[amsat-bb] New Views - Apollo Landing Sites

Clint Bradford clintbradford at mac.com
Tue Sep 6 10:59:03 PDT 2011

RELEASE: 11-289


GREENBELT, Md. -- NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) captured 
the sharpest images ever taken from space of the Apollo 12, 14 and 17 
landing sites. Images show the twists and turns of the paths made 
when the astronauts explored the lunar surface. 

At the Apollo 17 site, the tracks laid down by the lunar rover are 
clearly visible, along with the last foot trails left on the moon. 
The images also show where the astronauts placed some of the 
scientific instruments that provided the first insight into the 
moon's environment and interior. 

"We can retrace the astronauts' steps with greater clarity to see 
where they took lunar samples," said Noah Petro, a lunar geologist at 
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., who is a member 
of the LRO project science team. 

All three images show distinct trails left in the moon's thin soil 
when the astronauts exited the lunar modules and explored on foot. In 
the Apollo 17 image, the foot trails, including the last path made on 
the moon by humans, are easily distinguished from the dual tracks 
left by the lunar rover, which remains parked east of the lander. 

"The new low-altitude Narrow Angle Camera images sharpen our view of 
the moon's surface," said Arizona State University researcher Mark 
Robinson, principal investigator for the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter 
Camera (LROC). "A great example is the sharpness of the rover tracks 
at the Apollo 17 site. In previous images the rover tracks were 
visible, but now they are sharp parallel lines on the surface." 
At each site, trails also run to the west of the landers, where the 
astronauts placed the Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package 
(ALSEP) to monitor the moon's environment and interior. This 
equipment was a key part of every Apollo mission. 

It provided the first insights into the moon's internal structure, 
measurements of the lunar surface pressure and the composition of its 
atmosphere. Apollo 11 carried a simpler version of the science 

One of the details that shows up is a bright L-shape in the Apollo 12 
image. It marks the locations of cables running from ALSEP's central 
station to two of its instruments. Although the cables are much too 
small for direct viewing, they show up because they reflect light 
very well. 
The higher resolution of these images is possible because of 
adjustments made to LRO's orbit, which is slightly oval-shaped or 
elliptical. "Without changing the average altitude, we made the orbit 
more elliptical, so the lowest part of the orbit is on the sunlit 
side of the moon," said Goddard's John Keller, deputy LRO project 
scientist. "This put LRO in a perfect position to take these new 
pictures of the surface." 

The maneuver lowered LRO from its usual altitude of approximately 31 
miles (50 kilometers) to an altitude that dipped as low as nearly 13 
miles (21 kilometers) as it passed over the moon's surface. The 
spacecraft has remained in this orbit for 28 days, long enough for 
the moon to completely rotate. This allows full coverage of the 
surface by LROC's Wide Angle Camera. The cycle ends today when the 
spacecraft will be returned to its 31-mile orbit. 

"These images remind us of our fantastic Apollo history and beckon us 
to continue to move forward in exploration of our solar system," said 
Jim Green, director of the Planetary Science Division at NASA 
Headquarters in Washington. 

LRO was built and managed by Goddard. Initial research was funded by 
the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters. In 
September 2010, after a one-year successful exploration mission, the 
mission turned its attention from exploration objectives to 
scientific research in NASA's Science Mission Directorate. 

To learn more about LRO, visit: 



Clint Bradford
clintbradford at mac.com

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