The NASA Lunar Orbiter (LO) program was a series of 5 unmanned orbiter missions launched by the United States in 1966 through 1967 to study and map the lunar surface prior to the Apollo program landings. All five LO missions were successful, and 99% of the Moon was photographed with a resolution of 60 m or better. The first three missions were focused on imaging 20 potential landing sites for Apollo astronauts. Lunar Orbiter 4 photographed the entire near side and 95% of the far side, and Lunar Orbiter 5 completed far-side coverage and acquired medium (20 m) and high (2 m) resolution images of 36 pre-selected areas.
Images obtained by the Lunar Orbiters were photographs acquired strip-by-strip on the spacecraft and developed while in orbit over the Moon. Each LO exposure produced two photographs: medium-resolution frames (recorded by the wide-angle, 80 mm focal length lens) and high-resolution frames (recorded by the narrow-angle, 610-mm focal length lens). Both cameras were pointed so that the area imaged by the high-resolution lens was centered within the area imaged by the medium-resolution frames. The full LO dataset consists of more than 960 medium- and 980 high-resolution frames. The high-resolution frames are typically broken into three smaller sections or sub-frames, designated by H1, H2 and H3.
The Lunar Orbiter photographs were transmitted to Earth as analog data after onboard scanning of the original film into a series of strips. The data were written to magnetic tape and also to film. The film data were used to create hand-made mosaics of LO frames. Large-format prints (16 x 20 inches) from the mosaics were created and several copies were distributed across the U.S. to NASA image and data libraries. The resulting outstanding views were of generally very high spatial resolution and covered a substantial portion of the lunar surface, but they suffered from a .venetian blind. striping, missing or duplicated data, and frequent saturation effects that hampered their use. Nevertheless, for many years these images have been the basis of much of lunar scientific research. Because they were obtained at low to moderate Sun angles, the Lunar Orbiter photographic mosaics are particularly useful for studying the morphology of lunar topographic features.
This site presents a PDS archive of Lunar Orbiter data obtained by digitizing film strips (at 25 microns), constructing mosaics (pending), performing basic cosmetic correction (including removing the bothersome stripes, pending) and map-projecting the resulting frames. This project was carried out by the Astrogeology Science Center of the U.S. Geological Survey in Flagstaff, Arizona, with funding from the NASA Planetary Geology and Geophysics and Lunar Precursor Robotic Programs. Included in this archive are LO digitized and processed data, and documentation describing the LO mission, instruments, and processing steps.
File retrieval: Individual scanned strips (*.raw files) can be downloaded via ordinary
means within a web browser ("Save Link/Target as") or through other ftp protocol
(anonymous command line ftp, WinSCP, etc). Additionally, each 'frame'
directory contains a text file (*.lst) where each line entry defines the
URL path for each scanned strip located within the directory. This text
file can be retrieved and then used for bulk download within retrieval
tools such as wget, cURL, NcFTP, etc.
For example, after retrieving the following text file from the LO archive:
Lunar Specific GIS products: Contains a variety of additional Lunar Orbiter
products relevant to but not included within this film archive (e.g. map projected
frames, tiled mosaics, etc, suitable for working within GIS and ISIS applications).
NASA Planetary Data System: Data standards and access to scientific data from
planetary missions, astronomical observations, and laboratory measurements.
USGS Astro: Planetary GIS Web Server:
Online mapping tools for viewing and downloading multiple planetary data sets,
including imagery, geologic information, feature names, landing sites,