Moonsteps Spotted From Orbit

Yes, we went to the Moon. Yes, we left footsteps. Yes, we've got some kickass hardware up there now taking pictures that prove it. The LRO (Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter) has been patiently mapping the surface of the Moon since June at a resolution previously unprecedented. Earlier in the year the NASA LRO team release pictures of several of the Apollo landing sites, and now they have just released a picture of the Apollo 12 landing site that clearly shows the tracks of the astronauts' footsteps.

LRO image of Apollo 12 landing site

Wow, now that's some serious resolution! Click it to get the bigger picture. It even shows the Surveyor 3 probe that was launched 2 years before. The Apollo 12 landing site was chosen to test the level of landing accuracy that could be achieved, and since they landed right beside the target it was considered a complete success.

In the image above the footprints left by astronauts Pete Corad and Alan Bean can be clearly seen, which is pretty damning evidence that we actually walked there. There will of course still be those who will deny and call into question the validity of the image, but as can be seen with this and the likes of global warming, denial is a very popular passtime. I'll bet that even once we return to the Moon and have ground level handheld HD images of the actual original footprints being beamed back by the new astronauts, there will still be a chorus of denial. A cursory knowledge of science is all that it takes to find conclusively that a significant amount of the knowledge we have about the Moon today is simply not possible to know without having a man set foot on the actual surface.

We really did go there, and we really are going back. It's just not soon enough for me, but that's because I'm a die-hard space geek. Maybe the recent discovery of water on the Moon will kick the required butts into action. Or maybe the new found interest of many other nations in the Moon, like China for example, will spark another space race. I'm no fan of the flags and footprints strategy, but maybe this time we'll take the longer term exploration goal to heart and set up a permanent presence there. We need to start getting out there and exploring, and the Moon is a perfect place to start.

Image credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/Arizona State University
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