September 7, 2011|8:10 pm
NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has released images which show the Apollo 17 site on the moon, where tracks and trash left behind by Apollo astronauts during visits from 1969 to 1972 can be seen.
The images were taken from 13 to 15 miles above where the astronauts walked on the moon. It was also possible to identify backpacks that they pitched out of their lunar landers before they returned to Earth.
"However, the photos weren’t close enough to see individual bootprints," said Arizona State University geology professor Mark Robinson.
The photos were released before Thursday's planned launch of NASA's twin robotic spaceships to explore the moon's gravity.
ZOOMING ON THE MOON: Nasa's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter image shows the Apollo 12 landing site on the moon.
NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) image released on September 6, 2011 shows the Apollo 17 site on the moon, where the tracks laid down by the lunar rover are clearly visible, along with the last foot trails left on the moon. The images also show where the astronauts placed some of the scientific instruments that provided the first insight into the moon's environment and interior. LRO captured the sharpest images ever taken from space of the Apollo 12, 14 and 17 landing sites. Images show the twists and turns of the paths made when the astronauts explored the lunar surface. NASA says the image brightness and contrast have been altered to highlight surface details.
ZOOMING ON THE MOON: Nasa's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter image shows the Apollo 14 landing site on the moon and paths left by astronauts Alan Shepard and Edgar Mitchell on both Apollo 14 moon walks. (At the end of the second moon walk, Shepard famously hit two golf balls.) The descent stage of the lunar module Antares is also visible.