posted 06-09-2006 05:21 PM
For years I have always looked in awe at the grainy archived photos of the original lunar samples brought home by our Apollo Astronauts. One object in these photos always stood out: What is that numbered rectangular device seen in nearly every lunar sample photo?
Later, similar devices would appear in Antarctic Meteorite Field Recovery photos:
I had my own obvious theories for its use but wanted to get more accurate information.
After speaking with some acquaintances at the Antarctic Search for Meteorites (ANSMET), I learned some interesting facts. These devices are called ‘Manual Counters,’ or simply ‘Counters.’ Their main purpose for both the Apollo program and ANSMET was to assign field or specimen numbers for photographic reference. They also provided a reference to scale in centimeters as well as grayscale for color reference.
There were at least four Counters used during the Apollo program in the Lunar Sample Facility. All four were ‘hand-me-downs’ to ANSMET from the Lunar Sample Facility. So the same counters seen in nearly every moon rock photo are currently in use, as I type, in the Antarctic Field.
One ANSMET official told me that he was almost certain these counters were hand built at the machine shop at the NASA JSC in the months before Apollo 11.
For me, the Counters made the photos seem more official and scientific and are a trademark of NASA's specimen photography. They will continue to be used for many years and will continue to make history in Antarctica while more rare and primitive meteorites are discoverd. These are truly unique and historical space program artifacts...though I would definitely consider them ‘hand-me-ups!’
On another note, you will also often notice a small square cube in these photographs. These are called Scalecubes and you can find a great historical write up on these artifacts on Dr. Svend Buhl's website: http://www.niger-meteorite-recon.de/en/meteorite-scalecube.htm
ANSMET's Website: http://geology.cwru.edu/~ansmet/
The Lunar Sample Laboratory Facility: http://www-curator.jsc.nasa.gov/lunar/lun-fac.cfm
[This message has been edited by fuzzfoot (edited June 09, 2006).]
[This message has been edited by fuzzfoot (edited June 10, 2006).]