Moonlight Photographs Apollo Landing

First pictures of the landing modules on the lunar surface

LRO image of the landing module of Apollo 11, taken in July 2009. © NASA
Read out

To coincide with the 40th anniversary of the moon landing of Apollo 11, the NASA lunar probe Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has delivered the first images of the landing sites of the Apollo missions. The pictures show the long shadows cast by the then stopped landing modules on the lunar surface.

Forty years ago, on July 20, 1969, for the first time ever, a man set foot on the moon. Now, to mark this anniversary, the current lunar probe Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) has overflowed the landing sites of the then mission. Launched June 18 this year, the NASA spacecraft hit lunar orbit on June 23 and photographed five of the six locations with high-resolution cameras. The landing site of the Apollo 12 mission is to follow in the coming weeks.

"The LROC team was looking forward to seeing every picture, " says Mark Robinson of Arizona State University, one of the project's lead scientists. "We really wanted to catch the first glimpse of the landing modules - on the one hand because of the thrill, but also to be able to determine how well the cameras focus. And indeed, the pictures are awesome. "Since the Apollo images were made even before the orbital probe had reached orbit, NASA scientists expect to see images two to three times higher than the current ones.

LRO shot of the Apollo 14 landing site with footprints and instrument cluster © NASA

Long shadow reveals modules

The elliptical orbit of the orbital probe causes a slightly different resolution for each of the old Apollo landing sites, but all move around 1.2 meters per pixel. The Apollo landing modules with their diameter of about 3.5 meters fill only about nine pixels in the pictures - too little to be able to see details. However, since the sun was low above the moon's horizon at the time of shooting, the modules produce a clearly visible shadow of around 20 pixels in length.

The landing site of the Apollo 14 mission even allows to see some details due to its particularly favorable lighting conditions: the Lunar Surface Experiment Package, a set of scientific instruments left by the astronauts at the landing site, is just as visible as the footprints between Landing module and the instrument package. display

Although these recordings are currently being celebrated primarily for the memory of the first moon landings, the real purpose of the mission is, of course, another: The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter is to pave the way for future moon landings by using high-resolution images of the surface suitable landing pads, helps find.

(NASA, 20.07.2009 - NPO)