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Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Images: Lunar Leftovers

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Images: Lunar Leftovers.

 

NASA's LRO mission has sent back its first images of past lunar exploration sites in time for the celebration of our fist adventures to the moon. There are two high-resolution Narrow Angle Cameras and one lower-resolution Wide Angle Camera that make up the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) instrument package. The main mission for this system is to ultimately provide us with a high quality, detailed map of the entire lunar surface.

The images that have just come back are from the pre-mission stage of the LRO. In August, LRO will enter its near circular orbit about 31 miles above the lunar surface. At that time its main mission will begin and the images that it sends back to Earth will be 2-3 times higher in resolution than the ones it just sent back. Right now the LRO is in a higher more elliptical orbit so these first images are all a bit different from eachother in resolution and size. NASA is using this time as a chance to make sure that the cameras and tracking systems are working well. That being said, lets talk about what it did send us in this first warm up round of images.

After entering lunar orbit on June 23 the LRO began preparations for imaging the lunar landing sites that it would pass over in the next few weeks. Between July 11th & 15th it caught these images of 5 of the six lunar landing sites.

 

http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2009/17jul_lroc.htm

 

NASA's LRO people were hoping to get good images of the lunar module descent stages left behind by the Apollo missions. Thats exactly what they got! Take a look at these images, the sun is setting low so that the ~10 ft tall lunar modules cast long shadows across the moon's surface. I really like the Apollo 16 site image because the LEM's shadow is actually being cast into the shadow and pit wall of the adjacent crater. Thats an image that I am sure will be thought-provoking to those interested in moon landing hoax theories!

The Apollo 14 image site conditions were extra nice! You can see a left-behind instrument package and the actual trail of astronaut's footprints that connect the package site to the LEM site, amazing!

These images are highly usable for classroom presentations in that they tie in lunar exploration history to the future of lunar exploration. Remember that LRO's job is the first scouting expedition with a long-term mission to get humans back on the lunar surface for extended periods of time.

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