LRO Takes Closer Look at Apollo 17 Landing Site

by Nancy Atkinson on October 28, 2009

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The Apollo 17 Lunar Module Challenger descent stage comes into focus from the new lower 50-km mapping orbit, image width is 102 meters [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].
The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter maneuvered into its 50-km mapping orbit on September 15, which enables it to take a closer look at the Moon than any previous orbiter. This also allows for comparing previous images taken by LRO when it was at its higher orbit. Here’s the Apollo 17 landing site: just look at what is all visible, especially in the image below! These images have more than two times better resolution than the previously acquired images.

Region of Taurus-Littrow valley around the Apollo 17 landing site. NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University.

Region of Taurus-Littrow valley around the Apollo 17 landing site. NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University.

At the time of this recent pass, the Sun was high in the sky (28° incidence angle) helping to bring out subtle differences in surface brightness. The descent stage of the lunar module Challenger is now clearly visible, at 50-cm per pixel (angular resolution) the descent stage deck is eight pixels across (four meters), and the legs are also now distinguishable. The descent stage served as the launch pad for the ascent stage as it blasted off for a rendezvous with the command module America on December 14, 1972.

Also visible is the ALSEP, the Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments, which for Apollo 17 included 1) Lunar Seismic Profiling Experiment (geophones), 2) Lunar Atmospheric Composition Experiment (LACE) to measure the composition of the Moon’s extremely tenuous surface bound exosphere, 3) Lunar Ejecta and Meteorites (LEAM) experiment, 4) central station, 5) Heat Flow Experiment, 6) all powered by a Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (RTG). Below is how it looked from the surface, taken by the Apollo astronauts.

View of the ALSEP looking south-southeast.  Credit: NASA

View of the ALSEP looking south-southeast. Credit: NASA

Compare these most recent images to one taken previously.

Apollo 17 LRO. Credit: NASA

Apollo 17 LRO. Credit: NASA

See more images from LRO’s previous looks at the Apollo landing sites

See more at the LROC site.

About 

Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also works with Astronomy Cast, and is a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

Tyndall November 3, 2009 at 10:45 PM

Sorry to bust your bubble folks but the Apollo 17 mission was never in doubt. The conspiricy theory is about the FIRST landing ONLY! This mission was YEARS AFTER THAT & also after the almost tragic Apollo 13 mission. Get me some pictures of that & we can finally put the issue to rest.
As for Hubble, it was designed to look at the darkest areas of space & as the moon is the brightest thing in the night sky, pics of it would be very dificult to get without over-exposure… Something you would know if you really worked on it, along with how to spell its name correctly.

Paul Eaton-Jones November 11, 2009 at 8:43 AM

I remember watching the whole of the Apollo programme and landings [as well as the Mercury, Gemini, Vostok, Voskhod etc] with bated breath and sense of wonderment and thinking when A17 left the Moon, “Within 15 years I’ll be there too”. Had things gone to plan I would have been holidaying there! I’m now 54 and feel that those pictures of the landing sites will be the only ones I’ll see never mind setting foot there. All very disappointing.

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