Monday, September 17, 2012

Close-up on the lonely trail of Lunokhod-2

Long and winding road of the last rover deployed on the Moon, Lunokhod-2. Image cropped from a diagonal slice through the rover trail swept up in an extreme close-up of Le Monnier crater August 14, 2012. LROC Narrow Angle Camera (NAC) frame M168000478R, LRO orbit 9892; resolution 41 cm per pixel, angle of incidence 47.65° from 22.11 kilometers [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].
The Soviet Union's Lunokhod-2, riding to the lunar surface on the Luna-21 lander, arrived on the Moon January 15, 1973. The 84 kg. rover Lunakhod-2 was afterward deployed and, with the benefit of a robust radioisotope thermoelectric generator to warm itself through the long lunar nights, was teleoperated a total of 37 km, across the southern floor of le Monnier crater, until the following June.

It's not quite as easy to distinguish the twin ruts of the Lunakhod trail in the mosaic of both the right and left-hand frames of LROC NAC observation M168000478. The unusual close-up, from less than half the nominal 50 km altitude, was caught as flight directors prepared to raise LRO's orbit to above 100 km at the end of 2011. Because the camera was considerably closer to the surface, the field of view is quite a bit more narrow, in compliance with the Inverse Square Law, slightly less than one-half kilometer across. LRO was slewed a full 25° off nadir, which resulted in the right-hand frame being very slightly more distorted than the left [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].
LROC principal investigator Mark Robinson discussed the Lunokhod-2 mission in detail on March 13, HERE. Also, there are spacecraft panoramas and close-ups of both Luna-21 and Lunokhod-2 at the following links:

Lunokhod-2 revisited (March 13, 2012)
Luna 21 (March 20, 2010)
Lunokhod-1 and Lunokhod-2 (March 17, 2010)

Phil Stooke's familiar survey of the Lunokhod-2 traverse is seen here graced with the scaled mosaic of LROC NAC M168000047, at lower left. The small white box shows the field of view seen at 41 cm resolution in the opening image, above [Google Earth].
ILIADS application perspective of le Monnier, LROC Wide Angle Camera 100 meter global monochrome mosaic draped over LOLA 128 ppd digital elevation model (v.2) [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].

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