When NASA launched the lunar reconnaissance orbiter in 2009 a part of me really wanted it to get some images of the Apollo landing sites. Not only would it be pretty awesome to look at but would be a nail in the conspiracy theorists coffin. Later in that year we did get to see some images but naturally at the height the orbiter was at they were mere blobs and shadows on the surface.
Well on September 6 2011, NASA gave us this:
This one is from Apollo 12 and clearly shows the Intrepid’s Descent stage and the Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package and the target of the entire mission the Surveyor 2 probe seen below.
From the NASA website: The higher resolution of these images is possible because of adjustments made to LRO’s orbit, which is slightly oval-shaped or elliptical. “Without changing the average altitude, we made the orbit more elliptical, so the lowest part of the orbit is on the sunlit side of the moon,” said Goddard’s John Keller, deputy LRO project scientist. “This put LRO in a perfect position to take these new pictures of the surface.”
The maneuver lowered LRO from its usual altitude of approximately 31 miles (50 kilometers) to an altitude that dipped as low as nearly 13 miles (21 kilometers) as it passed over the moon’s surface. The spacecraft has remained in this orbit for 28 days, long enough for the moon to completely rotate. This allows full coverage of the surface by LROC’s Wide Angle Camera. The cycle ends today when the spacecraft will be returned to its 31-mile orbit.
NASA also released other images of the Apollo landing sites and can be viewed on the LRO section of the NASA webpage here