- Education and Science
Photos of Apollo Moon Landing Sites From Space!
ALL Apollo Landing Sites
Was the moon landing a hoax? If not, why don't we have photos of Apollo moon landings from space? In fact, we do! Below are photos of all the Apollo spacecraft on the moon, plus astronaut footprints, instruments, lunar rovers, and flags at several different Apollo mission landing sites.
India's space program photographed tracks of Apollo 15's astronauts in September '09. Japan's Selene/Kaguya lunar probe imaged the Apollo 15 and 17 sites in 2008 with a stereoscopic 3D camera, including the "halo" of brighter material kicked up by Apollo 15's exhaust plume. China's Chang'e 2 lunar orbiter has imaged Apollo equipment on the surface, according to chief scientist Yan Jun. Also, it turns out that the Clementine spacecraft snapped a distant picture of the Apollo 15 landing site as far back as 1994. But those photos can't match the resolution of the new Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter's camera!
This page includes detailed photos of the landing sites of Apollo 11-12, Apollo 14-17, and the crash site of Apollo 13's upper stage booster.
Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter images are from NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University.
Apollo 11 Landing Site Overview
The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter snapped the Apollo 11 landing site on its early approach in July 2009, but we were disappointed -- it was as far away as a typical Earth satellite photo (see below) so there wasn't any detail. Later passes in November 2009 and 2011 brought the LRO nearer.
P.S. See the bottom of this page where I've got links to several recordings of the Apollo 11 mission picked up by amateur and foreign radio operators.
LRO Photo Gallery of Apollo 11 Landing SiteClick thumbnail to view full-size
The November 2009 photo is lit directly from above — with the sun directly behind the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter — so the metal platform left behind by the lunar lander module when it blasted back into orbit is reflecting sun-glare right back at the camera lens, making it look white.
Video Retrospective: Apollo 11's Final Scary Minutes
- Apollo 11: The Final Approach - Video - TIME.com
Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin avoid near catastrophe on their final approach to Tranquility Base. All I can say is: "Use the Force, Neil!" Yikes.
Apollo 11 Almost Crashed
My parents talked about Armstrong having to pilot around some unexpected obstacle just before landing: the planned landing site turned out to be a boulder field.
It was worse than that: not only was the chosen landing site rougher than expected, but the computers had overloaded! With fuel running low, Armstrong performed a seat-of-the-pants landing.
It's well worth watching the 2:30 minute video above to relive the landing and learn what the viewers back home didn't realize at the time.
Compare Above Photos With Satellite Photography of Earth:
Why Can't We See Moon Landers From Earth Using Telescopes?
Detailed Google Maps photos are taken by low-flying aircraft flying at 800-1500 feet, not satellites. Above is an actual satellite photo of the tip of Manhattan in New York City. Hey, where's the cars? Prove to me they exist!
Now consider: The moon is 238,857 miles away. Satellite photos of Earth are taken by satellites (duh), only a few hundred miles up. So we couldn't take a picture of the Moon as detailed as that New York City image until we put an actual satellite (the LRO!) in orbit above the Moon.
I've marked the Brooklyn Bridge for scale. It's 26m wide. Lunar landing modules are 9 meters across (and that includes the legs.) Notice the white glare off concrete roofs. The moon lander's flat metal platform reflects even more glare at noon.
Apollo 12 Lunar Landing Site PhotosClick thumbnail to view full-size
Can Telescopes See Apollo Landing Sites?
Have you got a pair of binoculars? Try reading a book with them. The printing isn't even visible, because the focal point is all wrong for anything up close.
Space telescopes have the same problem. Tele + scope means "far + sight," and they are really far-sighted. Powerful telescopes like the Hubble are designed to see things on the other side of the solar system — or even the universe! — not for close-up studies of the Moon's surface.
Below is what the Hubble Space Telescope sees when looking straight at the Apollo 17 lunar landing site. The Hubble is one of the most powerful telescopes ever made, floating above the interference of the Earth's atmosphere, but it can't resolve objects 9m across. For that, it would need a giant pair of "reading glasses!"
See Can telescopes see lunar landers or lunar rovers? and Abandoned Spaceships and Moon Buggies for great articles answering this question in more detail, with photos.
Apollo 17 Landing Site Photographed By Hubble Space Telescope
Multiple LRO Images Show How Sun Angle Changes View of Site
Apollo 13 Third Stage Booster on Moon
You probably know why there are no Apollo 13 moon landing photos.
However, Apollo 13 did leave its calling card: the first two stages of its booster rocket fell to Earth and burned up, but the third stage used to nudge it into lunar orbit crashed on the Moon. Its impact was recorded by a seismometer left by Apollo 12.
Seismometers left by the various missions have helped to coordinate the crash sites of all the spent stages within a few hundred meters, but this is the first to be photographed.
Crash site of Apollo 13 third stage:
Apollo 13 Booster Crash Site
What's with the bright white glare in some images?
Here's a video of one of the lunar modules returning to space, leaving behind a base and its legs. Notice the bright glare on the flat metal. (No, they didn't leave someone behind -- this camera was the one on Apollo 17's moon rover, controlled from Houston.)
Apollo 14 Landing Site of Antares Lunar Lander
Next up, Apollo 14. The astronauts were being extra-cautious on this mission after Apollo 13, which meant they got lost hiking in hilly terrain and had to turn back just before finding a crater they were hoping to see!
The high-res version of the August 2009 LRO flyby just barely shows their tracks, but you'll have to see the large size on NASA's website because the footprints are too faint to show when I post the smaller version here.
