Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The original interplanetary mountaineers

Traverse plots of Apollo 15 EVA 1 & 2 (August 1 and 2, respectively), the routes astronauts Dave Scott and Jim Irwin drove south to the lower slope of Mons Hadley Delta (from the "Elbow" bend in Rima Hadley, southward, toward the left). Elevations above that of the landing site (LM). For scale, the dogleg distance the astronauts travelled from the LM to Elbow crater along the edge of Hadley Rille over EVA 1 is roughly 4.5 km. Oblique LROC NAC mosaic M1123519889RL, LRO orbit 17751, May 18, 2013; spacecraft and camera slew 55.21° from orbital nadir, 76.87° angle of incidence, resolution 2.87 meters from 130.27 km over 26.11°N, 11.15°E  [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].
J. Stopar
LROC News System

The lofty Apennine Mountain Range has two prominent peaks near the Apollo 15 landing site: Mons) Hadley (relative height 4 km) to the northeast and Mons Hadley Delta (3.5 km) toward the south.

Between these two peaks lies the "Swann Range," named for Apollo 15 Geology Team Leader Gordon Swann.

The Apennine Mountain Range contains some of the largest peaks on the Moon Mons Hadley rivals the prominences of notable terrestrial mountains like Mt. Rainier and Mt. Fuji, and Mt. Erebus in Antarctica when measured from base to summit.

Elevation profile of Mons Hadley Delta, measured from the Apollo 15 landing site (left) through the peak (right); data from the LROC WAC-derived GLD100 Digital Terrain Model (DTM), with relative heights of notable terrestrial mountains shown for scale. Mons Hadley Delta is not the largest peak in the Apennines, and Scott and Irwin scaled only a small portion of the mountain's contact zone with the Hadley Delta plain [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].
The first Apollo 15 EVA took astronauts David Scott and James Irving southward along the edge of Hadley Rille and to the base of Mt. Hadley Delta near St. George crater. This traverse took them to a height of just over 65 meters above the landing site on the mare plain. At this height, much of the surface material of the mountain comprises debris that, over eons, slid down the upper slopes through mass-wasting. Materials collected in this area primarily consist of regolith, as there are very few surface boulders.

Mons Hadley Delta (high-resolution mosaics HERE); Mosaic of Dave Scott's Station 9 panorama (AS15-82-11084-88), from northeastern wall of the "Station 9 crater," a relatively fresh 15 meter-wide feature characterized by soft clod-like blocks of pressure-pressed regolith formed at small impact. Station 9 crater is about 240 meters immediately northeast of Rima Hadley; Apollo 15 (EVA 3), August 2, 1971 [Dave Scott/NASA/JSC/ALSJ].
The second EVA took the astronauts southeast to "South Cluster" and Spur craters. At Spur crater, a very old crystalline rock fragment was collected, containing evidence of geologic processes more than 4 billion years old and representing a piece of the original anorthositic crust of the Moon. They also discovered an unusual green material composed of volcanic glass.

This traverse ascended about 95 meters in elevation, up the base of Mons Hadley Delta. At times, the slope was steep enough (~ 18°) that the rover had difficulty getting traction, and the mountain peak loomed so high overhead, that the astronauts could not lean back far enough to get it in the frame of their cameras.

Apparent outcrops (arrows) may represent a high-lava mark approximately 85 meter up the south slope of Mons Hadley. AS15 magazine 84. View a more dramatic mosaic from this panorama HERE [NASA/JSC/Apollo 15 Lunar Surface Journal/Arizona State University].
During this traverse, the astronauts commented that they thought they could detect a high-mark where lava might once have filled the basin at the base of nearby Mt. Hadley around a height of 85 meters above the current mare plain.

LROC projection with traverse courses of Apollo 15 expedition to Hadley Delta, July 30-August 2, 1971 [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].
From Science Station 6. It definitely worthwhile to see a larger, high-resolution mosaic of this, reported to be Dave Scott's favorite photograph from the expedition (HERE). Through a 500-mm lens, from Science Station 6 up on the Apennine Front, the lunar module Falcon and ALSEP components are seen from 4.7 km, backdropped by the North Complex crater group and flank of Mons Hadley, on the plain's opposite bank [NASA/JSC].
Apollo 15, Science Station 6, Spur Crater, on the Apennine Front, August 1, 1971. Dave Scott employs his 500 mm lens and black and white magazine 84 to capture the image immediately above, the Apollo 15 lunar module Falcon and North Complex crater group in context of the high mountains surrounding the Hadley Delta landing site. Still clipped from live video transmission relayed from remote-operated color TV camera on the lunar rover [NASA/JSC/ALSJ].
After capturing his black and white 500 mm panorama, Cmdr. Scott returned employed color magazine 86 and a less awkward smaller focal length. The reproduction here is too small to see the lunar module, but a much cleaner full resolution version is available HERE. Though it is not as detailed, and coherent backscatter is more problematic than the black and white at 500 mm, the full-resolution color image more closely matches the unaided human eye.  AS15-86-11618 [NASA/JSC/ALSJ].
While the Apollo 15 astronauts scarcely climbed the lower slopes of a lunar mountain, they made many important discoveries. What challenges, findings, and fun (like slope skiing) might future explorers experience on the powdery mountains of the Moon?

Explore the first two of the Apollo 15 traverses in more detail below by panning and zooming. The numbers indicate relative elevations of the paths travelled by the astronauts.

Related Posts:
Soaring Over Mighty Mt. Hadley
Apollo 15 departs Hadley Rille Delta
Water found in the Apollo 15 Genesis Rock
Follow the Tracks (Apollo 15)
Hadley Rille and the Mountains of the Moon
Retracing the Steps of Apollo 15 Constellation Region of Interest
Apollo 15 Laser Ranging Retroreflector: a Fundamental Point on the Moon
LROC's First Look at the Apollo Landing Sites
'Man's first wheels on the Moon' at 41 years
Bowditch Lava Terraces
Lunar Kipuka
Remnants of the Imbrium Impact
Hadley-Apennine: the Apollo 15 Landing Site
The Mighty Apennine Mountain Range
Layers near Apollo 15 Landing Site
LROC Explores Apollo 15 (YouTube video)
Kaguya captures Rima Hadley

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