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The Lunar Orbiter's Kodak moment
July 17, 2009 4:16 PM   Subscribe

NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has returned its first images of the Apollo moon landing sites. The spacecraft’s onboard camera photographed Lunar Module descent stages at five of the six Apollo sites—11, 14, 15, 16, and 17. The Apollo 12 site will be photographed in coming weeks.

The Apollo 14 image is particularly interesting: ideal lighting conditions resolve additional details, including the Apollo Lunar Surface Experiment Package and the tracks left by the astronauts’ footprints and/or the Modularized Equipment Transporter, a 2-wheeled, rickshaw type cart for carrying around tools, cameras and sample cases on the lunar surface.

These first images were captured before the spacecraft reached its final mapping orbit—future images of the Apollo sites will have two to three times greater resolution.
posted by prinado (38 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
I've really been waiting for these pictures for decades. It was always a surprise that we didn't have the technology to do this already. A sign of how far we come / gone since 1969.

Footprints! who'd of thunk it.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 4:17 PM on July 17, 2009


Photoshopped.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 4:25 PM on July 17, 2009 [9 favorites]


I want to see the Apollo 12 site from final mapping orbit because hopefully they will be able to make out the Surveyor 3 probe that the astronauts vandalized. Surveyor 3 was an unmanned probe which sent back TV images from the surface of the Moon before Apollo sent humans, and the Apollo 12 astronauts removed some bits (including its TV camera) to see how they had withstood their time on the Moon. One of the interesting results was that insulation blankets within the camera still harbored living bacteria after over a year on the lunar surface.

I also want to see the lunar rovers. But I have to admit the Apollo 14 footprints and ALSEP are damn cool.
posted by localroger at 4:27 PM on July 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


Yeah. This is gonna help.
posted by Cyrano at 4:32 PM on July 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


I downloaded the Apollo 17 site image and looked at it under magnification, and I think there's a pretty good candidate for the rover, start at about halfway along the LEM shadow and look about the length of the LEM shadow toward the top of the photo; it's the only other rectangular shadow in the vicinity, and the size is about right.

I so want to spend some time going over the photos from the surface trying to relate them to these landscapes.
posted by localroger at 4:44 PM on July 17, 2009


I actually think you can see the flag shadow at the 11 site - you can clearly make out about five distinct shadows.
posted by mwhybark at 4:46 PM on July 17, 2009


Apollo site maps for comparison purposes.
posted by gubo at 4:55 PM on July 17, 2009




(Well that American flag is lying flat, toppled by the force the LEM's jets spat)
posted by Rhaomi at 5:03 PM on July 17, 2009


Apollo 16 came darn close to a big ol' crater.
posted by Xoebe at 5:04 PM on July 17, 2009


To me, those pictures show that the surface of the moon is so damn desolate.

Miles of gray! If you're lucky, you'll find a crater.
posted by Turkey Glue at 5:44 PM on July 17, 2009


CanCon.
posted by futureisunwritten at 5:51 PM on July 17, 2009


They flagged it and moved... nowhere.

Cool and depressing.
posted by Dumsnill at 6:04 PM on July 17, 2009


What makes this extra awesome is that the photos were taken on almost the exact date of the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.
posted by geeky at 6:06 PM on July 17, 2009


I think that shadow on the Apollo 17 image really is the rover -- on the departure video taken from the rover's remotely controlled TV camera you can clearly see a hill behind and to the right of the lander, and projecting from the dot past the lander in the LRO image you see just such a hill.
posted by localroger at 6:28 PM on July 17, 2009


How come we can't point one of our bozillion dollar telescopes at the moon and take basically the same picture? I don't understand how we can get pictures of galaxies way out in deep space but we can't get a polaroid of the flag we stuck on the moon.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 6:41 PM on July 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Hubble would be blinded and damaged by the light reflected from the moon's surface, I believe. Neat pictures, but I can't wait for the higher resolution ones to come.
posted by Atreides at 6:48 PM on July 17, 2009


How come we can't point one of our bozillion dollar telescopes at the moon and take basically the same picture? I don't understand how we can get pictures of galaxies way out in deep space but we can't get a polaroid of the flag we stuck on the moon.

Well galaxies are incredibly, incredibly vast and are giving off huge quantities of light that is traveling through the empty void. The objects left behind on the moon, by contrast, are very, very small. If you ever get a chance to see a replica of the lunar lander, it's really very small.

