A Shout Out to Dennis Wingo

CA reader and commenter Dennis Wingo laconically mentioned the other day that he’d managed to reconstruct early images of the Earth from the moon. The story has received some excellent and very favorable publicity.

Dennis wrote to CA:

I have been doing some reconstructions of lunar images from the mid 1960’s and reconstructed the famous image of the Earth as seen from the Moon on August 23, 1966. This is contemporaneous with the Nimbus 1 images, though this one is in visible light. I have used an Earth political boundary overlay and “think” that I have identified the Antarctic ice pack for that year. If so, it is pretty big for that year.

The Earth as Seen from Lunar Orbit, August 23, 1966.

There is a terrific profile of this story in today’s LA Times here, which was covered by Anthony here.


  1. DJ
    Posted Apr 1, 2009 at 1:38 PM | Permalink

    I think the Astronauts pictures from the Apollo Program would be very helpful in the late 60’s to early 70’s. I’m think this came from the Surveyor I launch on 30 May 1966. It’s the only one launched early that year. Surveyor II was launched on the 20 September 1966. Am I right, Dennis?

  2. PhilipM
    Posted Apr 1, 2009 at 1:38 PM | Permalink

    Congratulations Dennis,
    A magnificent piece of work.
    Nice to see Africa displayed the right way round, unlike some of NASA’s Apollo 8 efforts still available on the web. http://science.ksc.nasa.gov/mirrors/images/images/pao/AS8/10074956.jpg 😉

  3. Posted Apr 1, 2009 at 1:56 PM | Permalink

    Dennis Wingo is an old friend, a good man, and has had many years of excellent work in this arena.

    Congratulations on the recognition from a fellow Advocate.

    ===|==============/ Level Head

  4. Posted Apr 1, 2009 at 4:39 PM | Permalink

    Wow, thanks Steve for the kind words.

    While anyone who reads my comments here will know that I am a skeptic when it comes to the hypothesis of anthropogenic global warming in climate science. That being said, I am also committed to getting good data so that we can really understand what is going on, no matter where it leads. That is why I feel very honored to be noticed by Steve and by Anthony. I sat just down the hall from John Christy at UAH when he ignited the first firestorm related to satellite temperature measurements by looking at old data tapes from the 70’s that no one had ever looked at! When he was doing that, I was doing my first scans of film from the Lunar Orbiters back then so some of his historical interest and data gleaning may have rubbed off on me. So I have always been interested in archival data and what it can teach us.

  5. Geoff Sherrington
    Posted Apr 1, 2009 at 9:09 PM | Permalink

    This is wonderful work. I am in a philosophy of science emotional crisis and it stirs the heart to see people go back to the start, to the real equipment, the original unmanipulated data and get the real story. DW, I dips me lid.

  6. Ron Cram
    Posted Apr 1, 2009 at 9:14 PM | Permalink

    Dennis, nice work!

  7. Posted Apr 2, 2009 at 1:05 AM | Permalink

    Wow! This looks like a real break through in the area of optical
    inversion technology. Unfortunately the results so far are slightly
    unclear and this probably is due to a well known
    symmetric calendar correction that should be applied to all new scientific results.
    The correction is very simple to do but it can still be used as a reason for
    requesting an upgrade of ones computing environment due to increased computing load.
    The correction that was left out, probably due to stress caused by the
    publication dead line, goes as follows.
    Dates are represented in many ways around the world but one form is
    yyyy.mm.dd (nice because sorting is very easy to do) where
    yyyy is some year with four digits.
    mm represents the month.
    dd is the day.
    It is a well known statistical fact that the date correction
    operators ++ and — should be applied in sequence like:
    followed by
    A simple check is then done. If the resulting date
    happens to have the form xxxx.04.01 where xxxx is an
    arbitrary four digit year then the results should be discarded
    as being statistically unreliable. The reason why the world
    seems to work in this way is not known.

  8. Posted Apr 2, 2009 at 1:26 AM | Permalink

    Not joking this time. The article focuses on a very important general problem where important data is lost due to the inability to read the storage media. Most people have already experienced the technology change where floppies have gone extinct but there is still valuable data stored on the old unreadable floppies. Perhaps we need some kind of active IT museums that preserve old machinery but still allows them to be used for data rescue.

  9. Scott Brim
    Posted Apr 2, 2009 at 5:20 AM | Permalink

    Data in electronic format — especially as stored in relational databases — which isn’t under active use for some current purpose usually dies after five or ten years for all practical purposes.

    Twenty years ago when the Washington State subproject of the Civilian Nuclear Waste Repository program was cancelled, the last job I did was to unload the groundwater hydrochemical data from their mainframe-hosted relational databases and write it into a series of reports that went both to paper and to microfiche — in addition to downloading the electronic formats to ASCII flat files. The reports were then distributed to a variety of interested people in various agencies with the objective that somewhere, someplace the information would survive.

    The electronic tapes made from the native databases twenty years ago have deteriorated to the point of being unreadable. I’m told that the data was eventually recovered by typing it manually into a modern client server application from the paper reports.

  10. Posted Apr 2, 2009 at 8:21 AM | Permalink


    I have found what you say to be the case across large swaths of technology. It is not enough to have 100 year media, you must have a 100 year media player to go along with it. We are lucky in a way that our data is straight analog data and NASA has done a pretty remarkable job in preserving much of the paperwork from the Apollo era, though a lot of that effort was due to the people like Nancy Evans in that LA times story that took the personal initiative (Like you did) and did what was necessary to do the preservation. An incredible asset out there is the NASA Technical Reports Server (http://ntrs.nasa.gov) with hundreds of thousands of documents from the space age that have been gleaned from libraries around the nation and world and scanned and thus preserved, at least for a while.

    One of the things that we are looking to do is find the original first generation Nimbus 1,2, and 3 data tapes that were also recorded on the same Ampex FR-900 that our lunar images were stored on. In another hat tip to Steve, we need as much data, and the best data possible in order to understand our world and provide guidance to the children who are our political leaders, to make the right decisions about what the future may hold.

  11. Wolfgang Flamme
    Posted Apr 2, 2009 at 1:38 PM | Permalink

    Even more early earth from space photos (1954!) here:


    There were several hundred missions of that kind – I wonder how much is left.

  12. Mike Bryant
    Posted Apr 2, 2009 at 8:26 PM | Permalink

    Dennis Wingo,
    Godspeed. The more we can learn the better off we are. There are some who will say that this is a misguided effort since the science is settled. It seems that you have found people here that will help in your project.
    My guess is that the media player that survives the longest will be books… real ones.
    Thanks for your efforts,

    • D. Patterson
      Posted Apr 3, 2009 at 4:16 AM | Permalink

      Re: Mike Bryant (#13),

      Sadly not. 18th Century and early 19th Century books will still be around long after most late 19th Century and 20th Century books have collapsed into dust. When publishers made the transition from alkaline rag content paper to acid wood pulp paper for most publications in the late 19th Century to the present 21st Century while extending copyright well beyond a lifetime, much of the last 130 years or so of books and magazines were doomed to slow oxidation into oblivion before they can be lawfully copied without permission of the copyright holder/s. To the extent of which human culture is defined by the transfer of human knowledge from one generation of humanity to the next, current copyright law and practices are destroying major parts of human culture and memory through poor laws and poor archival practices. The Library of Congress is losing books and periodicals from slow oxidation of their acidic paper faster than their images can be archived. Electronic publications such as this blog are ephermeral at best, until and unless they are committed to an archival medium. NASA was criticized during the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs for failing to adequately archive its products, but NASA officials at the time pointed the finger of blame back to Congress for not making aequate appropriations of funding for the purpose.

  13. curious
    Posted Apr 3, 2009 at 8:23 PM | Permalink

    Loved this story – thanks Dennis and pals!

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