A New Moon Rises

Lunar Exploration Sites

The passion to explore our closest celestial neighbor has resulted in more than a dozen robotic landers from the United States, the former Soviet Union, and most recently China. One of the greatest achievements of the U.S. space program remains the six Apollo human landings on the Moon. The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera has obtained detailed images of all these landing sites.

Apollo 11 Landing Site

Apollo 11 Landing Site Map

Apollo 11
Sea of Tranquility, July 20—21, 1969

"Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed." With those words, Neil Armstrong let the world know that the Apollo 11 lunar module had set down safely on the Moon. Although the Eagle was off course and heading for the rocky rim of West crater (the large crater in the photo), Armstrong intervened and guided the lander to a safer spot 500 meters (1,640 feet) farther west. Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin spent over two hours exploring the area.

Image ID: M175124932R
Camera: NAC
Image width: 1,000 m (3,280 ft.)

The white lines show the paths of the Apollo astronauts. LM marks the location of their lunar module.

Apollo 12 Landing Site

Apollo 12 Landing Site Map

Apollo 12 Landing Site
Oceanus Procellarum, November 19—20, 1969

Apollo 12's Intrepid made a pinpoint landing within walking distance of Surveyor 3, which had landed in 1967. Pete Conrad and Alan Bean collected parts from the robotic spacecraft for engineering assessment, as well as samples of ejecta from a relatively young impact crater and mare basalt rocks.

Image ID: M175428601LR
Camera: NAC
Image width: 800 m (2,620 ft.)

The white lines show the paths of the Apollo astronauts. LM marks the location of their lunar module.

Apollo 14 Landing Site

Apollo 14 Landing Site Map

Apollo 14 Landing Site
Fra Mauro Highlands, February 4—7, 1971

After the engineering triumphs of the first two landings, Apollo 14 was dedicated to scientific exploration. Alan Shepard and Ed Mitchell acquired samples from varying depths below the lunar surface by collecting material ejected from Cone crater (upper right). Samples from the edges of the ejecta are from near the surface, while samples from the rim are from deeper within the crater.

Image ID: M175388134LR
Camera: NAC
Image width: 1.8 km (1.1 mi.)

The white lines show the paths of the Apollo astronauts. LM marks the location of their lunar module.

Apollo 15 Landing Site

Apollo 15 Landing Site Map

Apollo 15 Landing Site
Hadley Plains, July 30—August 2, 1971

The Apollo 15's Falcon landed 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) from Hadley Rille, a channel cut by flowing lava. Dave Scott and Jim Irwin became the first to explore a rille and the first to drive on the surface in a lunar roving vehicle. They spent almost three days exploring the Hadley-Apennine Valley and traveled over 28 kilometers (17 miles) in their rover. Among the many samples collected was a piece of the most ancient lunar crust, known as the "Genesis Rock."

Image ID: M175252641LR
Camera: NAC
Image width: 4.55 km (2.83 mi.)

The white lines show the paths of the Apollo astronauts. LM marks the location of their lunar module.

Apollo 16 Landing Site

Apollo 15 Landing Site Map

Apollo 16 Landing Site
Descartes Highlands, April 21—24, 1972

John Young and Charlie Duke undertook the first and only exploration of a purely highlands site. Their goal was to sample the light plains deposits thought to be remnants of a volcanic eruption. The light plains turned out to be material from the ancient Imbrium Basin that flowed hundreds of kilometers. Their explorations covered more than 26 kilometers (16 miles).

Image ID: M175179080LR
Camera: NAC
Image width: 2.25 km (1.4 mi.)

Click each image to see the full-size version.
The white lines show the paths of the Apollo astronauts. LM marks the location of their lunar module.

Apollo 17 Landing Site

Apollo 17 Landing Site Map

Apollo 17 Landing Site
Taurus-Littrow Valley, December 11—14, 1972

A key science goal of what turned out to be the last Apollo lunar landing was to collect rocks to help date the formation of the Serenitatis Basin. Jack Schmitt and Gene Cernan explored that region on foot and in their lunar rover. With the help of LROC images, it appears that samples collected from the Sculptured Hills and North and South Massifs are actually ejecta deposits from the Imbrium Basin. The engineering and science results from Apollo 17 were an amazing capstone to the Apollo program.

Image IDs: M142061915LR, M142068699LR
Camera: NAC
Image width: 15 km (9.3 mi.)

The white lines show the paths of the Apollo astronauts. LM marks the location of their lunar module.

Largest Lunar Lobate Scarp

A Valley Cut by a Scarp
Apollo 17 astronauts Jack Schmitt and Gene Cernan explored the Taurus-Littrow Valley (center right). One of largest lobate scarps (cliffs) on the Moon, named Lee-Lincoln, crosses the valley. The scarp appears as the sharp, narrow line across the valley floor between South Massif and North Massif mountains. The astronauts drove up onto this scarp to investigate the rocks of South Massif.

Image ID: M1096343661LR
Camera: NAC
Image width: 40 km (25 mi.)

Luna 17 Landing Site

Luna 17 Landing Site
Mare Imbrium, November 17, 1970

The Soviet Luna 17 robotic spacecraft (left) gently settled to the lunar surface carrying the first successful robotic lunar rover, Lunokhod 1 (right). For the next 10 months, operators in the Soviet Union guided the rover across more than 10 kilometers (6 miles) of lunar terrain. Luna 17 returned video pictures of the surface and tested the properties of the lunar soil.

Image ID: M114185541R
Camera: NAC
Image width: 150 m (492 ft.)

Chang’e 3 Landing Site

Chang'e 3 Landing Site
Mare Imbrium (Sea of Rains), December 14, 2013

China became the third nation to soft-land a robotic spacecraft on the Moon when Chang'e 3 landed just east of a small impact crater (right). The lander deployed a small rover named Yutu, or "Jade Rabbit" (left). It explored the immediate area for about two months, before a technical problem stopped Yutu in its tracks.

Image IDs: M1142582775R, M1145007448LR
Camera: NAC
Image width: left, 1,200 m (3,937 ft.); right, 2,800 m (9,186 ft.)