Thursday, September 03, 2009

Apollo 12 from LRO

Apollo 12 was probably my favorite Apollo mission, partly because of the fun-loving crew of Pete Conrad and Alan Bean, and partly because of the amazing fact that on the second Moon landing (in November 1969), they managed to land just 180 meters from the Surveyor 3 spacecraft and then bring parts of it back to Earth. All this after their Saturn V had been struck by lightning shortly after liftoff! What a crazy mission.

I wrote more about it back in December 2007 when I was reading about Apollo 12 in the book A Man on the Moon and decided to simulate the landing and Surveyor EVA myself using Orbiter and AMSO. I can even recall something of the "snowman" layout of craters that was apparent when I made my final approach to the landing site in Orbiter.

So I was really pleased today when I learned that the first pictures of the Apollo 12 site taken in August by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) had been released. Better pictures will come when LRO gets down to its lower final orbit in a few weeks, but in this one you can see the Lunar Module (Intrepid) descent stage at the top of Surveyor crater (11 o'clock position), with astronaut footprint tracks emanating from it (Surveyor Crater is the "body" of the snowman which is lying on its side with Head Crater to the left). Surveyor itself is at the lower right of Surveyor Crater (4 o'clock). Cool! There's a labeled LRO site picture and a summary of Apollo 12 here. Thanks to Emily at the Planetary Society Blog for the tip.

Note: in the LROC browser window for this image, it opens as a long vertical strip you can zoom with a slider at the bottom. The Apollo 12 site is near the left edge about 60% from the bottom of the long frame in the small locator image.

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