Kuiper peruses a working copy of his namesake's Lunar Atlas.

Gerard Kuiper maps the Moon

Kuiper peruses the Rectified Lunar Atlas at the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory in Tucson, AZ. Thanks again for letting us visit!

As discussed earlier, Dr. Gerard P. Kuiper and science friendos published the first Photographic Lunar Atlas in 1960. This was the first time anyone had ever published a set of accurate, detailed photos of the moon.

Not long after the 1st edition was out, NASA asked the Air Force if they could fund another version dividing the moon into sections with a coordinate grid (the “Orthographic Lunar Atlas.)

In 1963, they published the “Rectified Lunar Atlas.” This 3rd edition would be used to scout for moon landing sites. “Rectified” means corrected for distortion; it showed each section of the Moon as if you were viewing it from directly above rather than from Earth.

They had to get tricky to correct the images; it’s hard to accurately represent a 3D object on a flat piece of paper, and extra hard for the Moon. Since we can only see one side of it from Earth, the edges are especially prone to warping. For example, a round crater will appear squashed into an oval.

In order to “rectify” the view, LPL projected 2D pictures taken from telescopes around the world onto a 3D globe and then took close-up pictures of different parts of the globe from a constant distance.

They thus effectively created their own “mini-Moon” to photograph the visible side from angles we can’t normally see from Earth. This way they were able to get clear and undistorted pictures of features on the edge, something that no one had done before.

Dr. Kuiper and the LPL didn’t stop at the Lunar Atlases; they continued lunar imaging as part of the Ranger and Surveyor unmanned spacecraft in the early and mid-1960s and beyond. The early probes were pretty amazing; they took pictures on film, developed them automatically INSIDE the spacecraft, and then sent scans of the images back to Earth. 😮

Since 1977, LPL has also been the home of the Space Imagery Center. LPL was also heavily involved in Mars Pathfinder, the Phoenix Mars lander, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and (most recently) the Parker Solar Probe and OSIRIS-REx. More on all of those later 🙂

Original post: https://www.instagram.com/p/BuB3cn6jA3J/

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