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New NASA pics show Apollo astronauts' footpaths on the moon


September 7, 2011

The Apollo 12 landing site, as photographed by LROC

The Apollo 12 landing site, as photographed by LROC

Image Gallery (8 images)

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)

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

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.   All articles by Ben Coxworth

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.

7th September, 2011 @ 01:12 pm PDT

Mud, no. Dust yes. And dust does not go well with equipment of any kind. Hence these covers could be called dustguards, not fenders.

7th September, 2011 @ 03:59 pm PDT

@disple: maybe to avoid lunar dust all over the astronauts and equipment?

Alceu Baptistao
7th September, 2011 @ 04:06 pm PDT

So does this dispel the conspiracy theory that moon landings were faked in a warehouse?

7th September, 2011 @ 04:10 pm PDT


No, since these photos are faked also. ;)

Plus, the warehouse was in area 51.

7th September, 2011 @ 08:14 pm PDT

I wonder if things "rust" on the moon... however slowly.

Mr Stiffy
8th September, 2011 @ 12:47 am PDT

wow!! finally, clear images of the landing!!!..........not

8th September, 2011 @ 04:28 am PDT

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. :-)

Henrik Rostrup Fleischer
8th September, 2011 @ 07:08 am PDT

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.

8th September, 2011 @ 07:54 am PDT

Where's the USA (our) Flag?

8th September, 2011 @ 10:47 am PDT

@ Wildzbill, just curious: what would you accept as positive evidence? Hubble photographs, perhaps? I ask this from a standpoint of studying the mind of a conspiracist.

I'm not saying your wrong, just find it interesting when humans have an unshakable belief despite rational evidence to the contrary. In your defence, it is common knowledge any image can be photoshopped. Being 52 years of age, I followed along with every lift off and splashdown, my nextdoor neighbor was working with JPL at the time and got me all sorts of official photos, etc. This would have been quite an undertaking. The scope of the TV coverage as well as worldwide media coverage lends the conspiracy as absurd in the extreme. There was no photo shop in 1969. Computers back then were primitive and were utilized by guys in procket protector laden lab coats.

This whole thing reminds me of Buzz Aldrin knocking some douchebag to the ground for calling him a liar by stating he really was on the moon.

Buzz, if you're reding this.. Well done sir! Not to bad for a man your age! You've still got the "Right Stuff"..

8th September, 2011 @ 06:10 pm PDT

During the Apollo 17 mission, Gene Cernan accidentally hit the right rear fender of the rover with a rock hammer, breaking off a big piece. The woven piano wire wheel picked up lots of dust and flung it up and forward.

The fender was repaired by using duct tape to hold a folded moon map in place of the broken off part.

Gregg Eshelman
8th September, 2011 @ 09:26 pm PDT

I am pleased to finally actually see that these foot prints prove the billions of dollars spend was worth it! Note: Even plastic requires O2 in order to break down. Now who is going to put the moon back like they found it and clean up all the space junk floating around the earth?

8th September, 2011 @ 11:26 pm PDT

Absolute proof that Americans walked on the moon. Sorry, Sibrel. There goes your money.

Sara W. Howard
2nd December, 2011 @ 03:09 pm PST

I remember seeing TV's set up everywhere you went,people were watching the live feeds.All of America and the world were captivated.We need to go back and finish the job.

Thomas Lewis
12th August, 2012 @ 12:38 am PDT

"No manned spacecraft now exists that can withstand the radiation from the Van Allen belts, through which a craft must traverse to make it to the Moon."

-SpaceCast News Service, March 9, 1998

tampa florida
5th December, 2012 @ 08:27 am PST

They forgot to paint in the tire tracks leading to the final parking spot for the LRV.

22nd July, 2014 @ 09:23 am PDT
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