LRO maneuvered into its 50-km mapping orbit on September 15. The next pass over the Apollo 17 landing site resulted in images with more than two times better resolution than previously acquired. At the time of this recent overflight the Sun was high in the sky (28° incidence angle) helping to bring out subtle differences in surface brightness.
Image:Apollo 17 Lunar Module Challenger descent stage comes into focus from the new lower 50 km mapping orbit, image width 102 meters. Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University Larger image
The descent stage of the lunar module Challenger is now clearly visible, at 50 cm per pixel (angular resolution) the descent stage deck is 8 pixels across (4 meters), also note that the legs are also now distinguishable. The descent stage served as the launch pad for the ascent stage as it blasted off for a rendezvous with the command module America on 14 December 1972.
Tracks are clearly visible and can be followed to the east, where astronauts Jack Schmitt and Gene Cernan set up the Surface Electrical Properties experiment (SEP). Cernan drove the Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV) in an intersecting north-south and east-west course to mark positions for laying out the SEP 35-meter antennas (circle labeled "SEP" marks the area of the SEP transmitter). The dark area just below the SEP experiment is where the astronauts left the rover, in a prime spot for monitoring the liftoff.
Image: Region of Taurus Littrow valley around the Apollo 17 landing site. Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University Larger Image
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