Follow along with Richard’s first hand narration of how historic events shaped the map, the cutting edge science involved in assembling the photographic base material, and the many explanatory notes included on the final design. The wall map is a piece of art, please enjoy
Please join me in celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Race to the Moon! Map co-author Richard Furno has allowed me to turn his keynote presentation into a post on my blog illustrating the trials and tribulations of creating this fabulous wall map for the National Geographic Society’s magazine.
Orbitor 5 Recap
Orbiters 1 through 4 had covered much of the Far Side (shown in green) but much was still missing. Orbiter 5 devoted time to photographing the rest of the unknown part of the Far Side, and as a result, nearly all of the remaining area was taken. After the mission’s success, NASA announced it had all the photos that would cover the Moon. I called NASA to see if their Far Side map was finished, since we would use it for our relief artist so he could render the relief map.
1967: NASA’S Moon Map
But, in fact, NASA had produced only a partial map of the Far Side and had no intention to finish a complete map of the Moon before our scheduled publication. What’s more, I was told that the one partial map they HAD prepared was put together very quickly and they could guarantee that the positional control of features was poor.
(Above) This is the 1976 edition of the map of that 1967 map which was probably greatly improved. It covered from 50 degrees south to 50 degrees north only. Eventually they would finish the polar maps to complete it but that didn’t happen until 1970, more than a year after we published the Moon map. This meant we would have to create our own positional control (selenodetic control) of the Moon’s Far Side features.
Dave is adjusting the globe, I’m moving the camera box and Vic is moving the light.
So we had to come up with another answer. Actually, it was natural for me to think of a scheme to solve the selenodetic control problem. I had learned and done technical perspective drafting for my architect father and I knew picture planes, station points, vanishing points, 2 and 3-point perspective, etc. inside out. As many know, rectification of photos is an exercise in perspective. Unfortunately, I had little time to do the control and we had no rectification equipment. The photos had to be quickly prepared for Tibor to use as he was rapidly finishing his relief of the Near Side.
We needed a large globe in order to reproduce the Orbiter / Moon configurations. It needed a latitude longitude grid preferably without other obscuring information. Well, there just happened to be a one-meter globe in old Hubbard Hall. On the globe, drawn in black ink by hand, was a 5° grid and the shorelines of the earth. With that in hand, we needed a platform to mount it and a slidable camera. Dave and I came in hammers and saws and literally built this contraption, sometimes making up the design as we went
The globe was mounted on a pair of rolling pins. A plumb bob hung from overhead that pointed to a center line drawn the length of a platform and which aligned with the globe’s center. A camera was mounted on a box so its focal point was half a meter above the platform and directly over a camera swivel. It could then be pointed in different directions while keeping its position directly above the platform’s center line. The platform was long enough in scale so all pictures would be within the range of all the Orbiter photos.
The setup made it possible to roll the globe into any position. We had a hinged measuring stick in front of the globe, with a half meter tick mark so we could align three key points, 1) a designated latitude longitude point (nadir point), 2) the center of the globe and 3) the camera focal point.
Dave Cook uses proportional dividers to mark the correct latitude and longitude for the camera’s Nadir point. The point is then set on the plumb bob string.
To take a picture of the globe, we followed these steps:
- Place the latitude longitude nadir point at the half meter point (by measuring stick) and in line with the tangential plumb bob.
- Move the camera to the scaled distance from the plumb bob (putting it directly “above” the nadir point)
- Mark the latitude longitude aiming point on the globe (we use a dark X on a piece of masking tape)
- Swivel the camera to aim at the Orbiter’s aiming point
The camera recorded a large film plate for accuracy (8 x 6 inches I think) and so the aiming point was clearly visible in the back of the camera. Vic Boswell did a miraculous job of lighting so that the negatives would show the grid lines all the way around the globe. He took about 5 or 6 exposures to ensure a decent one. Vic and I yakked constantly about “foreign cars” back in the day when they were still exotic. He had restored a 1948 MG TC which he drove around on sunny days.
Tibor is shown working on Tsiolkovsky crater on the Far Side hemisphere.
True rectification means taking distorted photos and removing the distortion. In our case, I would take the photographed grid, draft it onto the Orbiter photo and give it Tibor. He had to rectify the 5° gridded portion of photo in is head by visually subdividing the distorted photo square and mentally transferring the terrain onto a corresponding Lambert Azimuthal square.
Some photos were quite relatively perfect but many were severely foreshortened. While we took these pictures, Tibor was busy drawing the relief for the Near Side of the Moon. I needed to start giving him source material so it would be ready when he started work on the Far Side. Tibor drafted on some sort of paper. Other plates for the map were produced on cronoflex.
Selenodetic Control II
Same photo with Tsiolkovsky crater and holding the clear gridded overlay.
After getting the developed negatives, I had to calculate the correct size for the overlay positive, a more difficult task than I expected. The Orbiter photos were pieced together in strips, often slightly off register. Trying to size by the arc radius could be a tricky affair, but that and a couple of known coordinates made it relatively straightforward.
In the photo below, the moon’s limb is in the particular Orbiter frame and could serve as a way of sizing the corresponding picture of our globe. Yet, with the strips slightly off, it was never that easy. Frames showing no edge of the moon meant aligning by known coordinate points was the only way. I had to order each negative in several different sizes and would inevitably find the one that lined up with two or more known coordinate points on the photo. And when known points were only those by extension across the far side, it meant errors could start to add up.
With the correct, registered positive in hand, I pierced through the overlay at grid intersections into the Orbiter photo. (Notice the spots on the overlay. There was a lightly inked shoreline drawn on the one-meter globe and it appeared on all photos along with the grid.)
I used “ships curves” to connect the points. The gut- killer was that there was nothing I could use to check my work. I had to work across the entire Far Side hoping everything would meet up correctly. Fortunately it did.