Apollo 15

Apollo 15 giveth and taketh away. On the one hand it is the first use of the Lunar rover, and the tracks from it stand out beautifully when viewed from the LRO. On the other, there does not appear to be a high resolution view taken of the Hadley Rille landing site taken by the Lunar Orbiters. Some do exist of some parts of Hadley Rille, but not the landing site specifically. However, this does mean that the claims of the landing deniers become even more difficult to substantiate: the images of the surface will be even less detailed as a result, and the likelihood of there being LRO viewable details being available to anyone other than the astronauts who piloted the LM to the lunar surface becomes even smaller. Apollo 15 giveth right back again.

Some elements of the Hadley Rille site have been discussed elsewhere, but it’s worth having a quick look before beginning our own exploration of the site. The exploration in question comes from the JAXA/SELENE probe, run by the Japanese, and it took a photograph from an oblique angle of the Apollo 15 site. The resolution is not adequate to pick out small details, but the topography is an exact match for a photograph taken by Apollo astronauts.

How could Apollo have possibly constructed such a 3 dimensionally accurate topographic recreation of the Hadley Rille site without actually going there? Let’s take a quick look at the alternatives:

1) They couldn’t

2) They had to go to the Moon

Those are the only options. The contour maps of the Hadley Rille area before the landing were not adequate enough to produce any kind of reproduction of the site for some sort of studio set. The contour maps that exist of the site after landing were all produced from data gathered by Apollo 15’s mapping camera. So in order to fake the Apollo 15 landing site the only data they had existed after they landed from data collected during the mission.

OK, enough sniping at the stupid - it’s too easy, let’s move on to looking at what data would have been available to Apollo 15 and see how it matches up with the photographs they took, and the photographs the LRO took.

The best LO image of the Hadley Rille area is from LO5 and is a medium resolution view of the entire rille. The highest quality version found for the purposes of this analysis is here, and is image 105. Image 106 also shows part of the rille and all of the landing area. There is a high resolution image from LO4, but the ground resolution is not as good as the medium resolution shown below, If better resolution versions exist, I have not found them. The LOIRP has recently recovered better quality versions of image 105, but the high resolution part does not cover Apollo’s landing site and the currnet version given online is of no better quality than 106’s.

The entire medium resolution image is shown below, and the area covered by the mission is shown below that together with the best quality maps used for the mission, which show details from LO photographs.

The LO5 photo (above left) has been contrast adjusted for this exercise in order to improve the visibility of craters, but even after this it does not seem to show the same level of detail as the map, so higher resolution copies may have existed on paper.

There are a variety of LRO photographs available, some from the ALSJ, others from the LRO website. Which one we use depends on what is under examination.

As with other missions, we’ll start at the beginning with some footage of the landing, using stills taken from this footage. There is a risk of repeating this absolutely stunning piece of work, but we’ll take it!

The LO5 view shows nothing more than a few blobs, and while I am reasonably sure I have picked out the right area, there is always the chance that I have got it wrong. In contrast, the craters in the LRO view are easily identifiable, from the large crater bottom left with it’s smaller craters at 6 and 9 o’clock on its rim, to the larger surface depression off to the right, and the twin craters close to the top of the 16mm still near the window frame (just below the ring marking the position of the LRRR in the LRO view. Look carefully and you will see many more smaller craters that can be picked out in Apollo and LRO viewpoints. Look carefully at the LO5 image and you will make out very little.

If we look at one more still taken just as dust begins to be picked up, there are still craters that can be identified in both Apollo and LRO. I haven’t even bothered to try picking them out on the LO5 picture, as all you will see are a few pixels.

The match is exact, despite there being no corresponding view available from previous orbiting craft. There is even a view of the same area in the video taken from the LM after separation from the CSM (left, the view including the CSM, right the view on a different orbit), but these are early in the mission and most of the rille is in darkness.

The other LRO view of Pluton crater comes from combining two images, as the boundary line between the left and right view of the the area cuts through it (left and right). Once this has been done (and the image enhanced to make it brighter), we can then compare the panorama with the vertical and oblique views of the North Complex. It’s worth noting that even the view from orbit taken by the LM 16mm camera is of comparable quality to that of the LO5 photographs, and the still image is considerably better.

