Efforts to Find, Recover and Restore "A National Treasure", The Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package (ALSEP) Data Set

Thursday, 18 December 2014: 1:55 PM
Lynn R Lewis1, Yosio Nakamura2, Seiichi Nagihara3, Clive Robert Neal4, Peter J Chi5, David R Williams6, Gregory K Schmidt7, Douglas G Currie8, Patrick T Taylor9, H. Kent Hills6, Mihaly Horanyi10, Eberhard Gruen11, Palmer Dyal12, John W Freeman13, Patricia H Reiff14, James Bates15, Mary Ann Hager16, Walter S. Kiefer16 and Derek Perkins17, (1)Retired, Lewis Associates, Former Co-chair of NASA Lunar Science Institute Recovery of Missing ALSEP Data Focus Group, Former ALSEP hardware Dep. PM, San Gabriel, CA, United States, (2)University of Texas at Austin, Institute for Geophysics, Austin, TX, United States, (3)Texas Tech Univ, Lubbock, TX, United States, (4)Univ Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN, United States, (5)University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA, United States, (6)NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, NSSDCA, Code 690.1, Greenbelt, MD, United States, (7)NASA Lunar Science Institute, Moffett Field, CA, United States, (8)University of Maryland College Park, College Park, MD, United States, (9)NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Code 698 / Planetary Geodynamics, Greenbelt, MD, United States, (10)University of Colorado at Boulder, Physics, Boulder, CO, United States, (11)Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, Boulder, CO, United States, (12)Retired, Los Altos Hills, CA, United States, (13)Retired, Professor Emeritus, Rice Univ., Houston, TX, United States, (14)Rice University, Houston, TX, United States, (15)Retired, Formerly Johnson Space Center, Alvin, TX, United States, (16)Lunar and Planetary Institute, Houston, TX, United States, (17)Retired , formerly Bendix Aerospace Systems Division, ALSEP LEAM Hardware and Support Mgr., Charlotte, NC, United States
ALSEP science stations were deployed by Apollo astronauts at 5 Apollo lunar landing sites and were comprised of 13 active science experiments which were flown 4 to 8 at a time. All ALSEPs were turned-off on 9-30-1977, after they had generated a data set of 31 system data years and an experiment data set of over 100 data years. The 3 passive laser retroreflector experiments are still providing useable return signals. The plan was for NASA to archive the raw data, while PI Teams archived their processed data in GSFC-NSSDC. In 1975 funding for science experiments was drastically reduced. Archiving of experiments data was incomplete and in other cases experiment years of data were never analyzed. JSC's ALSEP operations manager at-end-mission stressed that the 10s of 1,000s of pages of ALSEP operational and background materals be archived in Lunar and Planetary Library for future use. In 2004 there was a renewed interest in old ALSEP science data. However, current investigators found ALSEP data very difficult to use because of its archaic formats, rerecording artifacts, and lack of suitable playback tape transports. In 2007 a group of original ALSEP personnel, current lunar investigators, and personnel from NSSDC began an effort to help solve ALSEP data availability problems. NSSDC PDS established a Lunar Node whose role was to restore the existing ALSEP data into forms which could be used by current lunar investigators. Excellent progress was achieved in several areas*. In 2010 NLSI made the Recovery of Missing ALSEP Data, a NLSI Focus Group. The group estimated 50 percent of ALSEP processed data and 80 percent of ALSEP experiments raw data were never archived with NSSDC. We suspect archival raw data tapes for the first 44 ALSEP mission months (AMM) were degaussed and reused, those for AMM 45 to 79 were lost, misplaced or destroyed in a complex system of NASA, government, industrial storage facilities (except for ~450 tapes located by S. Nagihara). The last 19 AMMs of archival raw data were retained by the University of Texas-Austin and made available in a useful form to NSSDC and science community. This leaves direct contacts with the original PI Teams as the best method for recapturing the missing ALSEP raw and processed data. There is time urgency due to advanced age of most Team Members.

*LASER Programs reported session/posters