But there are better LRO images of the site from closer, later passes:
Apollo 14 Landing Site ImagesClick thumbnail to view full-size
Apollo 15 Moon Lander (Descent Module) and Site
Ever since the LRRRs from Apollo 11 and Apollo 15 were placed in position, astronomers back on Earth have been able to aim high-powered lasers at these mirrors and measure the Moon's distance with incredible precision from the light that bounces back.
40 years of measurements have shown not only the slight tidal rise and fall of the Moon's surface, but the fact that it's slowly spiralling away at a rate of 3.8 centimeters a year.
If you check that link, it's actually a fairly impressive feat of engineering. Since the Moon is hundreds of thousands of miles away, the light photons have to go straight there, straight back without even a tiny bit of deflection at an angle, or they'll miss the detector the astronomers are using.
In addition to the LRRR left by Apollo 15 astronauts, as usual, they did some rock collecting and exploration. See this page near the bottom matching up landscape photos taken by the astronauts with LRO overhead views.
Apollo 15 was also the first moon lander to include a Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV), popularly known as a moon buggy.
LRO Photos of Apollo 15 Falcon Lander and Moon Buggy!Click thumbnail to view full-size
Photos of Apollo 16 Moon Landing Site
Again, there's a moon buggy (LRV) to make these photos more interesting. The site looks drastically different when sun is low (July 2009) or at high noon (July 2010)!
Apollo 16 is daringly perched next to a crater — from our perspective, on the right side.
LRO Images of Apollo 16 Orion Descent Module with Moon BuggyClick thumbnail to view full-size
Guide to Apollo 16 Site - What Are We Looking At?
Apollo 17 "Challenger" Lander, Lunar Rover, and Flag
Apollo 17's landing site happens to have been photographed more than any of the others, showing traces of the flag and lunar rover left behind in addition to the instruments and landing gear of Apollo 17's lunar module.
Apollo 17 was the last manned mission, December 1972.
LRO Images of Apollo 17 Landing SIte, Including FlagClick thumbnail to view full-size
Exploring Apollo 17 Landing Site - What Are We Looking At?
Approximate Locations of Apollo Moon Landing Sites
Websites About the Apollo Moon Landings - Photos and Information About the Apollo Program
- Abandoned Spacecraft on the Moon
A lot of good links and information about the craft left behind by the Apollo program and what the LRO team *hoped* they'd see before they got their first images of Apollo landing craft.
- Exploring the Apollo 11 Landing SItes By Telescope
This amateur astronomy website shows all the Apollo moon landing sites from earth. You can zoom in on each landing site.
- PHOTOS: 8 Moon-Landing Hoax Myths -- Busted
Examine the evidence, and find out why experts say some of the most common "moon landing hoax" claims don't hold water.
- MythBusters Episode 104: NASA Moon Landing
The Mythbusters put the moon landing conspiracy theory to the test to determine if NASA faked the Apollo landings.
- Apollo 11: 35 Years Later
Interactive site commemorating 35th anniversary of Apollo 11 moon landing, with photos, videos, and a review of the historic mission.
- Photos: The other Apollo moon landings - CNET News
Apollo 11 is the most famous moon landing, but there were five other successful manned missions to the moon! Camera technology improved with the missions, so some of the later photos are even better.
- The Apollo Program - Smithsonian Institution
Photos, videos & information on all manned Apollo missions from NASA and the National Air and Space Museum.
- The Project Apollo Image Gallery
The most comprehensive high-quality image gallery of Apollo lunar mission photos and videos on the net.
- The Fox News Moon Hoax Investigation: A Hoax?
Here's just some of the mistakes, distortions, and selective editing of the "facts" in their "investigation" of the moon landings. Hey, why let facts and common sense get in the way of a sensational news story?
- The Great Moon Hoax - NASA Science
"Yes, there really is a Moon hoax, but the prankster isn't NASA. Moon rocks and common sense prove Apollo Astronauts really did visit the Moon."
More Info on LRO's Survey of Apollo Sites
Funny Moon Mission Video - Apollo 17 Astronaut Jack Schmitt: "Twinkletoes"
We've seen plenty of "cool" videos of the moon, but here's what it was really like. Low gravity and a bulky spacesuit can be tricky!
MythBuster's Moon Hoax Episode
Many of the well-known conspiracy theories put to the test
Why did the flag move? How could one leave crisp footprints in dusty-dry spoil? What about the shadows? Find out all this and more on the "Moon Hoax" episode of Mythbusters (Season 6, Episode 2, available on YouTube as a cheap purchase).
Radio Transmissions from Apollo 11
A number of radio operators picked up signals from Apollo, including both other countries' tracking stations and one rather impressive amateur radio operator.
- West German Bochum Observatory Picks Up Apollo 11 Signals
Recordings of Apollo 11 landing from a West German radio telescope.
- Honeysuckle Creek Tracking Station (Australia)
Canberra, Australia tracking station picked up signals between NASA and the Apollo 11 astronauts. See Apollo 11 links.
- Honeysuckle Creek's records of Lunar Landing
Canberra, Australia tracking station's audio recording, intercepting the radio signals from Neil Armstrong's exit from the lunar lander and "one small step" at 3:00.
- Lunar Eavesdropping in Louisville, KY
Amateur radio operator recorded signals from Apollo 11: news clippings, information, and the audio files picked up by Larry Baysinger.
Feel free to leave comments! However, if you're skeptical, may I suggest you check out the three "moon hoax" websites I listed above in my "Websites" and links section. They have a lot more information for you.