Forty years after Neil Armstrong keyed his microphone and said, "Houston, Tranquility Base here, the Eagle has landed," a NASA probe in lunar orbit has returned this image of Apollo 11's landing site. Take a look:
The picture was shot by Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter — LRO for short — now circling the moon at an altitude of about 30 miles. Click on the picture to enlarge.
The bright object near the top of the picture, NASA says, is Eagle's descent stage, with its four footpads visible as dots around it. The other bright spots are experiments left by Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin — a seismometer and a laser reflector.
This is a very-enlarged portion of a very-long-distance digital image, but its resolution is high enough, NASA says, that one can make out the footprints the astronauts left as they loped around in the lunar dust. The faint dark path toward the top of the picture (about 11 o'clock from the LM base) would lead to where the astronauts set up their television camera. And the path toward the right was made by Armstrong, who, without saying anything at the time, made a hundred-yard run to the edge of the nearest sizable crater. He turned around and took this picture of Eagle from behind:
A wider view of the LRO picture shows West Crater, significant because Eagle's guidance system would have landed the men in the boulder field surrounding it. Armstrong, looking for a safer place to touch down, took over control and found one about a half-mile to the west. North is at the top of this image. Eagle would have approached from the right, or eastern, side of picture. Click on the picture, or HERE, to enlarge.
When NASA began to release LRO images of the Apollo landing sites in July (see my earlier post HERE), a fair number of people saw them as fodder for the never-dying rumors that the moon landings were faked. Neil Armstrong's personal answer was that it probably would have been easier to go to the moon than to keep thousands of engineers, scientists, and nosy reporters quiet.