Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Ranger 8 impact on 'new' Lunar Orbiter photograph

Thumbnail of newly retrieved medium resolution frame 2069-M, a roughly 27 km-wide field of view northwest of the eventual landing site of Apollo 11, captured by Lunar Orbiter II, November 20, 1966. One year and 9 months earlier, almost to the hour, on February 20, 1965, the Ranger 8 spacecraft, performing as it was designed, impacted this part of Mare Tranquillitatis at the spot indicated by the blue arrow. Newly retrieved from original tapes by the Lunar Orbiter Image Restoration Project (LOIRP) and released July 30, 2012 [Lunar and Planetary Institute reference - Large at LOIRP and very large at the NASA Lunar Science Institute].
It helps to know precisely where to look. Because the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera has previously surveyed and identified the location of the Ranger 8 impact with the Narrow Angle Camera (see below), and because such a large version of the Lunar Orbiter II medium resolution photograph was made available by LOIRP on the NLSI servers, it took little work to separate out the impact rays from the general washout of the terrain. The resolution above appears to be between 1.5 and 2 meters per pixel [NASA/JPL/LOIRP/NLSI].
The Ranger 8 impact at 1 meter per pixel resolution, picked out from the background (2.635°N, 24.784°E) of the LROC NAC/WAC global mosaic available using the LROC QuickMap. The slight increase in elevation running north-south through the impact zone (the Ranger 8 spacecraft arrived from the west by southwest - from the left side of these fields of view) is genuine. The terrain, at just over 2000 meters below the global mean elevation, is comparable to what was explored by Armstrong and Aldrin in 1969 [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].
The most recently released of several LROC high-resolution NAC observations including the Ranger 8 impact (at center). The wide variety of illuminations in the record-breaking survey allows for detailed examination of the impact site. LROC NAC observation M185719511L, LRO orbit 12450, March 7, 2012; angle of incidence 11.8° with a resolution of 0.92 meters, from 107.7 kilometers altitude [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].
Probably among the best shots of the central impact zone augered out by Ranger 8, from LROC NAC observation M170579736R, orbit 10272, September 13, 2011; angle of incidence 16.1° at 0.49 meters resolution, from 44.64 kilometers.
Earlier Posts and background on LOIRP (Moonviews.com):
Anniversary of Ranger 8 (February 20, 2009)
LOIRP recovers image of Ranger 8 impact (June 9, 2009)
Ranger 8 (April 4, 2010) 
LROC: Coordinates of Robotic Spacecraft (April 9, 2010)
The Spirit of the Lunar Orbiters lives on at LOIRP (July 12, 2012)

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