Planets and Moons
Revisiting Apollo Landing Sites
The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) went into orbit about the Moon in June 2009 to gather data to aid scientists and engineers in planning NASA’s return to the Moon with robots and astronauts. The Apollo and Luna sites are of great interest for historic, scientific, engineering and cartographic endeavors. On 10 August 2011 a special pair of station-keeping maneuvers were performed that placed LRO into an orbit such that the lowest altitude during the next month was close to 22 km above the surface. That’s just over 72,000 feet, or only twice as high as a commercial jetliner typically flies above the Earth! The maneuvers were planned such that low passes occurred over historic landing sites of the Apollo, Surveyor, and Luna spacecraft. Similar LRO maneuvers on 31 October 2011 allowed even more sites to be imaged at the lower altitudes (and thus higher resolution). The LRO spacecraft is now in a higher orbit, so the images of the historic exploration sites taken in these two low orbit months will remain the best (~25 cm per pixel), until a future mission. The Lunar modules, astronaut track and various experiment equipments are clearly visible at the Apollo sites.
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NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University