New Lunar Photos Offer a Stunning 3D Flyby Of The Apollo 11 Site

Forty Years after touching down near the Sea of Tranquility, the trails of disturbed regolith created by the Apollo 11 astronauts are still clearly visible in photographs taken by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. Scientists used those and other images to create this amazing virtual model of the landing site.

The 3D flyby was made with stereo pairs of the photos. Each image in the pair shows the site from a slightly different angle, allowing sophisticated software to infer the shape of the terrain, similar to the way that left and right eye views are combined in the brain to produce the perception of depth. (The animator also added a 3D model of the Lunar Module descent stage.)


Although the area around the site is relatively flat by lunar standards, West Crater appears in dramatic relief near the eastern edge of the terrain model. Ejecta from that crater comprises the boulders that Neil Armstrong had to avoid as he searched for a safe landing site.



This video really drives home the absurd number of craters on the moon. They're everywhere! I'm constantly amazed by the ingenuity and guts of those early astronauts. They had to land on that pock-marked lunar surface with less computing power than the average microwave oven has today, and if anything went wrong they would be supremely hosed. True heroes, every one of them.