“We can retrace the astronauts’ steps with greater clarity”

As the BBC’s spaceman, Jonathon Amos, notes, Nasa have released the sharpest ever images ever taken from space of the Apollo 12, 14 and 17 landing sites using a camera on the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.   Here’s the Apollo 17 landing site with the last footprints made by man on the Moon. [All images credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/ASU]



Here’s that same image helpfully labelled.


They’re even sharper than the ones released in 2009.  You can do a side-by-side comparison at the Nasa press release.

The higher resolution of these images is possible because of adjustments made to LRO’s orbit, which is slightly oval-shaped or elliptical. “Without changing the average altitude, we made the orbit more elliptical, so the lowest part of the orbit is on the sunlit side of the moon,” said Goddard’s John Keller, deputy LRO project scientist. “This put LRO in a perfect position to take these new pictures of the surface.”

The maneuver lowered LRO from its usual altitude of approximately 31 miles (50 kilometers) to an altitude that dipped as low as nearly 13 miles (21 kilometers) as it passed over the moon’s surface. The spacecraft has remained in this orbit for 28 days, long enough for the moon to completely rotate. This allows full coverage of the surface by LROC’s Wide Angle Camera. The cycle ends today when the spacecraft will be returned to its 31-mile orbit.

Here’s the Apollo 12 landing site.


And the Apollo 14 landing site.  Where astronaut Alan Shepherd practiced his golf swing…


NASA Goddard’s Dr. Noah Petro discusses the significance of the new Apollo images from LRO in this video from NasaExplorer. (Video credit: Chris Smith, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center)

And a video compilation of the images featured in the above clip.  Again from NasaExplorer.

Arizona State University has more details and Apollo images from the LRO Camera.

And Nasa have an Apollo revisited archive.

And a related post, or two, from the Slugger archive.