[amsat-bb] New Views - Apollo Landing Sites
clintbradford at mac.com
Tue Sep 6 10:59:03 PDT 2011
NASA SPACECRAFT IMAGES OFFER SHARPER VIEWS OF APOLLO LANDING SITES
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
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:
clintbradford at mac.com
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