Saturday, March 29, 2008

Tranquillity Base from Kayuga (Selene)

Hat's up to Unmanned Satellite Forum: The ever enterprising Bad Astronomer and Universe Today team has given us a heads up of another HD video from 100 kilometers (65 miles) over Statio Tranquillitatis - the otherwise nondescript southwestern Sea of Tranquillity and landing site of Eagle, the Lunar Module of Apollo 11, where Neil Armstrong and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin "first set foot upon the Moon, July 21, 1969."

The image has yet to be posted to the English language JAXA site and is labeled very approximately above. North is approximately 20 degrees or less (upper right from center). The landing site of Surveyor 4 and beyond the impact site of Ranger 8 are out of the wide field of view, as are some of the more obvious landmarks labeled to mark "U.S. 1," the path toward landing from the east.

Although the descent stage inside the only 100 meter area trodden on by Aldrin and Armstrong are not readily visible (at least to my eye, and pulled up 1000x), one can only hope there is more to come. And hope continues to rise of the potential of the Japanese explorer's maturing abilities after the release on March 12 of similarly high-resolution video stills, but more distant images of the Taurus-Littrow landing site, in the "shadow of Mount Hadley," of Apollo 17's landing site.

Kaguya (Selene) is still undergoing it's first comprehensive survey from polar orbit.

It is also possible the lower stage of Apollo 17 was just barely resolved by Hubble in UV surveys of the Apennines and bright Aristarchus crater region in 2001.

From the original release on JAXA's Japanese language site and in the image replicated and reduced with inset added above there is an obvious and reflective churning of the surface of similar size to the actual size and location of the crew's two hours of surface activity, four decades ago, raising concerns for the preservation of this most historic site on Earth's Moon and those first footprints.

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