Tuesday, September 06, 2011

New LRO photos of Apollo Landing Sites

Remarkable new images of the Apollo landing sites on the Moon have been released by Nasa. (click photos to enlarge)

The pictures clearly show the hardware left on the lunar surface by American astronauts in the 1960s and 70s, including Apollo 17's "Moon buggy".

The images were acquired by the robotic Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), which has been circling Earth's satellite since 2009.
Such shots have been returned before, but these are the best yet.
LRO has recently lowered its orbit from 50km above the Moon's surface to just 25km.
This makes it easier to see equipment, such as the descent stages that put the astronauts on the surface. Some of the science experiments are visible, also - as are the trails of bootmarks left in the dirt as the crews positioned these science packages.
Harrison Schmitt sits in the LRV
The Apollo 17, 14 and 12 sites are the focus of the latest release.
They were viewed by the narrow-angle imaging system on LRO's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) instrument.
At the lower altitude, this instrument sees objects at a resolution of 25cm by 25cm per pixel.
In an extreme blow-up of the Apollo 17 Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV), it is just possible to discern the condition in which the astronauts Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt parked the buggy - with its wheels turned to the left.
LRO has been a highly productive mission. It has now returned several hundred thousands pictures of the lunar surface.