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Space & Astronomy

NASA to digitize data from Viking landers

By T.K. Randall
July 25, 2016 · Comment icon 21 comments

Legendary astrophysicist Carl Sagan with a model of the Viking lander. Image Credit: NASA / JPL
The data recorded during the historic Viking Mars missions is set to be archived in digital form.
With Curiosity still trundling around on the Martian surface and with another follow-up rover due to be launched within the next few years, it's easy to forget that it hasn't been that long since the idea of landing a spacecraft on the surface of Mars seemed like little more than science fiction.

NASA first accomplished this feat with its Viking landers - two ambitious robotic probes that not only succeeded in landing on the surface but even attempted to search for evidence of alien life.

One of their experiments, which aimed to find organic molecules by mixing water and nutrients with samples of the Martian soil, had initially returned promising results, but after an extensive analysis of the findings it was eventually determined that the result was most likely a false positive.
Now the data from these experiments and more is set to become available for anyone to view thanks to a new project designed to digitize the microfilm reels used to store the mission data.

"I remember getting to hold the microfilm in my hand for the first time and thinking, ‘We did this incredible experiment and this is it, this is all that’s left,’" said David Williams of NASA's Space Science Data Coordinated Archive.

"If something were to happen to it, we would lose it forever. I couldn’t just give someone the microfilm to borrow because that’s all there was."

Source: Gizmodo | Comments (21)

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #12 Posted by Noteverythingisaconspiracy 6 years ago
How does pictures of Mars compromise national security ? You do know that other countries have space crafts capable of imaging Mars ? Right now NASA, ESA and ISRO have satellites orbiting Mars and the Soviet Union had some too. (you know those commy bas.t.ards). Other countries have missions planned too. Why do you think that the images would be in the White House anyway ? By the way why are commy bas.t.ards particularly interested in Mars ? Because it is the Red planet ?  I am afraid that this is a very poorly thought out conspiracy theory.
Comment icon #13 Posted by Zalmoxis 6 years ago
I am not suggesting the suppression of scientific data and knowledge. The data of a NASA mission is sensitive material. The NASA missions are not an integral part of daily civilian life. If all of NASA's activities were 100% top secret the lives of American's would not change. Much like the military who are closely linked to the activities of NASA, NASA must maintain full discretion at all times. This ain't a biology study in a bog marsh. It's not a science class at the university. Those scientists aren't on a mission. National security risks can be culled from any sensitive mission data. Ther... [More]
Comment icon #14 Posted by Zalmoxis 6 years ago
It wouldn't necessarily be data itself but procedures, coding methods and other operative processes that would be revealed through declassifying documents without editing them. Much like how a hacker wants your IP address, not the pictures of your Aunt Tammy saved on your hard drive. The photos of Mars inherently have little value to a spy. Their goal is to defeat America, not learn about other planets.
Comment icon #15 Posted by toast 6 years ago
What do you mean by "sensitive material" in general? NASA missions connected to US Defense and Intelligence Agencies are sensitive and classifyed, yes. But missions that are not related to these ones are not sensitive and not classifyed. If you think different, you follow a CT. 
Comment icon #16 Posted by toast 6 years ago
So as per yr strange logic, e.g. images of the surface of Ceres are of need to defeat the USA?
Comment icon #17 Posted by Thorvir Hrothgaard 6 years ago
And you do? /facepalm The info is actually on secure servers, not filing cabinets.....oh wait, that's not secure either.  Nevermind.
Comment icon #18 Posted by Noteverythingisaconspiracy 6 years ago
I am looking forward to an answer to that question.  I won't hold my breath on it though. If I did I would probably die of asphyxiation. 
Comment icon #19 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf 6 years ago
I see two possibilities here: Zalmoxis is simply making stuff up because he is trolling. Zalmoxis is simply making stuff up because he genuinely believes the nonsense he is posting. In either case I see no possible way to have a rational debate with him, so I'm cutting my loses and will do something more productive... like banging my head against a brick wall. Good luck to those of you continuing to try and get some sense out of him.  
Comment icon #20 Posted by Zalmoxis 6 years ago
Material need not be classified to prevent public access. Top secret documents are off limits to insiders as well as the public. I'm not sure what a CT is but I'm Googling it. "Sensitive material" isn't necessarily the content of a document, it could be codenames, file codes, dates and page numbers, things you wouldn't think that would be all that sensitive if you were the average Joe reading them.
Comment icon #21 Posted by Zalmoxis 6 years ago
  This discussion has veered off my original remarks: In response to this remark: It wasn't a serious statement that was intended for a deep discussion startpoint. Simply, my belief is that all top secret documents and all mission documents should be edited even if the data isn't sensitive. If you want a full un-edited version then apply for a job and do it behind the counter. I really don't want to explore the details of what is sensitive data and what is not sensitive data. Thanks anyways.

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