In the 60s NASA sent five Lunar Orbiters to photograph potential landing sites for manned missions to the moon. Each orbiter took pictures onto 70mm film, developed the photos, scanned them into strips called framelets and beamed the images to a receiving station on Earth where they were recorded straight to tape.

The photos were stored with remarkably high fidelity on the tapes, but at the time had to be copied from projection screens onto paper, sometimes at sizes so large that warehouses and even old churches were rented out to hang them up. The results were pretty grainy, but clear enough to identify landing sites and potential hazards. After the low-fi printing, the tapes were shoved into boxes and forgotten.

The Lunar Orbital Image Recovery Project has recovered and digitised over 2,000 of these images from a former McDonald’s in Silicon Valley, including the first ever photo of Earthrise:


The WIRED article has some other great photos too, or you can get really stuck in at LOIRP’s site.