Space

New NASA pics show Apollo astronauts' footpaths on the moon

The Apollo 12 landing site, as photographed by LROC
The Apollo 12 landing site, as photographed by LROC
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The Apollo 17 lunar rover, as seen by LROC (left) and the astronauts (right)
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The Apollo 17 lunar rover, as seen by LROC (left) and the astronauts (right)
The Apollo 12 landing site, as photographed by LROC
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The Apollo 12 landing site, as photographed by LROC
The Apollo 17 landing site, as photographed by LROC
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The Apollo 17 landing site, as photographed by LROC
The Apollo 12 landing site, as photographed by LROC
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The Apollo 12 landing site, as photographed by LROC
The Apollo 14 landing site, as photographed by LROC
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The Apollo 14 landing site, as photographed by LROC
The Apollo 17 ASLEP set-up, as photographed by LROC
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The Apollo 17 ASLEP set-up, as photographed by LROC
A close-up of the Apollo 17 descent stage, as photographed by LROC
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A close-up of the Apollo 17 descent stage, as photographed by LROC
The Apollo 17 landing site, as photographed by LROC
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The Apollo 17 landing site, as photographed by LROC

True story: when I was a little kid and was at an observatory looking at the Moon through a telescope, I loudly proclaimed "I think I can see one of the moon buggies!" Everyone laughed, and I felt stupid. Well, several decades later, I've been somewhat vindicated. Although it's not an earthbound telescope, NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) did recently capture images of the Apollo 12, 14 and 17 landing sites. The Apollo 17 lunar rover is indeed visible, as are the descent stages of the three spacecraft, and foot paths made by the astronauts.

The LROC was launched in June of 2009, and had been orbiting and photographing the Moon with its Narrow and Wide Angle Cameras ever since. Although it has usually held a near-circular orbit at an average altitude of 31 miles (50 km) above the lunar surface, on August 10th NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center temporarily altered its orbit to a more oval configuration, that brought it as low as 13 miles (21 km). The result were the photos released yesterday, that show the Apollo landing sites in greater detail than ever before.

Yesterday also marked the end of the altered orbit, with the spacecraft having since returned to its regular altitude.

The Apollo 17 lunar rover, as seen by LROC (left) and the astronauts (right)
The Apollo 17 lunar rover, as seen by LROC (left) and the astronauts (right)

Along with the rover, descent stages and footpaths, rover tire tracks can also be seen, along with scientific equipment placed on the lunar soil by the astronauts. The equipment was part of the Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package (ALSEP), which was designed to monitor the moon's environment and interior.

Some of the details of the Apollo 17 landing site are highlighted in the video below.

All photos courtesy NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/Arizona State University

LROC Explores the Apollo 17 Landing Site

18 comments
dsiple
I\'m sure there was a reason in the design to put wheel fenders on the rover in the video - I\'m not aware of mud puddles on the moon.
bas
Mud, no. Dust yes. And dust does not go well with equipment of any kind. Hence these covers could be called dustguards, not fenders.
Alceu Baptistao
@disple: maybe to avoid lunar dust all over the astronauts and equipment?
RAMLOT
So does this dispel the conspiracy theory that moon landings were faked in a warehouse?
WildZBill
@Ramlot No, since these photos are faked also. ;) Plus, the warehouse was in area 51.
Mr Stiffy
I wonder if things \"rust\" on the moon... however slowly.
luispo
wow!! finally, clear images of the landing!!!..........not
Henrik Fleischer
No rust, as it requires oxygen. But materials deteriorate there due to radiation, metals very slowly, but synthetics like the plastics used f.i. in the spacesuits, will deteriorate exactly like a plastic bag left outside in the sun here on Earth. On the first landing, I think it was, the four boots for the suits were left behind to reduce takeoff weight, and speculations are, that the plastics will now be very brittle and would crumble to the touch. Oh, and by the way, we had 11 astronauts walking on the Moon, and they all have a t-shirt to prove it. :-)
dwreid
The \"fenders\" did indeed help control the dust. On the moon the dust is regolith which is very abrasive. The power pack on the rover was protected from the sun\'s heat by a mirrored cover that had to be kept dust free. It also helped to keep this dust off of the astronaut\'s face plate. On the moon you can\'t just \"blow off the dust\" when there is no air and wiping it off would scratch the plastic face plate. No... things don\'t rust without oxygen. Not even slowly. They do break down over time thanks to thermal stress and intense radiation from the sun.
cscoot03
Where\'s the USA (our) Flag?
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