From the University of Texas at Dallas:
NASA recorded thousands of hours of audio from the Apollo lunar missions, yet most of us have only been able to hear the highlights.
The agency recorded all communications between the astronauts, mission control specialists and back-room support staff during the historic moon missions in addition to Neil Armstrong’s famous quotes from Apollo 11 in July 1969.
Most of the audio remained in storage on outdated analog tapes for decades until researchers at The University of Texas at Dallas launched a project to analyze the audio and make it accessible to the public.
Researchers at the Center for Robust Speech Systems (CRSS) in the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science (ECS) received a National Science Foundation grant in 2012 to develop speech-processing techniques to reconstruct and transform the massive archive of audio into Explore Apollo, a website that provides public access to the materials. The project, in collaboration with the University of Maryland, included audio from all of Apollo 11 and most of the Apollo 13, Apollo 1 and Gemini 8 missions.
Transcribing and reconstructing the huge audio archive would require a giant leap in speech processing and language technology.
For instance, the communications were captured on more than 200 14-hour analog tapes, each with 30 tracks of audio. The solution would need to decipher communication with garbled speech, technical interference and overlapping audio loops. Imagine Apple’s Siri trying to transcribe discussions amid random interruptions and as many as 35 people in different locations, often speaking with regional Texas accents.
The project, led by CRSS founder and director Dr. John H.L. Hansen and research scientist Dr. Abhijeet Sangwan, included a team of doctoral students who worked to establish solutions to digitize and organize the audio. They also developed algorithms to process, recognize and analyze the audio to determine who said what and when. The algorithms are described in the November issue of IEEE/ACM Transactions on Audio, Speech, and Language Processing.
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