The Alsep Data Recovery Focus Group of NASA’s Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute
Thursday, 18 December 2014
Astronauts on Apollo 12, 14, 15, 16, and 17 deployed instruments on the Moon for 14 geophysical experiments (passive & active seismic, heat flow, magnetics, etc.) from 1969 to 1972. These instruments were called Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Packages (ALSEPs). ALSEPs kept transmitting data to the Earth until September 1977. When the observation program ended in 1977, a large portion of these data were not delivered to the National Space Science Data Center for permanent archive. In 2010, for the purpose of searching, recovering, preserving, and analyzing the data that were not previously archived, NASA’s then Lunar Science Institute formed the ALSEP Data Recovery Focus Group. The group consists of current lunar researchers and those involved in the ALSEP design and data analysis in the 1960s and 1970s. Among the data not previously archived were the 5000+ 7-track open-reel tapes that recorded raw data from all the ALSEP instruments from April 1973 to February 1976 (‘ARCSAV tapes’). These tapes went missing in the decades after Apollo. One of the major achievements of the group so far is that we have found 450 ARCSAV tapes from April to June 1975 and that we are extracting data from them. There are 3 other major achievements by the group. First, we have established a web portal at the Lunar and Planetary Institute, where ~700 ALSEP-related documents, totaling ~40,000 pages, have been digitally scanned and cataloged. Researchers can search and download these documents at www.lpi.usra.edu/ lunar/ALSEP/. Second, we have been retrieving notes and reports left behind by the now deceased/retired ALSEP investigators at their home institutions. Third, we have been re-analyzing the ALSEP data using the information from the recently recovered metadata (instrument calibration data, operation logs, etc.). Efforts are ongoing to get these data permanently archived in the Planetary Data System (PDS).