Hardware, Software & the Internet of Things
June 23–25, 2015 • San Francisco, CA

Adventures in Technoarchaeology, Lunar Orbiter and ISEE-3

Dennis Wingo (Skycorp Incorporated)
11:25am–11:40am Thursday, 06/25/2015
Location: Herbst Pavilion
Average rating: ****.
(4.65, 34 ratings)
Slides:   1-PDF 

Beginning in 2008 a small team under the direction of Skycorp Incorporated and in collaboration with the NASA Ames Solar System Exploration Virtual Research Institute (SSERVI), began projects to recover our historical legacy from the Apollo program and early space age. We began with the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project (LOIRP) who’s task it was to recover, from the original master analog tapes, the highest resolution images of the Moon from the 1960’s. These images were from the Lunar Orbiter missions, which were five spacecraft that NASA sent to orbit the Moon in 1966 and 67 to perform a photo reconnaissance of the Moon’s surface in order to choose landing sites for the Apollo manned missions. In all of human history no one had seen the Moon up close, with one meter resolution images obtained. Our project was to refurbish non functional 45 year old instrumentation tape drives that would allow us to recover the original images from the tapes, who’s quality far surpassed the grainy artifact ridden images that the world saw in the 1960’s. The images include the world’s first “Earthrise” image from Lunar Orbiter 1, and the Life Magazine “Image of the Century” of an oblique few of the crater Copernicus.

The second part of the talk is an exposition regarding another adventure in technoarchaeology, which was to recover a 36 year old live spacecraft named ISEE-3. This spacecraft, launched in 1978 was the world’s first sentinel located at a Lagrange point one million miles (1.5 million kilometers) between the Earth in the sun. Its task was to monitor the sun to understand it and to provide solar storm warnings. ISEE-3 literally wrote the book on the space based study of the sun and spawned the scientific discipline of Heliophysics. It also was the first spacecraft to fly through the tail of a comet, called Giacobini-Zinner, in 1985. After an almost 30 year sojourn in the inner solar system the spacecraft returned to Earth space in 2014 but NASA had no equipment to talk to it or funds to attempt the task. Our team, called the ISEE-3 Reboot project, brought together an international cadre of scientists, engineers, and even the largest radio telescope in the world at Arecibo Puerto Rico, to contact the spacecraft. After a successful crowdfunding effort our team was able to put together the necessary expertise, equipment, and historical information on the spacecraft, to rescue it and recommission some of the scientific experiments on this veteran spacecraft. This is our story.

Photo of Dennis Wingo

Dennis Wingo

Skycorp Incorporated

Dennis has over 36 years worth of experience in the computer, academic, and aerospace industries. He has worked for many leading edge companies during the 80s such as Vector Graphic, Symbolics, and Alpharel, pioneers in the computer, artificial intelligence, and document management industries. He has built flight hardware at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, including the first Macintosh flown on the Space Shuttle and a small sat, SEDSAT 1, the first non-NASA spacecraft built in Alabama.

At Skycorp, our team has designed power systems and avionics for sounding rockets, qualified a payload for Radio Shack that flew to ISS, designed large telescopes, on-orbit servicing systems, and developed methods for assembling spacecraft in orbit.

Dennis’ first book, Moonrush, and a chapter in another book Return to the Moon, are about developing lunar resources. He contributed to a book Toward a Theory of Spacepower published by the National Defense University. He has written dozens of articles for various publications. He has two patents, one of them global.

In 2008, he partnered with space ref to start the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project (LOIRP), wherein they rescued the only remaining tape drives capable of playing the master tapes of the 1960s-era Lunar Orbiter Program. See www.moonviews.com for details.

The recovery of the LOIRP tapes has opened a door called “technoarchaeology” or literally the archeology of technology. The preservation of our digital heritage, both hardware and software, is a growing need and a societal imperative. So much of our lives are now digitized that should our technological civilization fail, the loss to posterity would be staggering.

In 2014 he helped blaze new ground in technoarchaeology with the ISEE-3 Reboot project. See www.spacecollege.org for more details.