Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Leave it to the Americans

A spacecraft circling the moon has snapped the sharpest photos ever of the tracks and trash left behind by Apollo astronauts in their visits from 1969 to 1972.  Yup, trash.  Leave it to the Americans to be the first to liter the moon.

Images taken by NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter from 13 to 15 miles up show the astronauts' paths when they walked on the moon, as well as ruts left by a moon buggy. Experts could even identify the backpacks astronauts pitched out of their lunar landers before they returned to Earth.

Two years ago, images from the same spacecraft from 30 and 60 miles out showed fuzzier images. But this year the orbiter dipped down to take about 300,000 more close-ups. The trails left by the astronauts are clear, but the places where backpacks were discarded, Apollo 17's moon buggy, and the bottom parts of the three lunar landers are blurry.
After 40 years there does not seem to be much moon dust covering the manmade trails. NASA thinks that it will probably take about 10 million to 100 million years for dust to cover them.

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Whiskeytown Lake, Very Northern California, United States