A new snapshot from NASA’s newest moon probe has revealed the 38-year-old tracks leftover from a grueling moonwalk by two Apollo astronauts who tried, and failed, to reach a tantalizing crater.
The photograph was taken by a camera on NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) and shows the terrain surrounding the landing site of Apollo 14 astronauts Alan Shepard and Edgar Mitchell, who touched down on the moon Feb. 5, 1971 in their Antares lander. It was released Wednesday and confirmed that the astronauts came just 100 feet (30 meters) from the rim of their target, Cone Crater, before they turned back, LRO researchers said.
At first glance, the image appears to depict a stark lunar surface devoid of any evidence that humans were there. But a closer inspection can reveal the glints of the Antares lander and a nearby experiment deployed by the astronauts, which appear at the lower left of the snapshot. The tracks from the boot prints of Shepard and Mitchell appear as wispy, winding lines that are a slightly darker shade of gray from the surrounding terrain.
The region of the moon explored by Shepard and Mitchell on the Apollo 14 mission is a rocky, hilly area known as the Fra Mauro highlands. The mission was the third of six Apollo moon landings between 1969 and 1972.
LRO has beamed home an earlier view of the Apollo 14 landing site, as well as snapshots of Tranquility Base, the first manned landing site visited by Apollo 11 astronauts on July 20, 1969. Researchers overseeing the probe’s main camera, called LROC, from Arizona State University released the new images.