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A lower orbit for NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has produced some fantastic new images of several Apollo landing sites, with resolutions high enough to show moonwalkers' footprints and some of the hardware they left behind.Here's the Apollo 12 landing site as it appears today. You can click on the images for a better view. Note the position of the Surveyor 3 robotic lander.NASAHere's a more familiar view of the same scene, taken by astronaut Alan Bean on Nov. 20, 1969, as mission commander Pete Conrad removed instruments from Surveyor for analysis back on Earth. Intrepid, the lunar module Conrad flew to the surface, waits on a rise 600 feet away.NASAThe LRO team adjusted the orbiter's slightly elliptical orbit to move its lowest point over the Moon's sunlit side for the best photography. That dropped the spacecraft and its cameras from a typical altitude of 31 miles down to about 13 miles. Controllers left the orbit there for 28 days, which allowed the entire lunar surface to rotate and give full coverage to the LRO Wide Angle Camera.In this image of the Apollo 17 landing site, taken with the LRO Narrow Angle Camera, astronaut footprints, "moon buggy' tracks and the Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package (Alsep) are much clearer than in images collected from the higher altitude. So is the final parking space for the Lunar Roving Vehicle astronauts Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmidt drove to extend their range on the surface.NASAThis image of the Apollo 14 site shows where moonwalkers Alan Shepherd and Edgar Mitchell explored, and the Alsep they left before returning to lunar orbit in the Antares lunar module, leaving its descent stage behind.NASA"These images remind us of our fantastic Apollo history and beckon us to continue to move forward in exploration of our solar system," says Jim Green, Planetary Science chief at NASA headquarters.Right on, Jim.
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