Japanese SELENE (Kaguya) Lunar Mission Spots Apollo 15 Landing Site (Images)

The Japanese lunar mission SELENE (Selenological and Engineering Explorer), also known as “Kaguya” has imaged the “halo” left behind in the lunar surface from Apollo 15’s lunar module engine exhaust plume. This is the first time a mission after the Apollo Program has detected such a feature. Apollo 15 landed on the Moon in 1971 in a region called Mare Imbrium, and SELENE’s Terrain Camera (TC) is continuing to reconstruct a 3D view of the region in unprecedented high-resolution.

The Hadley Rille, at the foot of the Apennine Mountains encircling the Mare Imbrium where Apollo 15 landed (NASA/JAXA)
The Hadley Rille, at the foot of the Apennine Mountains encircling the Mare Imbrium where Apollo 15 landed (NASA/JAXA)

Apollo 15 touched down on the lunar surface on July 31st, 1971 with David Scott and James Irwin, to carry out 18.5 hours of lunar extra-vehicular activity. This was the first “J mission” where a greater emphasis was placed on scientific studies. After the lunar module blasted off from the Moon, the lunar astronauts looked back on the launch site to see a fresh “halo” had formed after the surface was exposed to the module’s engine exhaust plume. The NASA astronauts took before and after shots of the landing zone where a lightening of the surface is evident. This halo had not been observed since Apollo 15, until the high resolution Terrain Camera on board SELENE imaged the region.

Apollo 15 halo as observed by SELENE (JAXA)
Apollo 15 halo as observed by SELENE (JAXA)

The image (pictured left) processed by the SELENE mission instrument team appears to show a bright patch in the exact location of the Apollo 15 lunar module landing zone at the foot of the Apennine Mountains around the Mare Imbrium close to “Hadley Rille.” The Hadley Rille is a sinuous rille with a length of 80km and depth of 300m. A “sinuous rille” is a long, narrow, meandering depression in the lunar surface (much like a river basin, minus water). One of the primary mission objectives of Apollo 15 was to understand the origin of this rille. The most likely cause of Hadley Rille is lava flow during early development of the Moon. For the Apollo 15 astronauts, this region will have been an awesome sight, especially being at the base of the towering Apennine Mountains.

Comparison between 3D SELENE landscape and Apollo 15 photo (JAXA/NASA)
Comparison between 3D SELENE landscape and Apollo 15 photo (JAXA/NASA)

The TC instrument has been instrumental in creating 3D visualizations of the lunar surface. In the example left, a comparison of the TC reconstruction and an actual Apollo 15 photograph are compared. Although some of the detail is missing (as the individual rocks are below the 10 meter resolving power of the orbiting camera), the scenes are identical. The SELENE mission (launched in 2007) continues to generate a huge amount of 3D data, contributing to some of the most detailed maps of the lunar surface ever created.

Source: JAXA

23 Replies to “Japanese SELENE (Kaguya) Lunar Mission Spots Apollo 15 Landing Site (Images)”

  1. Nice to see that us humans can still send spacecraft that can observe the previous human presence on the Moon.

  2. Oh well, I guess maybe they were possibly there after all. So much for the special Hollywood studio under Canaveral theory.

  3. Unless I’ve got my selenography wrong (and that’s quite possible) I found out another tidbit that just is extra curious. On this blog last weekend we were looking at this region of the moon (see http://www.universetoday.com/2008/07/11/weekend-skywatchers-forecast-july-11-13-2008/) and if I had just dug a little deeper I would have found out that Apollo 15 landed just south of Lunik 2! Truly an historic region. I think it was probably too far away to get to the Soviet crash site by go-cart, and anyway it would have been vapourized I suppose, except for the curious memorabilia which were intended to survive the crash. I wonder if there was any attempt to correlate these regions, or if the Soviet photography aided the selection of the Apollo 15 landing site selection? Or was it just mutual curiosity by both sets of lunar scientists? Oh, well, utter trivia, but just wanted to note it.

    Imagine being the first astronauts to take a buggy ride around this area in the next couple of decades!!!

  4. Kaguya has me longing for the closer, less stable orbit and HiRES camera of LRO, may she fly soon. 20 to 0.5 meter per pixel res versus the 5 meter per pixel res of Kaguya.

