Stories of Apollo landing sites

On the occasion of Apollo’s 50th anniversary last week, here is a special edition of Moon Monday to learn about several Apollo landing sites.

Landing sites of all Apollo human Moon landing missions. Credit: NASA

There’s a lot I’ve covered about the Apollo missions here on Moon Monday, so I’ll be linking to all those in one place here. We kick start with Apollo 11’s landing site in the Sea of Tranquility, which gave us our first lunar rock samples.

Then there’s the Apollo 15 landing site near Hadley rille which revealed the Moon’s dramatic volcanic past.

It is also from Apollo 15 rock samples that we know the Moon’s large basins formed several hundred million years before the volcanic eruptions filled them with lava.

Apollo 17 astronauts Jack Schmitt and Eugene Cernan landed in the Taurus-Littrow valley. Remarkably, they sampled ejected material from the impact that created Tycho crater, the material landing on their site from more than a thousand kilometers away!

They also saw a rolled-down boulder during their exploration. Tracing its source and studying the boulder allowed to infer composition of the rocks present up-slope on the site!

Apollo 17 had another candidate landing site, the lava filled Gassendi crater. The major scientific goal would be to sample the ancient lunar rock materials of the central mountains in the crater. Alas, engineering constraints, particularly lack of high-resolution imagery, meant that a successful landing would’ve been difficult and the site was dropped in favor of Taurus-Littrow valley.

The spectacular craters of Aristarchus and Copernicus, hosting central mountains as well, were candidates for the now-cancelled Apollo 17+ landing missions.

Future Apollo missions were to land in more elusive sites, like a rare crater type found at Hyginus caldera. The aim was to reveal important information about the dynamics of collapse features and also get insights into irregular features like Ina.

The Apollo missions not only enabled us to see a dynamic Moon but also transformed our understanding of its origin. Last year on Apollo’s 49th anniversary I had contributed an article to The Planetary Society on how the Apollo missions transformed our understanding of the Moon’s origin.

You can explore all Apollo landing sites on Google Moon.


Know more about Apollo on The Planetary Society’s “Apollo at 50” special.

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