Archive for the history Category

38 years

Posted in history, moon on December 19, 2010 by moonmapper

38 years ago, on December 19, 1972 at 19:24:59 UTC, the Apollo 17 Command Module America splashed down into Pacific.The first human exploration of a planetary body other than Earth has ended.

The Apollo anniversaries are usually hard for space enthusiasts. It’s hard to acknowledge that in 1972 we have abandoned dreams of space colonization, and instead chosen to remain confined to Earth surface and low Earth orbit. But the aim of this blog is to look forward towards the new perspectives, not back at past glory. Recent discoveries around the poles of the Moon do rekindle hope that one day humans shall return to claim Earth’s Next Continent.

CSM America seen from LM Challenger over the Taurus-Littrow valley prior to descent. NASA frame AS17-147-22466, cropped. Click to enlarge.

Although not located in the attractive polar regions, the Taurus-Littrow valley visited by Apollo 17 remains a fascinating place. Let’s use the anniversary to explore it:


A map, retro style

Posted in history, map, moon, processing, usa on November 2, 2010 by moonmapper

This is National Geographic map on the Moon, first published in February 1969 issue:

(reduced under fair use. You can see a zoomable version and buy a copy at the NatGeo store).

I have found a fascinating story dealing with the creation of this map, told by the cartographer who was actually working on it: Part 1 and Part 2. The work started back in 1964, before the detailed imagery of the Farside was even available (but after the first images of the Farside returned by Luna 3). As the Lunar Orbiter images were coming in, a special process had to be developed and employed in order to rectify the photographs and put them on a coordinate grid. It worked, although there was one major problem on the Farside:

The gut- killer was that there was nothing I could use to check my work. I had to work across the entire Far Side hoping everything would meet up correctly. Fortunately it did.

I humbly bow before people who were able to accomplish such things.

Contrast this with today, when I can get a gridded and calibrated altimetry dataset from the spacecraft over the Internet in a few minutes; spend one weekend writing processing software and produce a map of interesting area within several minutes — all that without even leaving my home. Or having a formal training in cartography, for that matter. Or, if I’m lazy, fire up VMA or LTVT and be done even quicker. I can even shade the map with titanium concentration in a few clicks, if I feel like it. To quote Phil Plait

We live in the future. Still no flying cars, but we live in the future.