The Apollo missions were a moment in history that caused our imaginations and creativity to burst forth and show the positive side of humanity. It gave rise to many dreams and spurred on creative juices that gave us new toys (technology) that we use every day like the cell phone , iPads , computers etc….. And in many ways gave us a sense of the skys were not the limit that we as humans could do anything when we worked together. And as a nation we proved that we had the right stuff. Many people looked at those missions and wondered . What if ? Are we alone ? How big is the Universe really ? How limited is our knowledge of life and beyond ? Some of those that asked those questions and more became scientist, some became philosophers, and others used those questions to fill the pages of books and create films of wonder.
40 years later after those historic missions were revisited when the NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) took snapshots that were the sharpest images yet of the Apollo 12, 14 and 17 landing sites. Captured are foot prints in the moon soil left behind from Astronauts , vehicles , and scientific experiments that were left behind. Since there is no wind on the surface of the moon the imprints are just as they were when they were when the Astronauts stepped on the lunar surface. Makes you wish that they had continued with the moon missions and had set up bases there instead of these low orbit missions. All be it they are as important to further the understanding of how life in space for humanity can be sustained. The thrill of the final frontier should of always be part of the human experience .
If you go to NASA web page of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter / NASA Spacecraft Images Offer Sharper Views of Apollo Landing Sites there is some pretty cool photos along with a interactive image swipe that lets you compare images taken from 2009 of the same area to the ones just recently taken. You can see the difference in resolution and in the detail. As mentioned in the article the pictures do not exactly line up because of lighting and position but are close enough to get the point across. Look at the screen shot below to for an example. On the left of the dividing line you can see the LRO images compared with the right side which are impressive but not as clear as the LRO’s. A good example are the moon buggy tracks . You can see them foggy but the screen shot bellow that one with the split view shows the full clarity of the images taken.
“The new low-altitude Narrow Angle Camera images sharpen our view of the moon’s surface,” said Arizona State University researcher Mark Robinson, principal investigator for the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC). “A great example is the sharpness of the rover tracks at the Apollo 17 site. In previous images the rover tracks were visible, but now they are sharp parallel lines on the surface.”
Here is a short video that is on youtube of the images captured by the LRO.
I echo the sentiment of Jim Green, director of the Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington when he said “These images remind us of our fantastic Apollo history and beckon us to continue to move forward in exploration of our solar system. ” I really hope that this renews our interest in space and that it becomes once again more then the imaginations that are caught on film or in the pages of a book . I hope it does become fact .
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