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Via Planetary Exploration Newsletter: As part of its work on a NASA-funded Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package (ALSEP) data recovery project, the Lunar and Planetary Institute has scanned a collection of ALSEP-related documents. This archive focuses on the development, deployment, and operation of the ALSEP experiments and currently includes 210 documents with more than 17,700 pages of material.

These documents include ALSEP Systems Handbooks for several of the ALSEP arrays, ALSEP Data Processing Procedures, the ALSEP Archive Tape Description Document, and daily status reports for the ALSEP network from initial deployment in 1969 to termination in 1977. The documents can be searched based on key words selected by the user. This material is available as part of our Lunar Science and Exploration Portal at:

Material on this website provides important background information about the ALSEP experiments that may be useful to individuals who are re-analyzing data obtained from the experiments. However, the archive does not include science results from these experiments. LPI intends to continue adding other ALSEP-related material to the website on an on-going basis.

High Resolution Lunar Orbiter V Mosaic of Crater Copernicus

This mosaic of the floor of crater Copernicus was created by combining the following 24 high resolution images taken by Lunar Orbiter V on 16 August 1967: 5148_H1, 5148_H2, 5148_H3, 5149_H1, 5149_H2, 5149_H3, 5150_H1, 5150_H2, 5150_H3, 5152_H1, 5152_H2, 5152_H3, 5153_H1, 5153_H2, 5153_H3, 5154_H1, 5154_H2, 5154_H3, 5155_H1, 5155_H2, 5155_H3, 5156_H1, 5156_H2, and 5156_H3.

One of the later Apollo missions was originally planned to land inside Copernicus crater. The last three Apollo missions were eventually canceled.

[Larger image] [Much larger image] [Very large image at NLSI] [ 10% size image exceptionally large]

[Full resolution, This image is 24 GIGABYTES. This is probably the largest image of planetary data ever put together into one mosaic. If it were blown up to full size at 300 DPI it would still be 37 feet wide by 18 feet tall.]

Protecting Historic Lunar Hardware

"Until more formal U.S. Government guidance is developed and perhaps a multilateral approach is developed to reflect various nations' views on lunar hardware of scientific and historic value, NASA has assembled this document that contains the collected technical knowledge of its personnel - with advice from external experts and potential space-faring entities - and provides interim recommendations for lunar vehicle design and mission planning teams. As such, this document does not represent mandatory USG or international requirements; rather, it is offered to inform lunar spacecraft mission planners interested in helping preserve and protect lunar historic artifacts and potential science opportunities for future missions."

Full report: NASA's Recommendations to Space-Faring Entities: How to Protect and Preserve the Historic and Scientific Value of U.S. Government Lunar Artifacts

Preserving History on the Moon

NASA Offers Guidelines To Protect Historic Sites On The Moon

"NASA and the X Prize Foundation of Playa Vista, Calif., announced Thursday the Google Lunar X Prize is recognizing guidelines established by NASA to protect lunar historic sites and preserve ongoing and future science on the moon. The foundation will take the guidelines into account as it judges mobility plans submitted by 26 teams vying to be the first privately-funded entity to visit the moon."

NASA LRO Image: Sharper View of Apollo 12 Landing Site

The Apollo 12 landing site in Oceanus Procellarum imaged during the second LRO low-altitude campaign. Image width is 225 m, NAC Image M175428601R [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].

The LRO mission continues to collect observations that are enabling ground-breaking new scientific discoveries about the Moon. As geologists, whenever we look at remotely sensed data collected from another planet, in a sense we are staring back in time. But this is the "deep time" of geology, where we are trying to understand natural processes that (at least on the Moon, anyway) could have happened billions of years ago. But the LRO mission is unique because we can also see human history. Not just any history, either, but one of humanity's greatest accomplishments, our first steps on another world. Twelve astronauts explored the lunar surface, directly seeing things with their own eyes, making observations, and collecting samples with their own hands. These samples and observations revolutionized our understanding of our solar system.

