NASA releases images of Apollo landing sites

A nostalgic NASA – clearly pining for the glory days of its manned space program –  has released a slew of new pictures depicting the Apollo 12, 14 and 17 landing sites.

The images, snapped by the space agency’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), show the twists and turns of the paths made when the astronauts explored the moon’s surface.

For example, at the Apollo 17 site, the tracks laid down by the lunar rover are clearly visible, along with the last foot trails left on the moon. The foot trails are easily distinguished from the dual tracks left by the lunar rover, which remains parked east of the lander.

“We can retrace the astronauts’ steps with greater clarity to see where they took lunar samples,” said Noah Petro, a lunar geologist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., who is a member of the LRO project science team.

At each site, trails also run to the west of the landers, where the astronauts placed the Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package (ALSEP) to monitor the moon’s environment and interior.

This equipment was a key part of every Apollo mission. It offered the first insights into the moon’s internal structure, measurements of the lunar surface pressure and the composition of its atmosphere.

“These images remind us of our fantastic Apollo history and beckon us to continue to move forward in exploration of our solar system,” added Jim Green, director of the Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington.