Join 3,552 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


New photos of several Apollo landing sites
September 6, 2011 11:52 PM   Subscribe

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has taken new photos of the landing sites of Apollo 12, 14 and 17. Almost 40 years after the missions, the tracks made by the astronauts and the Lunar Rover are still visible.
posted by Brandon Blatcher (74 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
Until LRO photographs Alan Shepard's balls, I won't believe a word of this.
posted by lukemeister at 11:59 PM on September 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Obviously photoshopped. The letters and arrows aren't casting shadows. Do they really think anyone's going to buy this?
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 12:06 AM on September 7, 2011 [6 favorites]


I know it's meant in jest, but could we leave the moon hoax idiots out of this? It's not worth anyone's time.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:09 AM on September 7, 2011 [7 favorites]


I've been waiting for years to see photographs like this. Awesome post. Thank you.
posted by troll at 12:21 AM on September 7, 2011


This interactive shows two LRO images of the Apollo 17 landing site. Click and drag on the white slider bar to wipe from one to the other. The left image was released today; the right image is a zoom-in on an LRO image released in 2009. LRO was moved into a lower orbit to capture the new image.
posted by homunculus at 12:21 AM on September 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


Ha! Everyone knows that steel can't melt at -- wait, which conspiracy theory is this?
posted by dirigibleman at 12:27 AM on September 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'm hoping they'll see evidence of a short, hesitant step out from the base of the lander, then a stretch of undisturbed lunar surface, and then two feet coming down hard in the dust.
posted by pracowity at 12:28 AM on September 7, 2011 [5 favorites]


On viewing of homunculus's link, that was pretty much awesome.

(back and to the left)
posted by dirigibleman at 12:29 AM on September 7, 2011


These photos are spectacular.

Also, the LRO has a Facebook page? What?
posted by arcticseal at 12:29 AM on September 7, 2011


The most interesting thing on the moon is still us.
posted by pracowity at 12:35 AM on September 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


It would quite disturbing if the tracks weren't still visible.
posted by Kevin Street at 12:36 AM on September 7, 2011 [5 favorites]


I always wondered if the conspiracy theorists were claiming that the first moon landing was faked or if all of them were faked. Because, you will notice, and they will too, that there are no images of the Apollo 11 landing site here...

Anyway, it was a pretty good movie. That hot brunette was always telling Elliot Gould to "jump" her and OJ Simpson hadn't stabbed anybody yet. And the guy from the Killing Fields of Cambodia was quite the clown.

It was the cynical 70s so everybody assumed OJ and Killing Fields were killed, but I think the psychopaths at NASA would realize that they shouldn't kill anybody until all the astronauts were herded up. So when that guy slo-moed his own funeral, I assumed the others were still alive. The 70s and I never saw eye to eye.
posted by Max Udargo at 12:40 AM on September 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


Kevin Street, pun intended?
posted by 7segment at 12:41 AM on September 7, 2011


My understanding is that these marks will remain visible for thousands of years, if not more. As long as it takes for random impacts to obscure them.

It's interesting to think of these as perhaps humanity's longest lived monument to itself. It doesn't seem unreasonable to imagine they will outlive the organization and nation that created them.
posted by feloniousmonk at 12:45 AM on September 7, 2011 [14 favorites]


Images from Apollo 11 landing site in high resolution from 2009 taken by the LROC.
posted by baueri at 12:53 AM on September 7, 2011


Because, you will notice, and they will too, that there are no images of the Apollo 11 landing site here...

Because they are completely irrational and idiotic on this subject.

Here's where various ships landed on the moon. It's easy to draw a straight line between the landing sites of Apollo 12,14 and 17, especially if you're a probe flying 13 miles above.

