NASA today nailed the lie that astronauts never went to the Moon by releasing astonishing new photos of the equipment left behind. An orbiting spaceprobe swooped low to snap detailed pictures of three Apollo landing sites.
They showed clearly the descent stages of the lunar modules in which the space pioneers landed, experiments placed on the lunar surface and even the footprints of the astronauts.
Since the US landed six two-man crews between 1969 and 1972, they have faced allegations that the whole thing was faked in a Hollywood studio. Buzz Aldrin, who was part of the first landing by Apollo 11, once famously thumped a man who claimed the landings never happened.
The new pictures that will hopefully shut up the conspiracy theorists were taken by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. The probe homed in on the Apollo 12, 14 and 17 landing sites and improved on images captured two years ago.
Sharpest views were of the area where Apollo 17’s lunar lander Challenger touched down in the Taurus–Littrow valley, near the edge of Mare Serenitatis, the Sea of Serenity.
Challenger’s descent stage is clearly seen, casting a stark shadow across the landscape. The abandoned lunar roving vehicle in which they went motoring is also visible – abandoned is probably an unfair word as it was positioned to film Challenger’s liftoff – along with the buggy’s wheel-tracks in the dust plus the footprints of astronauts Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt.
Similar shots show the equipment and tracks of Apollo 12 astronauts Pete Conrad and Alan Bean, their descent stage Intrepid, plus the older unmanned Surveyor 3 probe that they landed close to in Oceanus Procellarum, the Sea of Storms.
Also imaged was the Fra Mauro landing site in the lunar surface around Mare Imbrium, the Sea of Showers, by Apollo 14’s lander Antares with its crew Alan Shepard and Edgar Mitchell. In addition, the pictures show the Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package (ALSEP) carrid by each Apollo to monitor the Moon’s environment and interior.
Jim Green, director of the Planetary Science Division at NASA HQ in Washington, said: “These images remind us of our fantastic Apollo history and beckon us to continue to move forward in exploration of our solar system.”