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On the Rim
Saddle rock › View larger image
Saddle rock, so close! Apollo 14 astronauts hiked up the flanks of Cone crater and got as far as Saddle rock before they had to turn back. A few tens of meters and what a view! LROC image 25 cm pixel scale, image 200 meters wide, north is up [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].

The 6 September 2011 LROC Featured Image described the special low orbit month that allowed LROC to snap its highest resolution images of the Apollo 12, 14 and 17 landing sites. That post featured the Apollo 17 site, while today's Featured Image looks in detail at the Apollo 14 image.

What can we see better at the Apollo 14 site compared to previous images (9 August 2009, 4 February 2011)? The increased resolution allows indentification of the astronaut backpacks (PLSS), the small two wheeled cart (Modularized Equipment Transporter or MET) that the astronauts used to transport tools and samples, and the high gain antenna (HGEA). You can also make out one of the LM legs at the 7 o'clock position on the descent stage. The pixel size of the NAC image is not high enough that all these objects can be resolved, but rather we can detect that they are there. Only through comparison with surface photography can we definitively identify the smaller objects left by the astronauts. With the smaller pixel size we can begin to resolve the descent stage, we can see its shape, brightness differences on the deck, and footpads.

LROC low orbit image of the Apollo 14 Lunar Module descent stage › View larger image
New LROC low orbit image of the Apollo 14 Lunar Module descent stage. Upper two panels show new image but with different contrast stretches, and the lower image is an enlarged version. Each scene is 75 meters wide, north is up, Sun is from the west (left) [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].

The traverse up Cone crater was the main science goal for Al Shepard and Ed Mitchell. Impact craters spread out ejecta in a very predictable manner. The outer edges of the ejecta are mostly composed of material from or near the surface where the bolide (asteroid or comet) impacted, while the ejecta at the rim of the crater comes from deepest regions within the crater. So it is a "simple" matter of walking towards the crater and collecting samples to reconstruct an accurate picture of the original subsurface. Well simple in principle.

LROC NAC low orbit image of Cone crater › View larger image
LROC NAC low orbit image of Cone crater, near the Apollo 14 landing site. Image is 400 meters wide, north is up, Sun is from the west (left) [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].