Featured Image - (09/22/2009)
The First Lunar Landing
On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin took humanity's
first steps into the larger Universe around us, successfully landing at
a point in Mare Tranquillitatis now known to history as Tranquillity
Base. Interestingly, the Apollo 15, 16, and 17 missions did not
overfly Tranquility Base, so this region was not ever comprehensively
imaged by the powerful photographic instrumentation aboard the Apollo
15, 16, and 17 missions. However, during the Apollo 16 mission, an
off-nadir image was collected by the Apollo Metric Mapping Camera which
includes the Apollo 11 landing site (Figure 1). The contrast between
the high-albedo highlands and the low-albedo mare is quite evident.
You can see that Apollo 11 was targeted for a (relatively) smooth area of Mare Tranquillitatis. For the first lunar
landing, mission planners wanted to set the Eagle down in a smooth, flat, level location on the lunar
surface. From this photograph, it is easy to see why the Eagle
was targeted at this location for the first landing, when
the overarching objective was to demonstrate that humans could land and
return safely from the Moon.
Figure 1. Southeastern Mare
Tranquillitatis, including the Apollo 11 landing site (Apollo Image
AS16-M-1389 [NASA/JSC/Arizona State University]).