The moon is about 240,000 miles away, and we're talking about finding objects on the surface that really aren't much more than a dozen feet in any dimension. There's no telescope in the world big enough to seek out that level of detail on a body that far away. Not even with our bazillion dollar telescopes.
posted by dopamine at 7:06 PM on July 17, 2009


The "blinded by the moonlight" argument is addressed here and the why Hubble can't see moon landing sites is addressed here.
posted by merocet at 7:16 PM on July 17, 2009 [1 favorite]




Or what merocet said.
posted by Cyrano at 7:34 PM on July 17, 2009


Bah, I came to post the same link as merocet.
posted by lekvar at 7:35 PM on July 17, 2009




Corrected mefi link
posted by xorry at 7:47 PM on July 17, 2009


Or what merocet and cyrano said.. dammit. I'm going to bed.
posted by xorry at 7:48 PM on July 17, 2009


All these are are grainy photographs of an old concrete wall in a Hollywood basement. Duh!
posted by Avelwood at 11:05 PM on July 17, 2009


ok, after grabbing the site maps and quick-assedly scaling the 11 sitemap, there are two points of brightness that appear to correspond to the map's marked artifacts... one being the flag!

see for yourself here, sources above in this thread. 9mb layered .psd file on slowwwww home dsl, so be patient, have photochop, and know how to use it.

making things SIGNIFICANTLY easier: both the map and the pic are oriented with lunar north at the top of the image.
posted by mwhybark at 11:07 PM on July 17, 2009


Shepard and Mitchell really did miss Cone crater on 14
posted by A189Nut at 2:40 AM on July 18, 2009


Alan Shepard said that people would come up to him and ask 'Did they ever find that golf ball?". His response- They???"
Maybe now 'they' can find it.

on preview- after 45 minutes of loss of internet access- I can't believe I get it back to see A189Nut's comment
posted by MtDewd at 3:17 AM on July 18, 2009


FAKE!

Kidding, I'm not a "fake moon-landing" conspiracy nut.

No, really.
posted by bwg at 3:26 AM on July 18, 2009


Yeah, I'm pretty sure I can see the seismometer due south of the Apollo 11 lander. Can't wait for the higher-res photos to come.
posted by gubo at 6:31 AM on July 18, 2009


Wait until our cameras get REALLY good. "Okay, former astronauts, we spotted the bag of weed you left laying on the moon. Whose is it? Neil?!"
posted by jamstigator at 6:57 AM on July 18, 2009


I KNEW they would do this sooner or later.
Thanks NASA!
posted by Drasher at 9:17 AM on July 18, 2009


Apollo astronauts speak on Monday, July 20.
posted by futureisunwritten at 1:07 PM on July 18, 2009


gubo: "Yeah, I'm pretty sure I can see the seismometer due south of the Apollo 11 lander. Can't wait for the higher-res photos to come."

Yeah, that's the other point of light in the zoomed image.
posted by mwhybark at 2:52 PM on July 18, 2009


Nice. I got mugged in the back lot of my favorite coffee shop today by a tin-hatter [it felt like a mugging, cause I had always thought he was a logical kinda' fellow] stating with great certainty that the moon landings were a hoax, which of course was soon followed with 911 truths. The walk home had me doubting the rationality of a great chunk of humanity, people needing complex powers that be to be fucking with us because most evil plots are really just depressingly banal money schemes...etc
And here on the blue. I feel much better.

Or do I?
posted by qinn at 4:27 PM on July 18, 2009


The New York Times corrects itself a half century later on July 17, 1969:
On Jan. 13, 1920, "Topics of the Times," an editorial page feature of the New York Times, dismissed the notion that a rocket could function in a vacuum and commented on the ideas of Robert H. Goddard, the rocket pioneer, as follows:

"That Professor Goddard, with his 'chair' in Clark College and the countenancing of the Smithsonian Instittuion, does not know the relation of action to reaction, and of the need to have something better than a vacuum against which to react-to say that would be absurd. Of course he only seems to lack the knowledge ladled out daily in high schools."

Further investigation and experimentation have confirmed the findings of Isaac Newton in the 17th Century and it is now definitely established that a rocket can function in a vacuum as well as in an atmosphere. The Times regrets the error.
via Kottke
posted by caddis at 11:20 AM on July 20, 2009


Google Moon
posted by lullaby at 2:38 PM on July 20, 2009


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