Monday, 20 July 2009

A funny thing happened on the way back from the Moon

40 years ago tomorrow Micheal Collins in the Command Module Columbia snapped this pic of the ascent stage of the Lunar Module Eagle as they returned from the surface of the moon.

And in the couple of years following this 10 more men walked on the surface of our planet's orbital buddy, following in the historic footsteps of Armstrong and Aldrin (40 years ago today- so I will wish Tranquility Base happy 40th birthday).

Unfortunately to this day some people do not believe, for various reasons, that we never set foot on the moon (for example see here).

But one of the results of this walking/driving on our natural satelite is that we left an awful mess behind us. Descent stages of the lunar landers, flags, rovers, scientific equipment, footprints, the list goes on. One of the denier arguments goes along the lines of well if this stuff is there why can't we see it. The answer to which is that it is too small.

That is until now. Recent photos taken by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), which entered orbit around the moon in the last few weeks has a camera with enough resolution to quite clearly see that which we left behind. Many more details can be found here on the NASA site. These photos are awesome, I mean just look at this:
You can even make out the path the astronauts took to set up the scientific experiments that they left behind. And the good news is that these photos were not taken at the final mapping orbit of the satellite and hence are not at the fullest resolution that the onboard camera will be able to see. So keep a look out there will be more and better photos of these sites as the LRO mission continues.

Thanks to Starts With A Bang and Astronomy Picture of the Day for the links

Update: oops got my dates wrong again - for some reason the 19th always sticks in my head but the lunar landing happened on the 20th.