July 20, 2009
--Forty years after Buzz Aldrin
and Neil Armstrong first walked on this barren ground
, the landing site of the Apollo 11 mission is shown in a brand-new photograph—complete with the bottom half of the Eagle
lunar landing craft (visible via the long shadow just left of center).
Made in mid-July by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft
--the first NASA moon-imaging satellite launched in more than a decade--the picture shows the lunar lander's descent stage.
The Apollo astronauts left behind the descent stage after using it as a launch pad for the ascent stage, which they piloted back to the orbiting lunar command module.
The descent stage shown in the image is about 14 feet (4.2 meters) wide, filling only about nine pixels on LRO's digital camera. But the sun was close to the moon's horizon at the time, resulting in the long shadow that makes the module easy to spot—and adding to evidence against claims that the moon landing was a hoax.
Future LRO images of the site may show even more detail as the craft loops closer to the moon's surface during its elliptical orbits.
Photograph courtesy Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project; image alignment by National Geographic News staff