Most of the small details in the Apollo photograph are well picked out in the Oblique view, and the shadow from the vertical hides much of it, but all three show details not in the least bit visible n the LO5 view. The oblique view also shows the same large rock at the back of Eagle Nest crater (pink arrow), as well as the rocks on the crater wall of Pluton. The small crater on Pluton’s far wall is visible (red arrow), below which are a small clusters of rocks is visible in all of the images.

Compare this with LO5’s view (below left), which isn’t even as good as the LM’s incoming view (below right, AS15-87-11720).

It’s interesting to see that while LO5 provides a view of Eagle Nest and Pluton that identifies the main features (ie the craters themselves and the smaller craters on the respective crater edges, it does not give as clear an image as the LM Hasselblad on its way down to the surface. Even the LM view (taken at considerably lower altitude than LO5) does not reveal the detail of rocks and small craters visible in the Apollo and LRO views. Even a camera just a few thousand feet above the surface has not captured the details seen in photographs taken on the ground that are verified as accurate 40 years later.

Just around the corner from Pluton is Chain crater, a much shallower depression but still of a decent size. It is also the subject of a panorama that continues on from the one showing Pluton. As before we can compare the view from two LRO standpoints and that of LO5 to see if we can discern the same level of detail. As the elongated perspective of the 500mm lens used makes it difficult to tell which craters are occupying the foreground, I have cropped the panorama to show just Chain crater. Bottom left is the oblique view of the crater, but this time it as been rotated and stretched to be the correct orientation and size. In the middle is the vertical view from the LRO, and bottom right is the LO5 picture.

The main features to look for when comparing the Apollo and LRO images occupy the back wall of Chain. In the centre of the Apollo panorama are two round craters almost one above the other (the top is is picked out by the red arrow). To the left of this pair is a crater of similar size (partially obscured by a Reseau mark), and below which are a couple of large boulders (pink arrow). To the right of the vertical pair are a couple of smaller craters, followed by a small boulder field (green arrow).

In the two LRO views, the crater with the two boulders below it can be seen pretty much in the centre of the crater edge, just to the right of centre at the top of each image. In the vertical LRO view, this crater-boulder arrangement can be found by following a 45 degree line from the ‘C’ of ‘Chain’. By following around the crater rim the vertically aligned pair and then the small boulder field can be found quite easily.

Now try finding these features on the LO5 view.

In your own time obviously.

I’ll give anyone who doubts the Apollo landings a little more time.

While we’re waiting for them to catch up, let’s have a look at Mons Hadley itself. It was photographed several times over the mission, and in great detail by a series of shots that have been combined to make a composite image. A high resolution version of that image is available here.

The most identifiable features in the Apollo image are the lines of rocks running from the crater rim downwards forming two ‘V’s (red arrows), and these can be seen easily in both LRO images at the top and centre of the crater. In the rotated and re-sized oblique view, a crater is visible to the left of the letter ‘D’ (magenta arrow), and this crater can also be found below and to the left of the lines of boulders, to the left of the rocks in the foreground. Also visible below and between the two Vs in the Apollo panorama is a pair of shallow craters, and once again they can be found in both LRO views.

Again, other details can be found if they are looked for, but not in the LO5 view, which only shows the broad crater outline.

We get another glimpse of Dune crater in the 16mm footage taken on EVA2 as the LRV moves nack towards the LM. IN the view below we can see the V-shapes identified above in the 16mm view, and this time I’ve compared it with screenshots from the LRO viewer as it shows a better view of the crater. The red and magenta arrows identify the same features as above.

Once again, the evidence is surely incontrovertible, no arrows needed - the Apollo astronauts have photographed something that no-one could possibly have known was there without actually being there. No probes had seen this boulder strewn view of Hadley Rille, it could not therefore have been built in a terrestrial studio. This view was also shown in National Geographic (see here) long before the LRO imaged it.

We have yet another image of this area that is worth looking at - AS15-89-12116. It’s part of a panorama available here, but I want to look at just this image. Why? Because I have a book dating from 1975 (“Lunar Science: A post-Apollo view” by Stuart Ross Taylor) and the image appears in there. Below is a comparison of the online version and the version in my copy of the book.

The 16mm still shows the patterns made by both human feet and the lunar rover, and the match is exact in every detail - no arrows needed again (the black ones are on the original image).

