Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Newest Coolest Picture Ever, Apollo Edition

I periodically post pictures that I claim to be the coolest ever, most of which have something to do with space and a few of which come from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) currently free-falling around the Moon and mapping it with unprecedented precision. The latest Coolest Picture Ever is one of the latter.

Over time, as the LRO's orbit drops closer to the surface, its images get clearer and more detailed. Like this one, showing the landing site of Apollo 15 from just 15 miles (25 km) overhead (that link leads to higher-resolution versions):

Some of what you're looking at: In the center is the base of Apollo 15's Lunar Module "Falcon," the legs left behind when astronauts Jim Irwin and Dave Scott blasted off in the top half. I love the detail visible in the descent stage's shadow. The spot marked "ALSEP" is the Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package, while the "LRV" is the Lunar Roving Vehicle--the Moon dune buggy first used on this mission. And weaving around and among those features are the paths made by the astronauts' boots and Rover's tires, tracks that will endure on the Moon millions of years longer than anything humans have created on Earth.

I am simultaneously amazed that we can see those footprints four decades after they were made, and disappointed that we haven't been back to make new ones in the four decades since. But mostly amazed. That's so COOL!

In fact, it may be the Coolest Picture Ever.

Value-Added Bonus: here's the last time someone saw the Falcon's descent module from the surface, as transmitted by a video camera deliberately left running on the Rover. Just looking at the angles of where the LRV, ALSEP and descent stage are, I wonder if the white blob to the right rear of the descent stage is part of the ALSEP (it could also be a boulder, crater rim, or something else--distance is hard to judge on the Moon). If so, it's a two-fer! "Up we go into the wild blue yonder" indeed.

Appreciate this. It'll be a long time before anyone sees its like again.


Jim O'Kane said...

Well, they *had to* play the Air Force theme - - it was an all USAF crew.

And although the picture is quite impressive, the title of "Coolest Picture Ever" stays with Hubble's photo of proto-planetary discs forming around other Suns in the Orion Nebula. The swirls of planets not-quite born within clouds of hydrogen is more mind-boggling than the remains of one of mankind's farthest launch pads.

sligo said...


Sherwood Harrington said...

Okay, I just tried to post this, but it didn't take. If it comes back as double, my apologies.

Goddard SFC today posted this LRO image of the Apollo 11 landing site on Flickr. (A smaller version, but with a pretty informative caption, can be seen by clicking here.)

It's interesting to compare the two sites; he very, very tentative nature of Armstrong and Aldrin's activities is clear.

Brian Fies said...

Saw it, love it. Thanks!