Many folks would like to see us back on the Moon and developing its resources.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

2009 - 10 ==1999 Lunar Prospector began extended mission

A new year begins and if you have a mission that has just completed
its primary mission, you are wondering if the extended mission will be
It was like that back ten years ago.
Lunar Prospector was to begin a six month extended mission and the
polar orbit about the Moon would be lowered, but how much?

None of these upper level discussions concerned me much, except to
maybe terminate my job.

I had supported the Pioneer missions before but they had come to an
end and I had been working for Lam Research for a year and a half when
I was asked if I would like to see if I could get live data for a web
site that was being developed for the Lunar Prospector mission.

Give up a full time job for a possible six month, part time job to
work with the Lunar Prospector folks. Yup, you bet.

Now a year had gone by, the Lunar Prospector web site was running and
folks could look at live data that came back from the Moon and was
slithered away from engineering displays by a Digital Corporation,
Micro VAX, and read from the file by a lowly PC running LabVIEW and
LabWindow/CVI programs.

The Lunar Prospector work stations ran on a secure, internal local
area network at NASA Ames Research Center, and was under the control
of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) down in Pasadena CA.

No way was a PC going to poke into the network with one hand and then
connect to the Ames network with another hand. Faces turned white
when this was suggested, hence the convoluted route for me to get
access to the data stream. A PC on a Work Station setup, you have to
be kidding.

The magnetometer folks in Berkeley had used LabWindows/CVI to write
their engineering check out software and had a complete data frame
structure set up but left the spectrometer folks data out of the
frame. By modifying the software just a bit to leave the spectrometer
data in the frame, one could send a file stream out to the Internet to
a loop back URL of which a LabVIEW program that expected a
Lunar Prospector data frame containing the spectrometer data could
look at.

Just run the LabVIEW engineering display program on the same PC,
getting its data from this loop backed data. Just tweak the program
a bit to grab the spectrometer data that was being displayed and back
hand it to the Lunar Prospector web server through a back door and
look Innocent. Look, I can juggle the data with one hand behind my

Of course I had no idea how to do this. What did the data stream look
like? Who had the documents that described what JPL was sending up to
the folks at Ames? How do you make heads or tails of all those
This is 69 pages and has the science data file layout, but you
probably don't want to look at it.
I mention it just to let you know what I was up against when trying to
figure out what had been written to look at the spacecraft data and
what I should be looking for when trying to sneak the data out of the
engineering displays.
You don't want to read this either. It is 152 pages. - LRK -

Well the extended mission was approved. The spacecraft was lowered in
its lunar polar orbit. Orbits were adjusted more often to avoid
running into the Moon as the Sun, Earth and Lunar gravity bumps
modified the track. The poor PC had been displaying the data locally
for tours and sending data to the Lunar Prospector web site.

The mission would end in six months, July 1999, and I will wonder if
other tasks are found for me to work on.
Lunar Prospector End of Mission Overview

So here we are now, ten years later, no longer at Ames and I have a
box of CDs that contain the data from the Lunar Prospector mission.
The programs I modified won't run any more on the newer versions of
LabVIEW and LabWindows/CVI. You too can get the raw data and try and
understand the software documentation to write programs to read the
data but probably not worth your time.

The mission low bid did not include money to do analysis of the data
either. A new grant had to be authorized for that and you can see
some of the results for the spectrometers web site at Los Alamos
National Laboratory and at the PDS Geosciences Node.

It was great fun. You met a bunch of interesting folks, got to
scratch your head, thumb through a lot of documentation, write/steal
some programs, and see the results in real time.

A couple of times your data display program quit showing new data
updates --- because the data stream had locked up on the spacecraft
and your curious questions as to what was going on, or not, sounded
the alarm and commands were sent to reset the spacecraft data handler.
Good PC, bad spacecraft, stuff hands in pocket and whistle while you

Now where did I put my coffee cup, KAW HANG.
If you carry a clip board they think you are doing serious work. :-)

Thanks for looking up with me.

Larry Kellogg

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