There is another reason why this view has been chosen, and that is the debris seen in the foreground - remnants of Mylar cloth being sent off towards the horizon by the ascent module exhaust gases. The movement of these pieces of lightweight foil material is totally consistent with an airless low gravity environment. Were they on Earth, air resistance would have stopped them in their tracks.

If the launch video is watched carefully, you can see the largest piece of material finally come to rest just beyond the ALSEP. The image below shows another launch still, and the foil can be seen, together with its shadow, just before it comes to rest.

National Geographic also put together a composite view in their February 1972 edition, as can be seen on this site. So these views have self-evidently been public domain for over 40 years, long before the LRO took more detailed images.

The other reason why Mons Hadley is interesting is thanks to the cover of the Biomedical Results report, which used an image from Apollo 15 (below left, high resolution version here) as the basis for one of the edition’s covers (below right). The report cover shows a hill slope that obviously isn’t there, so “A-HAA!!” cry the conspirators, probably in lots of coloured capitals and exclamation marks, they must be fake.

So, if it’s all fake then you shouldn’t be able to find any features on that image on any of the LRO views.  The top image presented below is a montage of LRO views taken from the quickmap browser with a Lunar Orbiter view shown next to it. Below that are the same features identified on the composite image, and at the bottom the same features from the image used as the Biomedical Results Report.

So it looks like while the person who designed the cover for the Biomedical Results report used a bit of poetic licence in order to improve the aesthetics of the image (or may even have believed the extra slope is actually there), they also managed to include details not visible in the Lunar Orbiter images but clearly visible in the LRO shots. Impressive.

But wait - what’s that noise I can hear? Why it’s those science deniers whining that all these images are from NASA, and they must all be faked because, yeah, erm, NASA. OK then, how about we throw some other country into the mix.

In 2009, India’s Chandrayaan-1 probe used its Terrain Mapping Camera to image Hadley Rille. Once you register with them at the India Science Data Archive website you can download 5Gb raw images.

I did that, and grabbed the relevant orbit for the Mons Hadley area. Using the software they supply on their website, you can extract segments of the image that are of a more manageable size.

After doing that, what does Mons Hadley look like? Well, here’s the Apollo view of it compared with Chandrayaan, each with a red square to identify the area on which we are going to focus.

The white circle in the LRO view shows the LRRR, which can be made out to forward and to the left of the ascent module shadow. Immediately to the right of this shadow is the ALSEP. Beyond that in the distance, and level with the the LRRR, is the still moving foil. In the LRO view above, the white dot in the top right corner is the foil finally at rest. Below and to the left of the foil is a large crater with 3 smaller craters arranged around the edge of it. It is this collection of craters that the foil is pictured next to in the 16mm still.

Anyone who doubts that this is the case should watch the video again and see when the foil comes to rest. I should point out that although I found this on my own, other people have already made this discovery, as can be seen here. Great minds.

One final view occurs some time after take-off as the ascent module passes over the rille on the way to rendez-vous with the CSM.

If it looks familiar it should. On the left of the still is the same area examined above from many angles on the ground, showing in video form rocks and small craters that can’t have been seen any other way than by actually being there. The LRO companion to this still is shown on the right, and the smallest boulder can be made out with complete clarity.

The reason for this? It was taken on the way home from the Moon.

Ahhh but there’s more.

Once again we can call on independent verification by Chandrayaan and its image of the rille  (below right), which, for good measure, I have put next to the best Lunar Orbiter has to offer (below right):

We also have a more recent image taken from the same direction. The full image is here, and an article based on it is here.  A crop of the LROC browser is shown below. The perspective is distorted in the original and I have stretched it to appear the same as the website article.

We have a slightly less detailed view from the second oblique as seen below, but even this lower resolution one has more detail the the orbiter image, and it is still a perfect match.

The book image was taken on my phone. I’ve level adjusted both to increase the contrast, but done nothing else. I’m sure I don’t need to point out to anyone that they are identical. Now, let’s have a look at the LRO view of this same spot - you can just about make it out in the previously used oblique shots so it shouldn’t be too difficult. Just for fun, let’s use the photo of the book page and compare it with the high resolution oblique above.

Despite the lower resolution of the LRO image it is still possible to make out the rocks identified in the Apollo imagery, rocks not in the least bit visible in the lunar orbiter view of the rille.

We can spend a little more time at the rille to try and rebuff the claims of one particular idiot on the internet.

The website awe130.com has this page, in which the author (let’s call him “Adrian”) claims amongst other things that there should be mountains in the TV footage (which he initially said was 16mm film - that’s how good at research he is) because you can see them in the photographs. He also claims that the mountains have been edited out of the modern Apollo image. This latter claim is, not to put too fine a point on it, bullshit - this link is to the high resolution version of AS15-82-11138 and they are evidently there. You can see it below, together with the screenshot that so mystifies our little Dutch friend.

So here we have a photograph taken on the moon in 1971, reproduced in a book in 1975, showing features that could not have been known about - features revealed by the LRO 40 years later. As always, great minds think alike, and many of the rocks in the image are identified on this LRO page.

But wait, I hear the morons cry, that magazine has no pictures of people or equipment in it - it could have been taken by some mysterious robot that no-one knows about that somehow managed to make it to the moon without anyone noticing.

Well that’s fine and dandy, you go ahead and think that, meanwhile the sane among is will look at things like the image below. It’s a partial panorama taken from Station 9a. The original one at the ALSJ isn’t good enough to show what we need to see, so I redid it in part using the high definition ones available there.

The arrows you’re looking for are over there on the right. Here they are in close up.

Same arrows, different perspective, with an astronaut and a rover in shot.

Still bitching?

Well, while that rover was parked up there it spent quite some time broadcasting TV images of EVA-3 back to Earth.

Part of that broadcast involved the Ed Fendell zooming in on the rille to do a panorama of his own.

As I am fortunate enough to own Spacecraft Films’ DVD box set of the mission, I took screenshots of that panorama, compiled them, and looked at the same LRO view to see what I could see. Here’s the TV view:

Now let’s look at the LRO view.

It’s worth pointing out first that the rocks in the bottom right of the TV pan are on the edge of the rille closest to the camera and are difficult to identify exactly in the LRO view thanks to their proximity to the camera and the viewing angle. They can, however, be identified in the Apollo pan as the line of paler rocks right of centre along the rille rim.

Just to add further emphasis, we can even match these arrows with the oblique view shown right at the start. In the image below I’ve added the multi-pronged arrows from the TV pan and the single arrows from the book scan.

And just for fun here’s a glimpse of a crater they pass on the way to Dune crater. The view on the left is the stretched oblique used above, the one on the right the new screenshot.

It’s difficult to tell from the more recent LRO view that it is a crater, but the oblique shot shows it more clearly, and the inset crater on the far wall is easy to identify. Sadly the rocks are too small to be made out on the LRO views, but you can’t have everything.

One last comparison from the EVAs can be had from the rille itself. A number of LRO views can be had of the rille without any of the shadowing that makes the LO5 and previously used LRO views difficult to compare. One such view is this one, and a section of it can be examined alongside part of this panorama of the western wall of the rille. The same area seen in the LO5 photograph is shown on the right.

How do those areas compare in close-up?

Wow would you look at that: an Indian probe, not NASA, confirms details that are not seen on Mons Hadley before Apollo landed there, because that face of Mons Hadley is in shadow on the LO images!

Stopping with Chandrayaan for a while, there is another area from the same orbital pass that is also covered by Apollo, and it’s a view that has been cited as evidence of a conspiracy by disingenuous lying morons. In this ‘evidence’, AS15-82-11057 is juxtaposed with other views also containing an LM showing the area roughly SE of the landing site to claim that it is some sort of painted backdrop and NASA made a mistake. I refuse to supply a link to it or even show the image. Google it.

It is, obviously, a lie. It is not a painted backdrop. If it is a painted backdrop you have to ask where they got the detail for it, given that the LO images show the slopes in question to be in shadow. So, how can we show this with Chandrayaan views? I’ve joined AS15-82-11056 and AS15-82-11057 to make a new panorama, and on this panorama I’ve identified 4 areas. I’ve done the same with the Chandrayaan view.

Now let’s have a look inside those boxes! First blue:

Now red:



So there we are, 4 chunks of Apollo image, matched with 4 chunks of a Chandrayaan image. The Chandrayaan views are showing much less detail generally than the LRO equivalent, but the features we are identifying are much further from the LM than we have looked at so far.

The key point is that they are showing features that are completely in the shade on the Lunar Orbiter views - the only views they had prior to Apollo, and so the only way that they could have taken pictures of those features (no confirmed by probes from two different countries) is by actually being there.

At the other end of the zone of operations is the South Complex, another collection of craters and uneven ground. One of the craters in that complex is ‘Dune’. A panorama exists of this crater, and this is shown below with the two LRO views and the LO5 photograph.

The first view is still a while before landing, and is looking across the landing site towards Hadley Rille. To the right of the 16mm still shown below is the LRO view of the same area, and the LO5 view of the same is to the left.

The best way to orient yourself here is to pick out the 4 craters in the bottom right of each image and then work your way around. The twin crater below centre can still be made out despite the astronaut trails, as can the chains of small craters and depressions towards the top of the photographs. The actual landing point is just out of view on the LRO photograph in the bottom left.

Now let’s get right in amongst them, and look at how the LRO compares with the view just before it gets completely obliterated by the dust kicked up by the exhaust.

It should again be obvious that the the features seen almost at the point of landing are still visible in the LRO image, and could not possibly have been known about in advance of the mission. It’s worth pointing out th dark spot between the yellow and light blue arrows that only appears on the LRO image. This is likely to be the disturbed ground around the location of the solar wind composition experiment, which was returned to Earth and is not therefore visible in any of the final images of the site.

If you think these craters can be found in the LO5 view, be my guest, but until a better quality reproduction of the original images are produced proving otherwise, there is absolutely no way that the details visible in the Apollo video footage can possibly have been produced without actually being there. The craters picked out in the landing video are just a few feet across, and they can be found accurately represented in a photograph from a probe that didn’t see the landing site again for another forty years.

One feature of the descent process that has been discussed many times in both scientific and conspiratard realms alike is the impact of the descent engine burn on the lunar surface. Where is the evidence of the burn they cry, why can’t we see it in photographs? A number of studies have been done on this, and as well as evidence of the plume being found for Apollo 12, two studies confirm its existence for Apollo 15. One covers Japan’s probe data, the other India’s. You can find data on Japan’s evidence here, and India’s here.

What starts to get interesting is when you line up the Apollo site as seen from the LRO and those taken by India and by Japan. It’s worth noting before we do so that the images I am using here are relatively low resolution ones from the articles and reports, not the full sized high resolution ones.

Who’d have  thought it - a non-NASA probe sees exactly the same thing.

To make it even more unlikely that such a scene was built in a studio, we have the evidence of the 16mm footage taken as the ascent module is launched back into orbit. A couple of panoramas have been assembled of the view from the LM after all the EVAs had been done, but the view from the LM as it heads upwards in an uncut video sequence showing the landscape below is even more convincing.

The view below shows the scene shortly after take-off compared with a view taken by the LRO.

So, first things first, can we demonstrate that they are at Hadley Rille? Yes, of course we can. Lets take another screenshot from the same EVA 3 video and see if we can spot where it is on an LRO image.

Do you think I’ve identified enough of the rille? The larger rocks in the foreground are on the bear edge of the rille, as opposed to those I’ve picked out in pretty colours which are on the far wall. The black arrow identifies a rock we will see later. Here’s the area identified on a much larger image of the rille, together with an arrow that points passes through the two clumps of rocks circled in red and blue.

Why is the arrow important? Because it ends at Station 9A, which by an incredible coincidence is where the video still was taken. It’s almost as if they were actually there.

We can take the same LRO image and drape it over Google Moon’s surface at Hadley. If we zoom in to where Station 9A is and look across, here’s the view. Notice the mountains in the distance.

So far so good. Now let’s look at the screenshot that Adrian was having such difficulty with. What can we see in it? Here it is again, this time with features identified in it from the LRO view and also the Apollo Hasselblad photograph which I’ve zoomed and cropped so you can the area more clearly.

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The orbiter view does show a great deal of markings on the crater wall corroborating those of Apollo and Kaguya, but arguably is not as detailed. What is definitely missing from Orbiter is that area in shadow. Apollo and Kaguya both show the same level of detail in their lit part that is hidden in Luna Orbiter. Why? Because they both show images shot above the moon.

Seriously, how much more do you want? We have Japanese, Chinese and Indian probes all showing that the Apollo images are completely accurate and show things that they could not have known without going. The best lunar orbiter photographs can only show broad outlines and larger craters, not individual rocks. Even if it were higher resolution it would still show us the details of that part of the rille that is in shadow.

We went to the moon.

The solid arrows and the to circles are visible in the previous screenshot we examined, and while camera operator Ed Fendell has zoomed out a little we can still make them out they are obviously the same ones. The black square outlines a near straight line of smaller rocks, and these can be found on the right hand side of the Google Moon overlay. We can also identify the same features in the Hasselblad image, so we can be sure that they were in the same place. You also don’t need to be on the ground to get the image.

So, we can be pretty clear that we are looking at the same area of Hadley Rille, and we can also be absolutely certain that it is actually Hadley Rille, not a sound stage as Adrian claims. What about those mountains though? The charitable conclusion is that Adrian maybe hasn’t seen all of the video. If he had, he would have seen this bit.

It’s zoomed out more so less detail is available for us but the large clumps of rocks identified earlier can be seen, and the rocks towards which the astronaut is walking towards on the edge of the rille are the same in the close up and distant shot. So there we have it. Mountains in the distance and rocks that are visible in TV and still images from Apollo and on photographs taken by the LRO.

And just in case anyone is still out there moaning about it all being American/NASA data, just as with Mons Hadley, and other parts of the rille, India’s Chandrayaan-1 probe used its Terrain Mapping Camera to image Hadley Rille. An image from that is available in this conference presentation.  Here’s a close up of the area above from the TMC camera. As usual, if I can’t be certain of a feature, I have omitted it, but the larger objects are definitely there.

Besides the panoramic cameras, there are numerous views of the Hadley Rille site that have been compiled into the kind of panoramas that have been useful so far, and we will examine a small number of these presently. Some research has already been done identifying various rocks and craters seen in LRO and Apollo photos, such as at the ALSJ, and while we won’t repeat what they have done, we can have a look from a slightly different angle.

For our first image, let’s look at one of the first the first panorama given in the ALSJ, which is of Pluton crater, and the higher ‘Eagle Nest’ crater. These craters are part of what is termed the ‘North Complex’, a collection of craters on ground elevated about the surrounding relatively level ground. We have a couple of LRO views available of the crater complex. An oblique view looks across the Apollo 15 area, and it’s worth comparing that view with that a section of that seen by the LM as it approaches its landing point from the opposite direction (below right, AS15-87-11717).

I’ve lined the images from Japan and India up using craters in the image, and there is no doubt that there is a darkened area in the centre corresponding to the exact location of the LM. Let’s zoom in a little closer.

What becomes even more amazingly clear here is that in Kaguya’s view, on the right, you can also see the darkened area around the ALSEP, and a faint hint of the path connecting the two.

The JAXA paper linked to above contains a reference to an Apollo 15 Panoramic camera image, AS15-9430. Although the JAXA paper states that the Apollo image was taken on the 2nd orbit after landing, this is actually incorrect. The Panoramic and Metric Camera index shows that it was taken on revolution 27, which commenced at 129:19 MET. This fits perfectly with the time recorded for that image here as 23:52:54 on 31/07/71 (around 130:20 MET). The image below shows a low resolution version of that photograph.

So far so good, but so what? Well, the LRO archive, hosted by the ASU, ha very high resolution scans of the Panoramic Camera images, and you can download them. Here’s what happens when you download AS15-P-9430 and zoom into the Apollo 15 landing area (left) compared with the LRO view on the right.

What’s interesting here is that the time the image was taken coincides with the end of EVA-1, and during that EVA the main job of Apollo 15 was to get the ALSEP set up. The only trail visible in this image is the one to where the ALSEP is.

Another interesting feature is the small shape at around 11 o’clock relative to the LM. It is clearly standing proud of the surface, as can be deduced from the direction of the shadow, and it does not appear in the LRO view or indeed any of the other Panoramic Camera images shown below. The clue to its identity can be found in an Apollo surface image also taken at the end of EVA-1, AS15-86-11602.

