Recently in the Technoarchaeology Category


Learning New Things From Old Stuff

Technologies that we've lost - and the quest to find them again, io9

"I asked NASA Watch's Keith Cowing about this, and he explained that this is just an urban legend. The schematics are all still around, mostly on microfiche, and any ancient computer files just hold images of the original plans as opposed to now unreadably obsolete data. Still, while the knowledge wasn't lost, it was certainly forgotten, and worse, it was badly organized. As Cowing - himself working on the rediscovery of old NASA documents with the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project - told me, all this archival information was basically abandoned until NASA's started working on the Constellation program last decade, and now that that project has been forgotten the information is again beginning to gather dust. If there is a point of disconnect, it's more in terms of how we understand the information and the different ways in which we approach science forty-five years on"

"If anything's missing, it's actually more the explanation. I mean there is some stuff that will never be found again, but it's all there, and the stuff that isn't you can sort of figure out backwards. Sometimes you need the equivalent of a Rosetta Stone, because sometimes the way we think today is not the way they thought back then. Sometimes you need an index or a document that explains how they did things or their nomenclature. That's the one thing that's sometimes hard to find is what I call a bridge document, an answer guide to how they did the thing back in the sixties. There's no FAQ."

Finding New Planets in Old Data

Planets Found in Decade-Old Hubble Data

"In a painstaking re-analysis of Hubble Space Telescope images from 1998, astronomers have found visual evidence for two extrasolar planets that went undetected back then. Finding these hidden gems in the Hubble archive gives astronomers an invaluable time machine for comparing much earlier planet orbital motion data to more recent observations. It also demonstrates a novel approach for planet hunting in archival Hubble data."

Hunt for Apollo’s lost dog Snoopy, Skymania

"Astronomers are teaming up with schools to use robotic telescopes over the internet to scan the night sky and find the spacecraft. The telescopes, part of the Faulkes Telescope Project run by Glamorgan University, are in Hawaii and Australia meaning schools can look with them during normal lesson times in the UK."

Technoarchaeology: Waking Up Propsero

"Prospero was the first UK satellite to be launched on a UK launch vehicle; it would also be the last. Ministers had cancelled the rocket project in the run up to the flight. However, as the Black Arrow was ready, the programme team decided to go-ahead anyway. Prospero was blasted into orbit from the remote Woomera base in the Australian desert. It turns out, the satellite is still up there. Carrying a series of experiments to investigate the effects of the space environment, the satellite operated successfully until 1973 and was contacted annually until 1996. Now, a team led by PhD student Roger Duthie from University College London's Mullard Space Science Laboratory in Surrey is hoping to re-establish communications in time for the satellite's 40th anniversary. "First, we have to re-engineer the ground segment from knowledge lost, then test the communications to see if it's still alive," Duthie told the Space Boffins podcast." More at the BBC

According to Wikipedia "As of 2006, radio transmissions from Prospero could still be heard on 137.560 MHz,[4] although it had officially been deactivated in 1996, when the UK's Defence Research Establishment decommissioned their satellite tracking station at Lasham, Hampshire. It is in a low Earth orbit, and is not expected to decay for about 100 years."