The Apollo mission talks with NASA Mission Control Center are digitized.

    A group of researchers has digitized thousands of hours of audio recordings from NASA archives. These are recordings of conversations between mission control center personnel and Apollo mission astronauts. With their help, researchers hope to improve speech recognition and analysis technologies.

    About this project and the difficulties in working on it - tell you under the cut.

    By the way, if you like to read about working with sound in microformat - our Telegram-channel .

    Photo of Salvatore Capalbi CC BY-SA

    about the project

    In 2012, a group of researchers led by Professor John Hansen from the University of Texas at Dallas requested NASA to provide them with access to the agency’s audio archives. The researchers wanted to use the recordings of astronaut talks with NASA's mission control center to develop and train speech recognition algorithms.

    Access was granted to the researchers, but they faced an unpleasant problem - it turned out that most of the audio recordings were not digitized and were stored in NASA archives on tape.

    The team decided to take up this issue, giving start to the project, which lasted more than five years. Scientists began digitizing all the records from the Apollo 11 space mission and most of the records from Apollo 1 of Apollo 13 and Gemini 8.

    The task of digitizing old films turned out to be technically difficult. Recordings could be played only on special SoundScriber devices, which were made in the 1960s for NASA. In total in the world there are two such machines made specifically for the agency.

    Installed in the command center, the devices wrote sound from 30 different sources on 30 separate tracks to the tape. However, to this day only one SoundScriber has been preserved in working condition . In this case, the machine could play only one track at a time. Considering that in the hands of the researchers there were countless films with records of 14 hours each, the project could drag on for a long time.

    “Even if doing this around the clock, digitizing the archive only for Apollo 11 would have taken us about 170 years,” said Hansen.

    To solve the problem, scientists modified the SoundScriber by developing a new reading head, which made it possible to read 30 tracks simultaneously. Plus, a solution was implemented for parallel processing.

    As a result, the archive of all four missions was digitized in just three months. The researchers then created a program that not only recognized speech, but also determined who spoke when and who posted the entries in chronological order.

    The archive will be publicly available to other scientists and university staff. Some of the records are already on the Explore Apollo website , which is dedicated to the Apollo 11 mission.

    Why is it important

    One of the main problems of NLP-systems is the problem of speech recognition in a noisy environment - when many people speak at once, there are extraneous sounds. The team of researchers and John Hansen hope that their work will allow to take a step in front in its resolution.

    NASA audio archives are recordings of conversations of many people at the same time in a real situation related to solving a number of complex tasks. Moreover, employees of the center in Houston often have a pronounced Texan accent in their speech, and recognition of different variants of pronunciation is not the strongest side of AI systems. Using such records to train ML algorithms will allow you to better “prepare” machines for working in difficult conditions.

    John hansen also thinksthat their work will open the door to the world of space flight for the general public. Usually we only see the work of astronauts, but we lose sight of the work of the people who accompany the flight from the Earth. These records will provide an opportunity to look into the heart of NASA. As Hansen says, this is a chance to find out about the “heroes behind the heroes.” NASA


    Other records

    Earlier in NASA have already published some audio recordings from their archives. In 2014 , records of the negotiations of the crew members aboard the Apollo 11 were posted on the agency’s website . All records are given in their original form, with technical noise and long pauses. Audio at some points leaves much to be desired, however, along with the corresponding files there are time stamps on which you can consult the text decoding .

    Also records of negotiations during NASA missions can be found in the official archive of the agency on . There are records of both old flights (from 1982) and modern launches.

    You can also find records of cosmonauts talks on the ISS on the Internet. For example, on this resourceThere are audio recordings made during a spacewalk and an emergency situation on board the station in August 2007. There are records on which astronauts from the ISS answer questions and tell how they rest and what they grow .

    All these archives and projects allow you to become better acquainted with the processes occurring in orbit in space and in the headquarters on Earth.

    More about sound in our “World Hi-Fi”:

    Also popular now: