Apollo 11

Apollo 11 lunar module, Eagle. Image width: 282 meters (about 925 ft.)

This 40th anniversary brings back memories. My family had no TV then – a lot of New Zealanders didn’t. And anyway with a young family we had built-in entertainment.

But the sixties were a heady time for space exploration. Of course the moon landings were horribly tinged with the cold war “space race”. National prestige and military/political motives were foremost. However, one cannot deny the important scientific advances made by these landings and the other space exploration occurring that decade. As Neil deGrass Tyson points out science has often had to piggyback on exploration made for seemingly mercenary interests.

I have clear memories of the Sputnik launch, Gagarin‘s flight and the first detailed photos from the first soft-landing on the moon by a Soviet craft. I can also remember those in the early sixties who wrote books and newspaper articles claiming that their was a civilisation of the other, so far unseen, side of the moon. Seems incredibly stupid – but we seem to have just as many cranks these days.

This picture shows a photo taken by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO, of the Apollo 11 landing site. The Apollo missions‘ lunar module descent stages sit on the moon’s surface, and long shadows from a low sun angle make the modules’ locations evident.

From the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter’s website:

“The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera, or LROC, was able to image five of the six Apollo sites, with the remaining Apollo 12 site expected to be photographed in the coming weeks.

The satellite reached lunar orbit June 23 and captured the Apollo sites between July 11 and 15. Though it had been expected that LRO would be able to resolve the remnants of the Apollo mission, these first images came before the spacecraft reached its final mapping orbit. Future LROC images from these sites will have two to three times greater resolution.”

And what about the Apollo 14 photo? You can actually see the track left by astronauts in travelling between the Lunar Module and their scientific instruments!


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