LRO Sees Apollo Landing Sites!

The NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) was sent to the Moon with the mission to identify safe landing sites for future explorers. But before the probe starts to do that, it had first returned pictures of past explorers landing sites, showing the Apollo Mission’s Lunar Module (LM) descent stages sitting on the lunar surface.

LRO-Apollo11 LRO-Apollo15

LRO-Apollo16 LRO-Apollo17

The descent stage is bottom part of the LM that stayed behind on the Moon. The top part – the ascent stage – is what took the astronauts back to orbit to meet the Command Module and then from there they returned to Earth.

The position of the Sun low in the sky causes long shadows on the descent stages (which is roughly 12 ft in diameter) and this made the modules locations evident. The region where the astronauts landed was quite smooth, so the object that can cast a long shadow there was the module itself.

LRO-Apollo14

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.

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. Bear in mind that these images are taken before the probe reached its final mapping orbit. Future LROC images from these sites will have two to three times greater resolution. Stay tuned!

Source: NASA LRO Mission Page
All images credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/Arizona State University

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~ by thChieh on July 19, 2009.

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