New Photos Show Astronauts' Treks on the Moon

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The twists and turns of three Apollo moon crews are revealed in new pictures taken by NASA’s sharp-eyed Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO.

The God’s-eye-view of the lunar surface shows foot trails, equipment and rover tracks left behind by astronauts on the Apollo 12, 14 and 17 missions — three of six human expeditions to the moon that took place between 1969 and 1972.

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“Really, really awesome images,” is how NASA’s space science chief Ed Weiler describes the new haul from LRO.

In previous LRO images, tracks from the rovers were visible, but not as the sharp parallel lines seen in the new pictures. Also visible for the first time are foot trails of the astronauts as they explored the surface and set up equipment

“We can retrace the astronauts’ steps with greater clarity to see where they took lunar samples,” lunar geologist Noah Petro, with NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., said in a statement.

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For the close-ups, LRO soared as close as about 13 miles above the lunar surface. It usually flies at an altitude of about 31 miles.

“These images remind us of our fantastic Apollo history and beckon us to continue to move forward in exploration of our solar system,” said NASA’s planetary sciences division director Jim Green.

Image: Over the dunes and through the dust … happy trails on the moon. Credit: NASA/ASU