the moon. Back on Earth, video tape machines recorded the data, line by line.

"This equipment originally was a third of a million dollars, new," said Wingo.

But as time passed, NASA forgot. In fact, it would have thrown the machines out, if not for Nancy Evans, who had worked the project. She stored the machines in her garage for more than 20 years, and when NASA wanted to recycle the moon tapes, she took those, too.

"I had spent most of my working life saving data, and salvaging data, seeing that it got put safely in the planetary data system. I wasn't about to let this huge data set be thrown away," said Nancy Evans, a former NASA/JPL researcher.

And NASA is glad that she did, now that it's returning to the moon. The agency has saved millions of dollars by rebuilding these old antiques, and then using computers to enhance the images. It's like getting high fidelity from an old victrola.

"What we were surprised by is the detail, and how good it looks," said Wingo.

Today, they released the iconic, first-ever image of Earth as seen from behind the moon, only now, with much more resolution.

Another, image of the lunar surface now shows details as small as one meter, which they can compare with future mapping missions.

"This is going to show us how the moon is changing. We fully expecting to see some new craters," said Greg Schmidt, Deputy Director of Lunar Sciences.

A classic case of pulling treasure from what might have been in the trash and all because Nancy Evans was a bit of a packrat.

"You gave us the moon back," said ABC7's Wayne Freedman.
"It was there all the time," said Evans.

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