Archive for December, 2009

Tranquility Base

December 6, 2009

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has now reached its mapping orbit 50 km above the surface of the Moon.  I previously reported the exciting images it made of several of the landing sites.  It has now captured the best image yet of the landing site of Apollo 11.  It must be amazing for Armstrong and Aldrin to see their tracks here 40 years after leaving them there on their short moonwalk.  I’d love to know what they make of this.

Tranquility Base

The image has north at the top, and you can see West Crater, the one Armstrong had to fly over before landing on the right side. The bright spots around are, I think, boulders which famously meant Armstrong had to take manual control early.  The pitted nature of the Moon is clear, as is the fact that many of the craters are easily as big as the LM.

LRO Tranquility Base detail, Nov 2009

Very clear is the descent stage and the footpads, and tracks left by Armstrong & Aldrin as they collected samples, erected the flag, took photos and set up the EASEP experiements.  It is tempting to think that you can make out the ladder on the left,  and fun to work out what is where.  Armstrong’s track to the E to look into the crater he landed just beyond, is visible too.  Compare this image with this map.  I think the really bright spot to the S of the LM is the LRRR, one of the sets of prisms that is still used to determine the distance of the Moon from Earth.