In the comparison below I have zoomed in to the LM and rotated it so that it matches the view south towards St George crater, seen in the background of the surface photograph.

It is hopefully self-evident that the orientation of the rover, its position in relation to the LM and also the shadows of the two features are an exact match.

It’s worth comparing this first orbital image with image AS15-P-9370 (below left), which was taken on Rev 14, 02:12:23 on the 31st - a good hour before the first EVA had even started. Notice the lack of trails and and other disturbance, and also the longer LM shadow. Then there is AS15-P-9809 (below right), which was taken at 21:08:56 on 02/08/71 - several hours after the LM had docked with the CSM, where even with a less clear image there is more disturbed ground, a hint of a trail to exactly where the lunar rover is parked and a much less pronounced LM shadow now that the sun is much higher in the lunar sky.

As the LM continues its ascent to orbit it follows a roughly east to west trajectory, and after another 35 miles or so picks up another area covered by a Chandrayaan image. Here’s the path it follows - X marks the spot where Chandrayaan’s coverage starts.

On the face of it there is little different in all three images, but the features that do vary between them are the bright fresh craters dotted around the images. Some do crop up in the orbiter views, but several do not. Notable missing is the one related to the central crater of the three larger ones. Here they are in more detail:

While the LO view does see that a crater is there, it very obviously doesn’t pick out the fact that it is a bright high albedo feature as Apollo and Chandrayaan do. The same is true of several other craters, for example these two pairs:

You can argue that the two in the lower left of the LO image can just be made out, but not the two in the upper right.

As Falcon continues its ascent to orbit it moves out of the area covered by this orbiter photograph and into an area with even less clear pre-Apollo photographic coverage. Below is a similar set of image comparisons looking at the one of the last views from the 16mm footage covering the Chandrayaan footprint and the best LO coverage (LO4 109 H3).

Much of the detail in the Apollo still is lost in the LO4 image, while the Chandrayaan is an exact match - including the high albedo features. We can verify this further by zooming in to the main feature of the shot:

Before we get there we can look at the Japanese coverage from Kaguya (below left) which we can pick up just as it crosses the rille. The Apollo film is in the centre, and Lunar Orbiter on the right.

As usual the Orbiter image provides the same broad brush strokes as the Apollo footage, but the finer details of the small craters and rocks (eg the one in the rille’s western wall) are missing.

A short while later Apollo picks up another part of the rille:

It’s quite obviously the same area, and what we can see now is that as the Apollo LM gains altitude the resolution possible in the 16mm footage starts to match that of the Orbiter photograph. What Orbiter fails to show is some of the detail where light is being reflected, for example on some of the fresher craters and particularly so in the detail on the northern rille wall.

We’ll have one more look at a Kaguya shot before moving on to the higher resolution Chandrayaan shots

I’ve used a different Kaguya image type this time in order to reveal details in the crater bottom that isn’t shown otherwise. While Lunar Orbiter shots show the crater bottom in the shade, the Apollo image shows exactly the same details on the crater walls and central mounds that they couldn’t have been aware of before. The ray pattern from the fresher crater is much easier to make out in Kaguya compared with Orbiter and it is an obvious match for the Apollo one.

Not convinced? Here are those craters close up compared with a still from the 16mm footage that I’ve perspective corrected and contrast adjusted to allow comparison. As you can see there are details in the 16mm footage that could not have been seen other than be flying over them.

We now move into the region covered by India’s probe. The best coverage of the start of Chandrayaan’s image from Lunar Orbiter is still 5105, and here we have a crop of the relevant area from lunar orbiter shown (left) with a 16mm still (centre) and Chandrayaan’s view (right).

China’s probe (below left) also has an image of the same craters, and although it is lower resolution you can still make out details in the craters and some of the brighter surface features not shown in the Lunar Orbiter photographs. You can also see them in the Apollo 15 Panoramic Camera images (below right).

While changing altitude means that lunar orbiter images present a much more reliable comparison with Apollo images than at lower levels, there is still no comparison when the centre of craters are in complete shadow. For one final look at Apollo 15’s ascent here is Bancroft crater as shown by Apollo 15 (centre), Lunar Orbiter image IV-114-H3 (left), and a Kaguya view (right). The Apollo 15 view is a composite of two frames to allow greater coverage.