Tuesday, September 06, 2011

ASU camera captures sharpest images ever of Apollo landing sites

ASU's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiting Camera has captured the most detailed photos ever of the Apollo 12, 14, and 17 landing sites.

"On August 10 a special pair of stationkeeping maneuvers were performed in place of the standard maneuvers, lowering LRO from its usual altitude of 50 kilometers (about 31 miles) to an altitude that dipped as low as 21 kilometers (nearly 13 miles) as it passed over the Moon’s surface."

[right, the twists and turns of the last tracks left by humans on the Moon crisscross the surface in this LRO image of the Apollo 17 site. In the thin lunar soil, the trails made by astronauts on foot can be easily distinguished from the dual tracks left by the lunar roving vehicle, or LRV. Also seen in this image are the descent stage of the Challenger lunar module and the LRV, parked to the east.

The LRV gave the Apollo 17 astronauts, Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt, considerable mobility. As in previous Apollo missions, the astronauts set up the lunar monitoring equipment known as the Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package (ALSEP), the details of which varied from mission to mission. To the west of the landing site, the cross-shaped path that the astronauts made as they set up the geophones to monitor seismic activity can be seen.

To the east, more rover tracks can be seen. Cernan made these when he laid out the 35-meter antennas for the Surface Electrical Properties, or SEP, experiment. SEP, a separate investigation from ALSEP, characterized the electrical properties of the lunar soil.

Below the SEP experiment is where the astronauts parked the rover, in a prime spot to shoot video of the liftoff of the Challenger module. Credit, NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University]

[Taken in part from the ASU news release]

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