The Apollo 14 landing site imaged by LRO.  Credit: NASA

LRO Images Apollo Landing Sites (w00t!)

17 Jul , 2009 by

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As anticipated, NASA released images of the Apollo landing sites taken by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO). The pictures show the Apollo missions’ lunar module descent stages sitting on the moon’s surface, as long shadows from a low sun angle make the modules’ locations evident. Also visible are the tracks left where the astronauts walked repeatedly in a “high traffic zone” and perhaps by the Modularized Equipment Transporter (MET) wheelbarrow-like carrier used on Apollo 14. Wow.

As a journalist, I (most of the time) try to remain objective and calm. But there’s only one response to these images: W00T!


Apollo 11 landing site as imaged by LRO. Credit: NASA

Apollo 11 landing site as imaged by LRO. Credit: NASA


These first images were taken between July 11 and 15, and the spacecraft is not yet in its final mapping orbit. Future LROC images from these sites will have two to three times greater resolution.
Apollo 15 site by LRO. Credit: NASA

Apollo 15 site by LRO. Credit: NASA


These images are the first glimpses from LRO,” said Michael Wargo, chief lunar scientist, NASA Headquarters, Washington. “Things are only going to get better.”

The Japanese Kaguya spacecraft previously took images of some of the Apollo landing sites, but not at a high enough resolution to show any of the details of the lander or any other details. But here on these images, the hardware is visible. “It’s great to see the hardware on the surface, waiting for us to return,” said Mark Robinson, principal investigator for LRO.

Robinson said the LROC team anxiously awaited each image. “We were very interested in getting our first peek at the lunar module descent stages just for the thrill — and to see how well the cameras had come into focus. Indeed, the images are fantastic and so is the focus.”

Apollo 16 by LRO. Credit: NASA

Apollo 16 by LRO. Credit: NASA


The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera, or LROC, was able to image five of the six Apollo sites, with the remaining Apollo 12 site expected to be photographed in the coming weeks.

The spacecraft’s current elliptical orbit resulted in image resolutions that were slightly different for each site but were all around four feet per pixel. Because the deck of the descent stage is about 12 feet in diameter, the Apollo relics themselves fill an area of about nine pixels. However, because the sun was low to the horizon when the images were made, even subtle variations in topography create long shadows. Standing slightly more than ten feet above the surface, each Apollo descent stage creates a distinct shadow that fills roughly 20 pixels.

Apollo 17 LRO. Credit: NASA

Apollo 17 LRO. Credit: NASA


The image of the Apollo 14 landing site had a particularly desirable lighting condition that allowed visibility of additional details. The Apollo Lunar Surface Experiment Package, a set of scientific instruments placed by the astronauts at the landing site, is discernable, as are the faint trails between the module and instrument package left by the astronauts’ footprints.
Zoomed in Apollo 14 image by LRO. Credit: NASA

Zoomed in Apollo 14 image by LRO. Credit: NASA

Source: NASA

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AlekseyA
Member
AlekseyA
July 17, 2009 12:12 PM

If that doesn’t convince them, then I don’t know what will.

Dave Finton
Member
July 17, 2009 2:19 PM
I had a Facebook conversation yesterday about the old film from the original moon landing being erased, prompting howls of derision from the folks that thought the moon landings were fake. I pointed out that the practice of recycling used film back in that era was a common practice (it *was* rather expensive at that time). As an example there are some episodes of the original Doctor Who series that are lost forever because the BBC re-used a lot of film at that time, too. I also mentioned that this practice has convinced a small but very vocal group of people to believe that the whole Doctor Who series was staged by the BBC and that the TARDIS… Read more »
Jon Hanford
Member
Jon Hanford
July 17, 2009 3:58 PM

@ Dave Finton, tell it like it is! Readers old enough to remember the state of technology in 1969 will understand what lead up to what has been recently described by you and others, including NASA itself. Recycling tapes that had been copied and referenced were then prime material for re-use. Remember, this happened in 1969, when analog video technology from the moon was quite novel.

Pvt.Pantzov
Member
July 17, 2009 6:44 PM

this is nice. i’m looking forward to seeing the next batch of higher resolution pics. hopefully the sun casts a nice shadow for those as well.

shakalaker
Member
shakalaker
July 18, 2009 1:29 AM

what about shadows? why shadows are directed to other party?

rogueweapon
Member
rogueweapon
July 18, 2009 2:01 AM
@ Dave Finton, the only reason you erase something as significant to mankind as the fn MOON LANDING is if you are hiding something. Comparing Dr. WHO to the Moon Landing is ridiculous. NASA has never explained why a bunch of the Apollo 11 photos were obviously doctored, cross hares behind rocks, etc etc. I don’t believe that the originals were erased, they are being kept from the public. With today/’s computer technology, anybody could have analyzed that footage which would have blown up in NASA’s face. You guys do realize NASA was full of nazi scientists brought over by project Paperclip right? I’m with Richard Hogland on this one, there are structures on the moon and we… Read more »
Nexus
Member
July 18, 2009 2:25 AM
There is nothing in the moon hoax conspiracy “theories” that doesn’t evaporate in the face of some basic high school science. And calling them theories is a great insult to proper theories such as gravitation and evolution, what the moon hoax stuff is is a lot of uninformed, idiotic drivel peddled by attention seeking liars like Bart Sibrel (go Buzz!!!) and crackpots like Richard Hoagland. The correct explanation for the crosshairs apparently being behind bright objects is that some of these photos were overexposed, causing white to bleed into the dark- and the best proof that this is what has happened is that some of the photos, where the crosshair is on the American flag, show the crosshair… Read more »
kbutler
Member
kbutler
July 18, 2009 10:46 AM

Now wait a minute. Kooks-B-us has stated, and proven by the flag waving photos from wind that does not exist that the moon landings were in area 51. Is that where these moon pictures were faked?

Wait another minute. How do kooks know there is no wind on the moon if nobody went there? Do you think they were lying about NASA lying? Where does this chain of lying liars end?

Spoodle58
Member
July 18, 2009 5:54 AM

2012 rubbish, Fake Moon landings, Aliens running amok in corn fields, an Earth Centered Solar System.

I suppose even idiots are entitled to their opinions and theories, fine by me as long as they don’t ram their opinions down my throat, especially using non scientific methodology.

Back to the article, these images are truly AMAZING.

Jon Hanford
Member
Jon Hanford
July 18, 2009 6:00 AM

The moderator for the NASA page on these photos notes that future, higher-res images of Apollo 15, 16, and 17 should also reveal the Lunar Roving Vehicles ( moon buggies), although close scrutiny of the large scale pics reveal some possible objects that may be from the rovers. I don’t know the distance or direction that the LRVs were parked, so it’s hard to say for sure. Images of the Apollo 12 site should also reveal Surveyor 3, which landed on the moon in 1967. Congrats to all on the LROC team for these fantastic initial images.

Jon Hanford
Member
Jon Hanford
July 18, 2009 6:49 AM

Methinks rogueweapon has forgotton that NASA has all their footage of Apollos 12-17 that weren’t erased. Or did NASA goof up again and forget to erase these?

Molecular
Member
Molecular
July 18, 2009 7:30 AM

This is great news!! smile

Can’t wait to see the higher resolutions pics.

DJ
Member
DJ
July 18, 2009 8:55 AM

I am not one to join the conspiracy crowd but I have one question. With all the powerfull telescopes in the world why can’t one of them point to any of the landing sites with great deal and show the proof. I know the Hubble’s focal point is set to look deep into space and cannot work but there are a whole spectrum of telescopes from the professional to the amateur. Someone should have the right telescope to accomplish this. Right? What am I missing?

Torbjorn Larsson OM
Member
Torbjorn Larsson OM
July 18, 2009 9:13 AM
Aye, W00t! I believe I was speculating on seeing the Moon rover’s tracks, as LRO resolution at ~ 0.5 m is comparable to HiRISE def at ~ 0.3 m, which certainly sees smaller rover tracks. And possibly foot tracks, series of footprints. But if foot tracks are visible, by way of shadows, already at 2-3 times the final resolution, I was erring on the cautious side indeed. If that doesn’t convince them, then I don’t know what will. The difference between living in the real world and being satisfied with antiscientist faith is that nothing can persuade a believer. Ask them what could convince them about the falsity of their belief and they will be silent. They need… Read more »
Torbjorn Larsson OM
Member
Torbjorn Larsson OM
July 18, 2009 9:32 AM
I know the Hubble’s focal point is set to look deep into space and cannot work but there are a whole spectrum of telescopes from the professional to the amateur. Someone should have the right telescope to accomplish this. Right? What am I missing? Huh? You are missing that the focal point isn’t the problem. But resolution is. I’m not an expert, nor do I want to make the effort to look into it right now. But it is my understanding that telescopes with a focus set to “infinite distance” can be, and is used, to observe objects a few hundred meters away since it is practically the same viewing angle. Hubble has taken photos of the Moon.… Read more »
Nancy Atkinson
Guest
July 18, 2009 10:08 AM

DJ–That’s exactly what LRO has done: shown the proof. And they’ll show it better with subsequent images of the landing sites. Nobody has to ask the question anymore “why can’t a telescope or spacecraft show the Apollo landing sites.” It has now been done. End of discussion.

DJ
Member
DJ
July 18, 2009 10:38 AM
Nancy – End of discussion. Its not really is it? LRO is NASA. If you believe in the photos from LRO then you should believe in the videos of the moon landing from NASA. To counter any conspiracy theories you need independent conformation of the event. LRO is not. All I was trying to do was to see if there was an intelligent and logical explannation of why a land based telescope is not able to see any one of the landing sites with enough ‘resolution’ (as Torbjorn pointed out, but missed the essential question) to be definitive and to put the conspirators to rest. I do not know the engineering of telescopes and maybe it would take… Read more »
Jon Hanford
Member
Jon Hanford
July 18, 2009 11:22 AM
DJ – No currently existing earth-based observatory can resolve the LEM landers on the moon due to insufficient resolving power and distortions induced in the image by the earth’s atmosphere. Adaptive optics (used to remove some of the atmospheric blurring with some telescopes) would not work trying to image the Apollo sites due to technical limitations (I could go into more detail here, if needed). So, to answer your question, no, current earthbound telescopes cannot ‘see’ details on the moon the size of the LEM descent stage. Additionally, the Japanese lunar orbiter SELENE did find evidence of a lunar landing at the Apollo 15 site near Hadley’s Rille. See ‘Even the Hubble Space Telescope can’t see any Apollo… Read more »
DJ
Member
DJ
July 18, 2009 11:48 AM
Jon – Thanks, My faith in the intellectual quality of the Universetoday’s readers have been restored. Unlike the quick slap in the face remarks by a few readers. It is interesting, but yet consistent, that when a non-scientific minded person is asked a question to clarify their stance on an issue that they do not have an answer for they will do one of two things. They either become defensive or they resort to name calling and mockery. This is in hopes that they will not have to show their “inabilities” to engage in an intelligent debut, or they really do not know why they believe on an issue other than everyone else did the thinking for them… Read more »
Ivan3man_At_Large
Member
Ivan3man_At_Large
July 18, 2009 11:52 AM

DJ:

All I was trying to do was to see if there was an intelligent and logical [explanation] of why a land based telescope is not able to see any one of the landing sites with enough ‘resolution’ to be definitive and to put the conspirators to rest.

Dude, Dr. Phil Plait at Bad Astronomy gave a good explanation here:
Moon hoax: why not use telescopes to look at the landers?

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