First images of Apollo 14 lunar module descent stages returned by NASA’s lunar orbiter

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The imaging system on board NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) recently had its first of many opportunities to photograph the Apollo landing sites. The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) imaged five of the six Apollo sites with the narrow angle cameras (NACs) between July 11 and 15, within days of the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission.

The early images obtained by LROC, operated by Arizona State University Professor Mark Robinson, show the lunar module descent stages left behind by the departing astronauts. Their locations are made evident by their long shadows, which result from a low sun angle at the time of collection.

“In a three-day period we were able to image five of the six Apollo sites – the LROC team anxiously awaited each image,” says LROC Principal Investigator Mark Robinson, professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration in ASU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

“Of course we were very interested to get our first peek at the lunar module descent stages just for the thrill – and to see how well the cameras had come into focus.”

. . . . Compared to the other landing site images, the image of the Apollo 14 site revealed additional details. The Apollo Lunar Surface Experiment Package (ALSEP), a set of scientific instruments placed by the astronauts at the landing site, is discernable, as are the faint trails between the descent stage and ALSEP left by the astronauts’ footprints. Read Full Text

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