    In the search for the stingy releases of JAXA’s data, check the Japanese Image Gallery for the latest, generally made available two to three weeks before being posted on the English site ( http://wms.selene.jaxa.jp/index_e.html ). These Terrain Camera A15 shots have already been upstaged by the A17 Taurus-Littrow shots, and the latter are now finally on the English Flash Gallery, last I looked.

    Don’t neglect to take advantage of all the HDTV images there, either. The Lunar Farside shots of Mare Ingenii’s stunning Swirls, antipodal to the Imbrium Impact, are breathtaking.

    And there are already orbital photographs of the A15, A16 and A17 LM’s on site in the NASA mission archives, taken from the CSM vantage points.

  5. The amount of radiation an astronaut would recieve while traveling through the Van Allen Belt is the same as a dental x-ray.

  6. Truth will prevail
    the speculators must stop

    I think a lot of conspiracy theorist will have to remove their miss information especially the one about the wavy flag we all now know that a flag will wave more in a vacuum as there is nothing to stop it moving!

    Thank you for showing this

  7. The idea that the whole moon mission was faked is crazy. There is no way that many people could keep a secret. It would actually be harder to fake it than to actually do it. Not to mention, how do you fake the russians? But those that believe it was faked will probably say that the current missions were faked to cover for nasa…for some sort of crazy reason. Oh well, I guess its easier for some people to believe a lie than to accept the truth.

  8. I still think the Nixon Administration faked the whole thing, where is the hardware that they supposedly left behind. The rest of you are just so easy.

  9. I am with Hmmm. I want to see the lander, and especially the American flag. I am torn. I want to believe we were there, but, as a girl with a sense of humor, if it was a hoax, one cannot help but admire the scope of it. It doesn’t make me think a bit less of all involved. I have long had a dream of an especially lovely alien hoax, but do not have the resources to pull it off.
    Also, why have we never returned? Malcolm Forbes and Bill Gates should have “retreats” there. If it’s true then shame on us for never going back, and if it’s a hoax- well done, it held up for nearly half a century, and fooled the whole damn world. Also made us move forward toward the future. Hoax or not, it was one of the best moments of my life, and was a good thing for the people of Planet Earth.

  10. Looks like Apollo used an accurate back drop for there stage. I guess when you spend 1 Billion dollars on a movie, you a couple things right.

  11. The lunar missions passed thru the Van Allen belt in under 30 seconds, and they did register recieveing the equivilant to a decent chest x-ray. Or 3 years of radiation acumulated by living on earth. Don’t forget they were moving around 30,000 or more mph. The van allen belt is about 100 miles wide. Or about 30 seconds. also they were shielded in aluminum and coated materials to reflect cosmic rays and radiation. Thats the idea of having 1,000 engineers work with you who know something rather than an average Joe mentallity mechanics building a big back yeard deathtrap.. There aer now pics published on the web from the japanese probe, and also a enhanced via digital filters telescope from 2007 where all the lunar landers are visable, not the best resolution, but even the tracks in the dirt are visable. Just do some readin and research before fallign for the conspiracy idiots.

  12. Also consider trying to see a green van parked in a field from 200,000 miles away, on a rock that is 10,000 miles in Diameter. Even our best spy satalites are fooled by visible light adn they can read licene plates. But there has never bee the effort to use that sophisicated technology to lok at a huge rock in space to prove that we went there. The contast alone between the white/ gray lunar lander base, remember the lander left, Just the small base that held the landign gear was left, the rover, which is white, and some gear and the good old Old Glory. And tell me how easy it will be to spot on a 10,000 mile dia rock that is the same color as the stuf sitting on it, and that is smaller than a van? or a sedan? The contrast is not easily achieved. It has been done, there are pics online by a professor who pit digital filters on a 20 meter telescope in columbia university. you can see the stuff, just not crystal clear images. And japans newest sataliote is digitally mapping the surface for objects down to 3 meters in size. The lunar rover is only 2 meters long, the landing platform is 1.5 meters in size on top, then it has the landing legs which are just that. Legs. So what do you really expect to see with todays technology. If we put a 3 billion us defense satalite over the moon, sure we coudl find Lockheed and Nasa’s part numbers on the plates, ETC. But for what?

  13. We have satellites in orbit around the earth that take pictures at Hi Res down to the street able to see a car clear as day. Google earth even has Hi Res pictures. So for all to say that its not possible to see the surface of the man you are so wrong. Did you ever think maybe they don’t want us to see the surface? I am open minded to the apolo mission and i do be leave we went there. But i also be leave that from those missions things was learned that are Government does not want us to know about. As one of the Apolo astronauts are just know speaking out about what they say that day. We have the technology to see what ever we want its just not made puplic and never will. Is there little green men visiting are world? I have no clue and can not answer yes or no. But i do and will always have an open mind and try to view things that i don’t understand or have a answer for from both sides. There are many things we don’t know and will never know until its time or are government wants us to know. And for security reasons some things are best keep secret. Just think if are government said we found some new technology on the moon or something like that and it ended up in the wrong hands you all would be the first to say why did they not just keep it secret. You can’t have it both ways! But you can be open minded and respect all sides. Just because you can’t see something does not mean its not there or real. As in space you can’t see anything so i guess you would have to be leave that nothing is there and thats the end of it. Well if we did that we would still be looking at the moon and nothing past it.

  14. Not even the Hubble telescope will come close to picking up the lunar module. It is 350,000 km from the moon! The lunar module would have to be 15 times larger just to come up as a dot on a hubble photo.

    You’re obviously sorely mistaken about how far away the moon is (or how big it is) if you think our spy satellites are capable of getting any kind of clarity from the lunar surface.

  15. Burn, we’re on the same page. I guess I could have said it a bit more respectfully. Nevertheless . . . I use to believe the moon landings were fake (from that dumb Fox show) but then I did some real research and there is no doubt in my mind they are real.

  16. I can’t help but notice that the postings from those who think the landings were faked are full of misspellings, gramatical errors and factual errors. Even when they make valid points, their errors reflect their stupidity.

    Jeff says that Apolo used good sets for there fakery. Were Jeff smart enough to say their sets, I might be worried. I would ask how they think we convinced Jodrell Bank Astronomers to go along with the fakery. The Brits are so hard to deal with.

    I think the best shots of the fakery were the rover rides along Hadley Rille beside the Appenine Mountains. Now that’s great fakery! Or how about John Young bouncing along the lunar surface in his ‘rough test’ of the lunar rover.

    And the photos of the surveyor they landed beside and trucked over to retrieve parts, Good model making eh?

    Do you idiots think the folk who say we can make concrete from the the lunar regolith haven’t tried it? Why do you think we had them bring it back?

    Have you seen the damage done to the barely adequate space space suits by the dust? Can you fall down in slow motion? Or blast off from the moon like a bat out of hell in the later liftoffs that were televised by cameras left behind,

    Who in the world would train and train for a lunar landing, learn how to do it and then admit he did fake it. It’s just absurd. These boys were rough and ready combat pilots… not the types to put up with such bs. 99% of them would have punched out anyone who even brought it up. They could shoot down Migs… they would have nothing to do with embarrassing their country. Russia and the USA were in a race to the moon and we won it. Take a deep breath, blow out your chest and scream your victory scream as we dtd. THE RUSSIANS DON’t QUESTJON THAT WE DID IT! … why in the world should you? Every detail of every vehicle was designed to do its job… and they all worker. Even Apollo 13 would have made it, except for a manufacturing error.

    Get a life! One day soon the original landers will be closely guarded as the relics of our great successes. Today we have orbiters and landers around and on every planet except Pluto. And we’re on the way there. Crafts have returned asteroid and comet dusts. Space is deadly difficult, but now other countries are launching sophisticated rockets on the basis of what they learned from us and Russia. Don’t put down the pioneers of space…. my friends. They’ll come for you..

  17. This is great, I seen the special they did on TV about the SELENE mapping the surface, now we can finally see all the landing sites, they said photo resolution is so good you can see in detail craters 30′ in diameter which is about the size of the lander platform. You know I was wondering why they could not do that with the Hubble?

  18. That’s just where the technical movie team landed and set up cameras to fake the Apollo landings…told you we didn’t walk on the moon. Oh, wait…that means someone did walk on the moon. Nevermind.


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