This "snapshot in time" effect is especially evident at the Apollo 12 landing site in Oceanus Procellarum, now known as Statio Cognitum. Here, you can see the remnants of not one, but two missions to the Moon. Astronauts Pete Conrad and Alan Bean demonstrated that a precision lunar landing with the Apollo system was possible, enabling all of the targeted landings that followed. Bean and Conrad collected rock samples and made field observations, which resulted in key discoveries about lunar geology. They also collected and returned components from the nearby US Surveyor 3 spacecraft, which landed at this site almost two and half years previously, providing important information to engineers about the how materials survive in the lunar environment.


NASA LRO Image: A New View of the Apollo 11 Landing Site

LROC's best look yet at the Apollo 11 Landing site. The remnants of Armstrong and Aldrin's historic first steps on the surface are seen as dark paths around the Lunar Module (LM), Lunar Ranging RetroReflector (LRRR) and Passive Seismic Experiment Package (PSEP), as well as leading to and from Little West crater. LROC M175124932R [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].

This image of the Apollo 11 landing site captured from just 24 km (15 miles) above the surface provides LRO's best look yet at humanity's first venture to another world. When Neil Armstrong took his famous first steps onto the lunar surface, he kicked around the soil. "Yes, the surface is fine and powdery." Gazing at the flat horizon, he took in the view. "Isn't that something! Magnificent sight out here." After collecting a contingency sample Neil looked around and observed, "it has a stark beauty all its own. It's like much of the high desert of the United States. It's different, but it's very pretty out here." A few minutes later Buzz Aldrin descended the ladder and joined Neil on the surface of the Moon!

You can see the remnants of their first steps as dark regions around the Lunar Module (LM) and in dark tracks that lead to the scientific experiments the astronauts set up on the surface. The Passive Seismic Experiment Package (PSEP) provided the first lunar seismic data, returning data for three weeks after the astronauts left, and the Laser Ranging RetroReflector (LRRR) allows precise measurements to be collected to this day. You can even spot the discarded cover of the LRRR.

Another trail leads toward Little West crater around 50 meters (164 feet) to the east of the LM. This was an unplanned excursion near the end of the two and a half hours spent on the surface. Armstrong ran over to get a look inside the crater, and this was the farthest either astronaut ventured from the landing site. Compared to Apollo 12 and 14, which allowed for more time on the surface, and Apollo 15, 16, and 17, which had the benefit of a Lunar Roving Vehicle, Armstrong and Aldrin's surface activities were quite restricted. Their tracks cover less area than a typical city block!


New LRO Image of Apollo 15 Landing Site

The Apollo 15 Lunar Module (LM) Falcon set down on the Hadley plains (26.132*N, 3.634*E) a mere 2 kilometers from Hadley Rille. The goals: sample the basalts that compose the mare deposit, explore a lunar rille for the first time, and search for ancient crustal rocks. Additionally, Dave Scott and Jim Irwin deployed the third Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package (ALSEP) and unveiled the first Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV). The ALSEP consisted of several experiments that were powered by a Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (RTG) and sent back valuable scientific data to the Earth for over six years after the astronauts left. This new LROC NAC image taken from low altitude shows the hardware and tracks in even more detail.

The LRV, a lunar "dune buggy", allowed the astronauts to traverse far from the LM and explore much more local geology than the astronauts on previous missions (Apollo 11, 12, 14). Not only did the LRV allow the astronauts to move from place-to-place at a lively rate of eight to sixteen kilometers per hour (five to ten miles per hour), but the LRV also allowed brief periods of rest that in turn helped to conserve oxygen.

The LRV wheels were 82 centimeters (32 inches) in diameter, and 23 centimeters (9 inches) wide. Typically LROC NAC pixels are about 50 centimeters square, so it is not always easy to pick out the LRV tracks. In previous LROC images, the LRV tracks are usually only visible near the LM where the descent engine exhaust plume disturbed the surface. The LRV wheels broke through the changed surface and thus the tracks have more contrast near the LM.

For two one-month periods last year (2011), the LRO orbit was lowered such that overflights of the Apollo sites were only 25 to 30 kilometers, rather than the usual 50 kilometers. These low passes resulted in NAC pixel scales near 25 centimeters! LRO has a ground speed of a bit over 1600 meters (5249 feet) per second, and the shortest NAC exposure time is 0.34 millseconds, so images taken from this low altitude are smeared down track a bit. However, the smear is hardly noticeable and features at the Apollo sites definitely come into sharper focus. In this new low-altitude NAC image of the LRV, tracks are visible about half of the time, usually when the tracks are at an angle to the Sun direction, rather than parallel.


Powerful Pixels: Mapping the Apollo Zone on the Moon

Mosaic of the near side of the moon as taken by the Clementine star trackers. The images were taken on March 15, 1994. Credit: NASA

Grayscale pixels - up close, they look like black, white or grey squares. But when you zoom out to see the bigger picture, they can create a digital photograph, like this one of our moon: For NASA researchers, pixels are much more - they are precious data that help us understand where we came from, where we've been, and where we're going.

At NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., computer scientists have made a giant leap forward to pull as much information from imperfect static images as possible. With their advancement in image processing algorithms, the legacy data from the Apollo Metric Camera onboard Apollo 15, 16 and 17 can be transformed into an informative and immersive 3D mosaic map of a large and scientifically interesting part of the moon.

The "Apollo Zone" Digital Image Mosaic (DIM) and Digital Terrain Model (DTM) maps cover about 18 percent of the lunar surface at a resolution of 98 feet (30 meters) per pixel. The maps are the result of three years of work by the Intelligent Robotics Group (IRG) at NASA Ames, and are available to view through the NASA Lunar Mapping and Modeling Portal (LMMP) and Google Moon feature in Google Earth.

"The main challenge of the Apollo Zone project was that we had very old data - scans, not captured in digital format," said Ara Nefian, a senior scientist with the IRG and Carnegie Mellon University-Silicon Valley. "They were taken with the technology we had over 40 years ago with imprecise camera positions, orientations and exposure time by today's standards."

The researchers overcame the challenge by developing new computer vision algorithms to automatically generate the 2D and 3D maps. Algorithms are sets of computer code that create a procedure for how to handle certain set processes. For example, part of the 2D imaging algorithms align many images taken from various positions with various exposure times into one seamless image mosaic. In the mosaic, areas in shadows, which show up as patches of dark or black pixels are automatically replaced by lighter gray pixels. These show more well-lit detail from other images of the same area to create a more detailed map.

Left: A normal one-camera image of the lunar surface. Right: A composite Apollo Zone image showing the best details from multiple photographs. Credit: NASA/Google Earth

"The key innovation that we made was to create a fully automatic image mosaicking and terrain modeling software system for orbital imagery," said Terry Fong, director of IRG. "We have since released this software in several open-source libraries including Ames Stereo Pipeline, Neo-Geography Toolkit and NASA Vision Workbench."

Lunar imagery of varying coverage and resolution has been released for general use for some time. In 2009, the IRG helped Google develop "Moon in Google Earth", an interactive, 3D atlas of the moon. With "Moon in Google Earth", users can explore a virtual moonscape, including imagery captured by the Apollo, Clementine and Lunar Orbiter missions.

The Apollo Zone project uses imagery recently scanned at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, by a team from Arizona State University. The source images themselves are large - 20,000 pixels by 20,000 pixels, and the IRG aligned and processed more than 4,000 of them. To process the maps, they used Ames' Pleiades supercomputer.

The initial goal of the project was to build large-scale image mosaics and terrain maps to support future lunar exploration. However, the project's progress will have long-lasting technological impacts on many targets of future exploration.

The color on this map represents the terrain elevation in the Apollo Zone mapped area. Credit: NASA/Google Earth

"The algorithms are very complex, so they don't yet necessarily apply to things like real time robotics, but they are extremely precise and accurate," said Nefian. "It's a robust technological solution to deal with insufficient data, and qualities like this make it superb for future exploration, such as a reconnaissance or mapping mission to a Near Earth Object."

Near Earth Objects, or "NEOs" are comets and asteroids that have been attracted by the gravity of nearby planets into orbits in Earth's neighborhood. NEOs are often small and irregular, which makes their paths hard to predict. With these algorithms, even imperfect imagery of a NEO could be transformed into detailed 3D maps to help researchers better understand the shape of it, and how it might travel while in our neighborhood.

In the future, the team plans to expand the use of their algorithms to include imagery taken at angles, rather than just straight down at the surface. A technique called photoclinometry - or "shape from shading" - allows 3D terrain to be reconstructed from a single 2D image by comparing how surfaces sloping toward the sun appear brighter than areas that slope away from it. Also, the team will study imagery not just as pictures, but as physical models that give information about all the factors affect how the final image is depicted.

"As NASA continues to build technologies that will enable future robotic and human exploration, our researchers are looking for new and clever ways to get more out of the data we capture," said Victoria Friedensen, Joint Robotic Precursor Activities manager of the Human Exploration Operations Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters. "This technology is going to have great benefit for us as we take the next steps."

This work was funded by NASA's LMMP, and supported by collaborators at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Alabama, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. and the United States Geological Survey (USGS).

To view the maps, visit the LMMP site or view in Google Earth:

1. Download Google Earth at:

2. Click here to download a KML file for viewing in Google Earth:

3. Once you open that file in Google Earth you will have options to view these "Apollo Zone" maps overlaid on Google Earth's "Moon mode".

Jessica Culler, 650-604-4789
Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.

Apollo 15 Landing Site In Great Detail

The NASA Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter rolled to capture this dramatic oblique view of the Apollo 15 landing site. Hadley rille, a great chasm in the lunar surface, carves its way through the center of this scene [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University]. Larger Image.

Apollo Zone Digital Image Mosaic and Digital Elevation Model Released

The "Apollo Zone" Digital Image Mosaic (DIM) and Digital Elevation Model (DEM) have just been released. These maps cover approx. 18% of the Lunar surface at a resolution of 1024 pixels per degree (approx 30 m/pixel). The maps are the result of 3 years worth of work by the ARC Intelligent Robotics Group (IRG) to align and process more than 4,000 images from the Apollo Metric (Mapping) Camera, which flew aboard Apollo 15, 16, and 17.

To preview the "Apollo Zone" maps, download the following KML file for viewing in Google Earth :

Once you open that file in Google Earth you will have options to view these "Apollo Zone" maps overlaid on Google Earth's "Moon mode". The maps have also been uploaded to the Lunar Mapping and Modeling Project (LMMP) portal ( and will soon be available for visualization and download via that site.

The "Apollo Zone" maps cover the following sites of interest: Apollo 15, Apollo 16, Alphonsus Crater, Rima Prinz, Aristarchus Plateau-2, Ina D Caldera, Sulpicius Gallus, Mare Crisium, Mare Smythii, King Crater, Tsiolkovskiy Crater, Aitken Crater, and half of Van de Graaf Crater.

The terrain model has an average vertical accuracy of 40 m/pixel and standard deviation of 37 m (compared to LOLA laser altimetry tracks). Over 46% of the covered surface has vertical errors lower than 25 m.

The "Apollo Zone" maps (image, elevation, hillside, colorshade, confidence and precision) were automatically generated using new computer vision algorithms developed by IRG:

- robust statistical sub-pixel stereo correspondence
- robust bundle adjustment and radiometric corrections for large-scale image mosaics
- orbital camera position/orientation estimation using interest point extraction
- photometric correction of exposure time, shadow removal and generation of seamless large-scale image mosaics.
- photometric method for reconstructing lunar albedo
- photoclinometric terrain reconstruction method that improves lunar DTM precision
- statistical method for multiple stereo digital terrain model mosaicking
- multi-view 3D terrain reconstruction
- DTM/LOLA alignment and lidar / image matching

These algorithms have been released as NASA open-source (Ames Stereo Pipeline, Neo-Geography Toolkit, and NASA Vision Workbench). Map processing was performed using the NASA Pleiades supercomputer. In addition to the Apollo Metric Camera images, the fully automatic map processing pipeline has also been used with data from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) and by several planetary science groups.

This work was funded by the Lunar Mapping and Modeling Project (LMMP). We gratefully acknowledge the support of our collaborators at NASA MSFC, NASA GSFC, JPL and USGS. Special thanks go to Ray French and Mark Nall for their support and leadership of LMMP.

Posted by: Soderman/NLSI Staff

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