The waning crescent Moon.
Exploring the Apollo landing sites – 2
Most spectacular of all six Apollo landing sites was the snaking valley of
Hadley Rille near the foot of the lunar Apennine mountains, visited by Apollo
15 at the end of July 1971. LRO’s view of the Apollo 15 landing area shows the Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV) parked on one side of the lunar module Falcon, with the ALSEP scientific
experiments and a laser reflector on the other side.
As well as the vertical view from LRO, a Japanese probe called Kaguya has
photographed the Apollo 15 site. It detected the halo caused by the lunar module’s descent engine and produced this impressive oblique landscape (below left) of Hadley Rille and
the hummocky mountains behind it, much as they appear in the photographs shot
by the astronauts on the surface (right).
The penultimate manned landing, Apollo 16, was the only Apollo mission to visit
the lunar highlands, touching down near a crater called Descartes. This picture of the site from LRO was taken with the Sun almost directly overhead. The overhead lighting
emphasizes the dark haloes around the lunar module Orion and the lunar rover
where astronauts John Young and Charles Duke churned up the soil with their
Oblique view of Hadley Rille and the mountains beyond from Japan’s
Moon orbiter Kaguya (left) compared with the view from the surface
taken by the Apollo 15 astronauts. Click to go to the original page on the
Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) website.
Apollo 17 was the last and longest Apollo mission. Some of LRO’s most astonishingly detailed images are of the Apollo 17 site, which you can
explore in this video. Trails of footprints and tracks from the LRV criss-cross the dusty lunar plain on the southeastern Mare Serenitatis. An enlargement of the descent stage of their lunar module, Challenger, even shows the two Portable Life Support System backpacks (PLSS)
from their Moon suits, discarded to save weight before take-off.
These LRO pictures remind us not only of the astronauts who risked their lives
going to the Moon but the thousands of dedicated engineers, scientists and
other unheralded workers who designed and built the craft that got them there
and back safely. One day, tourists will visit the Moon to see for themselves
these Apollo landing sites which are lasting monuments to the courage and
ingenuity of those involved in one of the greatest achievements in the history
of human exploration.
See a video summary of the latest LRO pictures here.
Index of LRO press releases about the Apollo landing sites
Exploring the Apollo landing sites 2
Exploring the Moon
A history of lunar discovery from the first
space probes to recent times