Friday, July 17, 2009

First Images of the Apollo Landing Sites

Space nerds have been eagerly awaiting images from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter – specifically pictures of the Apollo landing sites.

The anticipation stems partly from the desire to quiet the moon-hoax element once and for all. Sadly, as with all conspiracy theorists, evidence against their position will be ignored or explained away with thin logic, defensive postures, allusions to secretive cabals and logical fallacies.

Aside from those on the fringe, it excites the geek heart to see what remains of the Lunar Module and some of the scientific equipment left behind 40 years ago. And, as Phil Plait of the Bad Astronomy Blog puts it,

In all of human history, there are many dividing lines we can arbitrarily assign. Before and after the use of atomic weapons, before and after the discovery of the light bulb, before and after this war or that.
But there is one dividing line that can inspire us, fill us with wonder, make us dream of bigger goals, higher aspirations, better ways to live our lives for the future. And that is the dividing line between the time we were a race shackled to the ground, confined to a single planet… and the time a human being stepped foot on another world.

Yeah, that’s kind of it.


That is the Apollo 11 landing site - where we first set foot on the moon. The arrow points to what remains of the Lunar Module (LM). You can see the shadow it casts - the sun was clearly low on the horizon when this image was captured.

The bottom part of the LM remained behind because after landing it became essentially dead weight. The Ascent Module separated from the base as Armstrong and Aldrin blasted off to re-join Michael Cooper in the Command Module orbiting above. The diagram below shows the two parts of the LM.

This next image captures the Apollo 14 landing site where you can even see footprints…if only vaguely. Remember that with no atmosphere there is no weather on the moon. No wind exists to disturb the footprints in the fine silt (called regolith) that makes up the surface of the moon. Those prints will remain there forever until a meteorite disturbs them or we return to disturb them ourselves.

Understand also that these are not the highest resolution images that the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter is capable of. This is just a taste of even higher resolution images yet to come.

Thanks as always to Plait’s Bad Astronomy Blog

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