Never-mind that LRO has taken less detailed photos of the Apollo 11 site. It's usual orbital height is 50 miles, the newer ones of 12, 14 and 17 are from 13 miles up. Perhaps they'll take more photos of Apollo 11's site in time.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:53 AM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


@Brandon

But laughing at the moon hoax clownshoes is so much *fun*.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 1:25 AM on September 7, 2011


I like the way that NASA scientist, like, y'know, talks to the, like, public, y'know?
posted by Mooseli at 1:59 AM on September 7, 2011


My understanding is that these marks will remain visible for thousands of years, if not more. As long as it takes for random impacts to obscure them.

Or until tourists and treasure hunters fuck them up.

I think NASA has published guidelines for preserving the sites -- I skimmed them somewhere today on a link from something above, though of course I can't find them now -- but you won't keep people away from these places unless you build guarded domes over them. It will be someone's fate to sit in a little security hut outside the door to the Tranquility Base Historical Monument, make periodic checks of the perimeter, and keep an eye out for visitors trying to carry off chunks of stuff or stand where Armstrong stood.
posted by pracowity at 2:02 AM on September 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


If left undisturbed by future explorers from Earth, the Apollo sites will be around for millions of years. In fact if mankind were to die out on earth in a million years or so, given the rate of erosion and plant growth on Earth, those frail landers might be the most obvious signs that we were ever here if aliens turned up in the far distant future.
posted by joannemullen at 2:23 AM on September 7, 2011 [6 favorites]


pracowcity - the site itself is down - but here's a link to the Google cache for Protecting Apollo sites from future visiting vehicles under NASA evaluation
posted by Jofus at 2:41 AM on September 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Or until tourists and treasure hunters fuck them up.

Don't worry, they'll be carefully recreated with a tasteful themepark built around them.
posted by DU at 5:02 AM on September 7, 2011


You Americans, leaving a mess behind wherever you go.
posted by stinkycheese at 5:13 AM on September 7, 2011


DU, I was really hoping you had linked to this.
posted by Jpfed at 5:33 AM on September 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


This interactive shows two LRO images of the Apollo 17 landing site. Click and drag on the white slider bar to wipe from one to the other. The left image was released today; the right image is a zoom-in on an LRO image released in 2009. LRO was moved into a lower orbit to capture the new image.

You'd think they could have found a better parking spot? It looks like they had to carry those rocks two blocks. Must have found a free meter.
posted by Gungho at 5:53 AM on September 7, 2011


Seriously though, Why is the Lunar Rover parked so far away from the landing site? Did they just set it loose? Did they park it there and walk back? Did they have remote control, and leave it there on purpose?
posted by Gungho at 5:54 AM on September 7, 2011


Seriously though, Why is the Lunar Rover parked so far away from the landing site? Did they just set it loose? Did they park it there and walk back? Did they have remote control, and leave it there on purpose?

So they could take video of the ascent stage launch and also to prevent the rover from being damaged by the ascent engine.
posted by bondcliff at 5:56 AM on September 7, 2011


As an aside...I caught a bit of History Detectives last night. It turns out that engineers working on the lunar module smuggled personal items...family photos, etc...onto the descent stage, sandwiched between the layers of the foil protective blankets that covered the exterior of the craft.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:15 AM on September 7, 2011


It looks like they had to carry those rocks two blocks.

They unloaded the rover and moved the rocks to the ascent stage of the LM via the "Brooklyn Clothesline". Then the commander drove it about 300 feet away as bondcliff said.

Here's the launch videos: Apollo 15, 16 and 17. The camera was operated by Ed Fendell, who had to deal with a several seconds delay. Note how he gets progressively better at capturing the lift off and ascent of the lunar module.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:30 AM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I liked it when the lesser-known acts would open for the big names. Real R&B and soul!
posted by clvrmnky at 6:39 AM on September 7, 2011


Also, the LRO has a Facebook page? What?

My feed is mostly NASA. The day Juno launched, I fired up my computer and saw a "watch live" link and thought, oh yeah, that's today. I clicked on the box and caught the countdown at T -5 seconds. That's timing.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:44 AM on September 7, 2011


So they could take video of the ascent stage launch

That part makes sense, but this part

and also to prevent the rover from being damaged by the ascent engine.

doesn't. Were they worried about resale value or something?

If anything, they might have been afraid of the reverse: somehow damaging the ascent module with the rover ("Shit! I thought it was in park!") and getting stuck on the moon with a used golf cart and a box of rocks.
posted by pracowity at 6:57 AM on September 7, 2011


Great stuff. Thanks, OP.
posted by Capt. Renault at 7:26 AM on September 7, 2011


Or until tourists and treasure hunters fuck them up.

We should be so lucky.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:26 AM on September 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Were they worried about resale value or something?

You ever see what a pelting with Lunar regolith will do to the trade value on a rover?

In all seriousness, I believe the folks at NASA expected we would be returning to those sites a lot sooner than we actually will be returning. Valuable information was obtained by Apollo 12 retrieving parts from the Surveyor craft, I'd expect they'd want to avoid damaging the Apollo equipment if they could.

Mostly they wanted to be able to film the ascent though.
posted by bondcliff at 7:33 AM on September 7, 2011


and also to prevent the rover from being damaged by the ascent engine.

doesn't. Were they worried about resale value or something?


I think the NASA mission planners were optimists. They likely thought there was an outside chance that another mission would return within a reasonable amount of time and be able to reuse or salvage some of the equipment left behind. In any case, if you have the option of putting a perfectly good piece of equipment where it would be safe versus where it would likely be damaged, even if the chance of re-use was very low, you leave it in the safe place, of course. A practical mindset.
posted by aught at 7:35 AM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Not quite on topic, but perhaps of interest to this crowd -- having read Mike Collins' Carrying the Fire this summer, I'd highly recommend it. It gives a great overview of his time at NASA, without getting bogged down in the details -- and if you know the details, his choices of what to gloss over becomes even more interesting. Explains very well the relationship between the three men, and their perceptions of each other. Plus, Collins can be a bit of a social dinosaur amid the cultural changes then happening, which are funny in an 'Oh, Grandpa' sort of way. Great read. Big but breezy.
posted by Capt. Renault at 7:59 AM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Excuse me. These photos are not spectacular. "We" have the capability to see below the ground all over this planet, mine for assets in any location, with great accuracy. "We" have the capability to see to the beginnings of our universe as we know it, and we CAN'T take a closeup of the Moon? I can't even imagine how much "we" paid for these crappy, low focus, photographs, but it had to be too much, considering their quality.

C'mon, I can stand on a moving sailboat, hand holding $6000 worth of camera and lens, and take crisply focused photos of land masses miles away, and you are calling these billion dollar photos spectacular. "We" are not getting our money's worth, or the views of "our" moon we deserve, as taxpayers, as consumers.

That scientist has been coached about eye movements to avoid, while modeling the truth as if it were Play-doh. We should by now, be able to see every square inch of Earth's Moon, in absolutely clear focus. We are not paying for guesstimates, or virtual reenactments of flyovers.
posted by Oyéah at 8:02 AM on September 7, 2011


That is awesome, especially the Apollo 12 pics. I always thought that mission was a damn miracle, locating and landing near the Surveyor 3 craft, and taking back pieces of it to analyze how it held up under lunar conditions. And that indicates both sides of the problem. NASA already understands the long-term scientific value of equipment left at the site, AND also violated their own (future) guidelines for preserving historic sites. According to Jofus' link, all the Surveyor landers are now designated Heritage Sites.
posted by charlie don't surf at 8:07 AM on September 7, 2011


"Conspiracy" is one of my favorite words, etymologically. Breathing together.
posted by pracowity at 8:08 AM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


...having read Mike Collins' Carrying the Fire this summer...

You should definitely read Deke! and Rocketman if you liked Carrying the Fire.

Were they worried about resale value or something?

They probably watned keep the camera on the rover running as long as possible.

C'mon, I can stand on a moving sailboat, hand holding $6000 worth of camera and lens, and take crisply focused photos of land masses miles away

Good enough to see foot prints?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:10 AM on September 7, 2011


Can you launch your fancy $6,000 camera into a mile-per-second orbit only thirteen miles above the surface of a body 240,000 miles away and still have it take fantastic pictures?

No?

Then stop bitching.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 8:11 AM on September 7, 2011 [6 favorites]


Excuse me. These photos are not spectacular.

These photos were taken by a robotic spacecraft orbiting a world walked on by only twelve humans. They show 40 year old footprints, footprints that are in the exact same condition that they were in when the boots made them. These boots were designed to protect those humans from the vacuum and extreme temperatures of space. The footprints originate at a spacecraft, or at least part of one, that was designed and built within ten years after some dude suggested they build it. This spacecraft landed on the moon less than seventy years after humans made their first powered flight.

Some day our grandkids, or their grandkids, might be able to walk up to the velvet rope surrounding these sites and take holographic video of these things. When that happens, that will certainly be more spectacular.

But for now, these photos, taken by one spacecraft of another spacecraft, taken 230,000 miles away from the nearest human, are really fucking spectacular.
posted by bondcliff at 8:14 AM on September 7, 2011 [9 favorites]


Excuse me. These photos are not spectacular.
.....we deserve, as taxpayers, as consumers.


How about as citizens? Are we getting what we deserve as citizens?
posted by Phlegmco(tm) at 8:22 AM on September 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


No, they are not spectacular, we have not used the best available technology. We can do much better than what we are seeing, and that is my complaint. I maintain that "we" don't get to see the details, because we don't.

I maintain that if this is the best they did with the money, then it was money wasted. They are looking for something else and the photos are a byproduct. If the photos are the target of the mission, then the mission is a bust.
posted by Oyéah at 8:23 AM on September 7, 2011


You should definitely read Deke! and Rocketman if you liked Carrying the Fire.

Deke! is in the reading pile. I'd also recommend the recent bio on Gus, which is good from a purely informational point of view. Info on the early days not coming from the hand of Tom Wolfe. Goes into the hatch incident in depth, and comes out with something much more balanced and less sensational.

posted by Capt. Renault at 8:26 AM on September 7, 2011


These photos are a bonus, not the target of the mission. The cameras and other devices on the LRO are good enough for what the mission set out to do, which I believe was to locate suitable landing sites for future missions.

I agree we could do better with what little money NASA gets.
posted by bondcliff at 8:26 AM on September 7, 2011


I can stand on a moving sailboat, hand holding $6000 worth of camera and lens, and take crisply focused photos of land masses miles away

You have a $6,000 camera and a sailboat and you're worried about money? I don't have either of those and I don't care what this mission cost. And I doubt your sailboat can get you within a few miles from the moon.
posted by Camofrog at 8:34 AM on September 7, 2011


Damn...You're gonna have that axe ground-down to a nub in no time.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:36 AM on September 7, 2011


They probably watned keep the camera on the rover running as long as possible.

Yeah, you're right. After I posted my comment I was thinking back to those days, and I remembered seeing this demonstrated on TV: the camera mounted on the rover panning up to catch the ascent module taking off, and I realized that the two goals bondcliff stated -- taking pictures and protecting the rover -- were the same thing.
posted by pracowity at 8:37 AM on September 7, 2011


No, they are not spectacular, we have not used the best available technology.

Well, they look pretty spectacular to me but maybe I lack your extensive knowledge of space photography. Why don't you tell me what the best technology would be?
posted by octobersurprise at 8:39 AM on September 7, 2011


Why don't you tell me what the best technology would be?

I bet it costs $6000 and is boat-mounted.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:45 AM on September 7, 2011 [5 favorites]


I maintain that if this is the best they did with the money, then it was money wasted. They are looking for something else and the photos are a byproduct. If the photos are the target of the mission, then the mission is a bust.

The LRO has several goals, one of which is taking photos:
The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera has been designed to address the measurement requirements of landing site certification and polar illumination.[23] LROC comprises a pair of narrow-angle cameras (NAC) and a single wide-angle camera (WAC). LROC will fly several times over the historic Apollo lunar landing sites at 31 miles (50 km) altitude; with the camera's high resolution, the lunar rovers and Lunar Module descent stages and their respective shadows will be clearly visible, along with other equipment previously left on the Moon. The mission will return approximately 70–100 Terabytes of image data. It is expected that this photography will boost public acknowledgement of the validity of the landings, and further discredit Apollo conspiracy theories.[4]
There you go, useful information, unless you're just trolling.posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:46 AM on September 7, 2011


You don't launch the latest technology; the latest technology might turn out to be flakey, and, given that there is no way to fix it, you've wasted the astronomical (*ahem*) cost of the fuel used to put it into space. You use older technology that has proved to be reliable.

Also, the total cost of the LRO mission to date is $583 million, so these are hardly "billion dollar" pictures.
posted by BrashTech at 8:47 AM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I bet it costs $6000 and is boat-mounted.

With the best technology you can take spectacular pictures of the moon from your boat in your flippy-floppies.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:52 AM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


"It is expected that this photography will boost public acknowledgement of the validity of the landings, and further discredit Apollo conspiracy theories."

The images are obviously propaganda, and "hooray" I say to NASA, and to scientific research that benefits our planet. I love the NASA imagery of space, and I thank the powers that be for these images of our lovely roundish planet, in our wonderful universe. It will be difficult for the Flat-Earthers to regain much leverage with these images circulating. I am just saying the mission to discredit, is not going that well with grainy photos and arrows, and so forth. A gaggle of guys talking astronauts books, don't accomplish what really good photos do.
posted by Oyéah at 9:01 AM on September 7, 2011


A gaggle of guys talking astronauts books, don't accomplish what really good photos do.

There are tons of really good photos from the actual missions. Nothing will convince those brain dead idiots.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:11 AM on September 7, 2011


I am just saying the mission to discredit, is not going that well with grainy photos and arrows, and so forth.

Taking photos of the landing sites was not this mission's mission, and I doubt anybody at NASA loses sleep over conspiracy theories anyway.
posted by Camofrog at 9:12 AM on September 7, 2011


BrashTech: You don't launch the latest technology; the latest technology might turn out to be flakey, and, given that there is no way to fix it, you've wasted the astronomical (*ahem*) cost of the fuel used to put it into space. You use older technology that has proved to be reliable.

This.

Plus: you can't just grab some awesome pro or prosumer camera setup and launch it into space anyways, even if it were proven beyond doubt that there is no flakiness etc. Lots of electronic gear works fine down here because we're surrounded by a natural body of air which acts like a giant heat sink. Once you put that gear on a spaceship you need to provide cooling of some sort.
On top of that you need to provide appropriate shielding of the circuitry and sensors.
If you launched that $6000 camera into space you'd end up with noisy images at best and with a dead pile of junk at worst.
There's so many specialized requirements including cooling, shielding, power consumption, weight etc. etc. that no matter what you start out with you end up with some heavily modified and bastardized version of it. And that side of things has cost attached to it. If you started with off-the-shelf gear worth $6K you'd inevitably end up with something that cost you several orders of magnitude more to develop, test and build.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 9:41 AM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


These photos are not spectacular... "We" have the capability to see to the beginnings of our universe as we know it, and we CAN'T take a closeup of the Moon?

We can certainly take closeups of the moon, but I think you might be overestimating the kinds of resolution we can achieve from a ground based telescope in our atmosphere, and even that which we can accomplish with the high powered optics on satellites orbiting the planet.

The moon is really far away, and these objects are very small. When we say that we can see the beginnings of our universe, we are talking about light from 14 some billion light years away, true, but we are also talking about resolving it as a small dot, which we are able, based on a number of other factors, to deduce a lot of information about. Often we aren't even using standard optics, but things like infrared, radio and x-ray spectrography.

It's a lot different than seeing a car parked on the moon.
posted by quin at 9:57 AM on September 7, 2011


At the very least, how about some colour pictures??
I can ride my fixie and take a Hipstamatic picture of my girlfriend on the opposite sidewalk, and you're calling these grainy black and white shots spectacular?
posted by monospace at 10:02 AM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I can ride my fixie and take a Hipstamatic picture of my girlfriend on the opposite sidewalk, and you're calling these grainy black and white shots spectacular?

When your girlfriend has left tracks on the moon that'll last for millions of years, then we'll call her spectacular.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:23 AM on September 7, 2011


I love how the commenters in the videos that Brandon Blatcher linked to claim it must be fake because there's no rocket sound at liftoff.

Those are some smart cookies there. Yesiree bob.
posted by smoothvirus at 10:24 AM on September 7, 2011


At the very least, how about some colour pictures??
I can ride my fixie and take a Hipstamatic picture of my girlfriend on the opposite sidewalk, and you're calling these grainy black and white shots spectacular?
posted by monospace at 10:02 AM on September 7 [+] [!]



eponysterical?
posted by sweetmarie at 10:57 AM on September 7, 2011


...it must be fake because there's no rocket sound at liftoff.

Those are some smart cookies there.


Seriously. Movies with sound hadn't been invented yet. All silent, still.
posted by Capt. Renault at 11:25 AM on September 7, 2011


Excuse me. These photos are not spectacular.

look closer
posted by the cuban at 2:11 PM on September 7, 2011


the cuban: look closer

Oh my God! The NBE-1 Crash Site is actually a Transformer!
posted by troll at 3:37 PM on September 7, 2011


Neat, you can compare the tracks from the Apollo 17 liftoff video (about 21 seconds in), with the photos of the site from the LRO.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:37 PM on September 7, 2011


I can easily make out cars and motorbikes on Google earth when I zoom in.

The orbiter space craft craft was "moved into a lower orbit to capture the new image." ie. Specifically to get a good picture. There is no atmosphere to refract light and blur the images.

And that's the best they've got? I can't see a moon rover. It doesn't add up. Where have I gone wrong with my logic?

That's the first thing I thought of. Surprised to find so few comments like this:

>Excuse me. These photos are not spectacular. "We" have the capability to see below the ground all over this planet, mine for assets in any location, with great accuracy. "We" have the capability to see to the beginnings of our universe as we know it, and we CAN'T take a closeup of the Moon? I can't even imagine how much "we" paid for these crappy, low focus, photographs, but it had to be too much, considering their quality.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 4:16 AM on September 8, 2011


And that's the best they've got? I can't see a moon rover. It doesn't add up. Where have I gone wrong with my logic?

You're expecting Google Earth from a science mission who's mission is not to be Google Earth. These images are some significantly sharper than earlier passes and stunning in the detail they are capturing.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:50 AM on September 8, 2011


You're expecting Google Earth from a science mission who's mission is not to be Google Earth.

That's a weird mission statement, but at least it's an attempted explanation, cheers. Can't believe they didn't think of lobbing a Google Earth quality lens up there.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 5:07 AM on September 8, 2011


Here's an interview with the Bad Astronomy's Phil Plait that talks about the photos, the moon and why Hubble can't image the sites.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:10 AM on September 8, 2011


I can easily make out cars and motorbikes on Google earth when I zoom in.

The "zoomed in" images are taken from planes that fly less than a mile above the ground. LRO's images were taken several miles above the moon's surface.
posted by dirigibleman at 8:36 PM on September 9, 2011


The Search for Apollo 10's 'Snoopy': A team of astronomers are planning an epic quest to track down the 42-year-old lunar module that's adrift in the solar system.
posted by homunculus at 9:35 AM on September 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


« Older The 7th Rugby World Cup begins this Friday in Auck...  |  Democracy’s Saintly Challenger... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments