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Wanted: Old-school IT guy to save NASA moonbase

For those who hadn't heard, NASA is gearing up to build a permanent moonbase in the next decade or so -- if it can find the right legacy hard drive expert to save their bacon.

Moonbase

For those who hadn't heard, NASA is gearing up to build a permanent moonbase in the next decade or so -- if it can find the right legacy hard drive expert to save their bacon. Seriously.

Here's how it breaks down: NASA learned the hard way during Apollo that moon dust is insanely abrasive, sort of like aerosol sandpaper. Learning how to deal with moon dust is going to be a serious issue for moonbase planners. Fortunately, NASA accrued all kinds of moon dust data during the 1970s.

Unfortunately, NASA "misplaced" all its moon dust data tapes, mostly because it never thought they'd come in handy. Since NASA lost the originals -- and thus never translated the moon dust data to modern media -- and all it has left are backups of the original data tapes, which can only be read by a vintage IBM 729 mark 5 tape drive. For those scoring at home, IBM stopped making the 729 in the 1960s. Thankfully, an Australian computer museum had one on mothballs, but it isn't functional.

Thus, if any of you old-school tech heads has the kung fu to get a 40 years out-of-date tape drive running, NASA has a job for you. It's sort of like the plot of Space Cowboys, only nerdier. And they say old IT guys have nothing to contribute.

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Jay Garmon has a vast and terrifying knowledge of all things obscure, obtuse, and irrelevant. One day, he hopes to write science fiction, but for now he'll settle for something stranger -- amusing and abusing IT pros. Read his full profile. You can a...

16 comments
maxwell edison
maxwell edison

It seems to me that IBM could (and/or would) make something that could read those tapes.

RayJeff
RayJeff

does "not function" mean that it's in need of repair and NO ONE from IBM can repair it? I mean, if it's that important, I think NASA can find a few duckets here and there to get IBM to do something, don't you think? Am I thinking? Would this be a dumb idea to NASA

shaliko1
shaliko1

what kind of tape drive,ie 8bit,16bit,32bit reel to reel ect. I have training in all of these and could contribute if asked

Michael Jay
Michael Jay

I will take the job. But would it not be easier, cheaper and more accurate to use the lunar samples we already have to research the moon dust issues in a modern lab? Just a thought.

jck
jck

I actually might know a guy who could do it. My dad's friend that worked in NASA's systems for over 30 years. Maybe I can get him to train me, and I can go get them to write me a $20M check to do it! lol

Emerson_Rob@Hotmail.com
Emerson_Rob@Hotmail.com

Let's hope the old school IT guy knows the difference between tape and disk..... How many passes do you think the tapes are good for? Let's hope at least one.

RayJeff
RayJeff

Like others have pointed out in this topic, it would be too much to think about what could actually be done to read those tapes, Maxwell. is this really that much of a no-brainer or even common sense that folks at IBM can' think of a doable solution???

shaliko1
shaliko1

what type of tape drive? 8bit,16bit,32bit reel to reel i have training on at&t,cipher and hp drives. if i can help contact e-mail

.Martin.
.Martin.

that would be logical...

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Hook them up with Dad's buddy for a $5 million finder's fee.

yooper
yooper

If the tapes were stored in an evironment that was dry with low RH then they could "theoretically" still be good. Of course, time is running out, and you want to transfer the data as quickly as possible. I have VCR tapes which are made from almost the same material, and some are fine after 20 years, and other stored in the same fashion are practically useless. I feel alot has to do with the manufacturing of the tape and the metal oxide used. I think it was pretty ignorant of the scienitists and engineers at the time to handle this data with such disregard. Granted, it's not as bas as if they threw all the moon rock in the trash basket after checking them out, but still!

realvannewkirk
realvannewkirk

Just make a lasso and throw it up over the moon and pull the moon down to earth so you can reach it. ok, i'll turn off the looney toons now

Michael Jay
Michael Jay

Note to self, remember not to think. Thinking things through is bad.. Thinking things through is bad.. Thinking things through is bad.. Thinking things through is bad.. Thinking things through is bad.. Thinking things through is bad.. Thinking things through is bad.. Thinking things through is bad.. Not only that but my suggestion cost me the project, CRAP.

jck
jck

that would happen. I'd friggin pay my taxes and retire and spend my days fishing and exercising and going to the bars. ]:)

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