Archive | July 2011

42 years later….Apollo 11

We already know how useful it is to view an object under different illumination and a number of areas of interest have had many LRO passes in order to photograph the same region many times under different lighting conditions. The Apollo landing sites are obvious targets of interest and this week’s Image of the Week celebrates the 42nd anniversary of the first Moon landing by making use of the multiple images taken of the landing site.

Moon Zoo forum regular jumpjack produced a couple of amazing animations of the Apollo 11 landing site showing the Lunar Module descent stage in some detail.

After a little discussion and research he produced another based on enhanced LRO Apollo 11 images. He describes the process in his blog.

These images have a 3-D feel and show the Lunar Module and equipment around the site in some detail. Here’s an annotated still from jumpjack’s blog site:

This is the entire Lunar Module the base of which is the descent stage left behind on the Moon 42 years ago and what we are looking at now photographed by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.

And if you enjoyed that you might also enjoy this – one of several similar videos based on the same idea. This is from You Tube by GoneToPlaid of the Apollo 11 landing site.

Jules is a volunteer moderator for the Moon Zoo forum


Baruch Blumberg Memorial Citizen Science Postdoctoral Fellowship

Baruch Samuel Blumberg (1925-2011)

Baruch Samuel Blumberg (1925 - 2011) credit:NASA/Tom Trower

The following is a guest blog post from Greg K. Schmidt, Deputy Director and Director of International Partnerships for the NASA Lunar Science Institute.

To Followers and Fans of MoonZoo:

It was my great honor and privilege today, at the opening session of the annual Lunar Science Forum, to announce the creation of the Baruch Blumberg Memorial Citizen Science Postdoctoral Fellowship.  Baruch, whom his many friends knew as Barry, was the recipient of the 1976 Nobel Prize in medicine for his discovery of the hepatitis-B virus and subsequent development of its vaccine. As Jonathan Chernoff, scientific director of the Fox Chase Cancer Center where Barry spent most of his career, said, “I think it’s fair to say that Barry prevented more cancer deaths than any person who ever lived.”

Barry was the founding director of the NASA Astrobiology Institute, where he created a vision that’s still being followed today.  In his early 80s, Barry returned to NASA Ames as the distinguished scientist for both the NASA Lunar Science Institute and NASA Astrobiology Institute, where he focused a large part of his efforts on citizen science.  He was very interested in Moon Zoo as a tool for getting lunar science into the hands of the public.

Barry also was president of the American Philosophical Society, which was founded by Benjamin Franklin.  Another past president was Thomas Jefferson. One can only imagine the conversations Barry and these two founding fathers might have had on citizens (Franklin, Jefferson, Lewis and Clark all come to mind) and their contributions to scientific knowledge.

Barry passed away at Ames this past April, after giving an eloquent talk on a future human presence on the Moon. He often talked of multi-generational quests, and he saw expanding the human sphere to include our nearest neighbor as a quest worth striving for.

Stuart Robbins

Stuart Robbins

It was my great pleasure to also announce this morning that Dr. Stuart Robbins, your Science lead for Moon Zoo, is the first recipient of the Blumberg fellowship.  I can’t think of anyone more fitting for this honor. His work under this fellowship will be all about taking the data assembled by your community, analyzing it, and creating meaningful scientific papers that will show the enormous value of what you do.

Thank you for your continuing work on MoonZoo.  We at the NASA Lunar Science Institute support it strongly, just as Barry did.  As someone who was close to Barry, I know he would be very pleased with this, and cheering Stuart on in this pursuit.


Greg Schmidt
Deputy Director and Director of International Partnerships
NASA Lunar Science Institute

Sounds on the Moon

Earth’s atmosphere provides a good medium for sound waves to propagate. The Moon’s atmosphere is so tenuous that it is generally thought of as a near-vacuum. So no sound can ever be heard on the Moon – right? Well, not exactly. Moon Zoo forum regular Tom128 undertook a little research project recently to investigate that very question. He started looking into the Apollo archives initially for evidence of sounds during the collection of rock samples and found that hammering can be heard on some of the audio clips from the Apollo 12 mission. No hammering was heard at Halo crater though there was some discussion about how to best use the hammer (using the flat side was more successful because of the limitations of movement afforded by the spacesuits) and fragments of the hammer coating broke off and caused some concern. However, to Bean and Conrad’s surprise they did hear hammering at Sharp crater.

Alan Bean hammering core sample tube with flat side of his hammer at Halo crater.

Alan Bean hammering core sample tube with flat side of his hammer at Halo crater. (NASA)

Over to Tom128:
It is generally understood that there is no sound on the Moon because its atmosphere is negligible. But what if an atmosphere is brought to the Moon? That was the case with the Apollo astronauts and their space suits; a self-contained atmosphere which allowed for voice communications. What is intriguing is that the sound of Alan Bean hammering on the core sample tube, which is external to his space suit, can also be heard. The reason is that the sound vibrations were conducted into his suit with each blow of the hammer, moving on up to his helmet similar, in a way, to sound vibrations on an old style Gramophone. The microphone in Alan Bean’s helmet picked up the sound and radioed it back to Mission Control on Earth.

Old Style Gramophone (


Here is a short audio excerpt of Apollo 12 astronaut Alan Bean driving in the core sample tube at Sharp crater. It is from the Bernie Scrivener Apollo 12 audio tape recording. You can hear several short blows on the audio recording as he is hammering on the tube with the flat side of his hammer. Below is the part of the transcript of the audio recording from the Apollo 12 Surface Journal at Sharp Crater: (Here’s a video version that Tom128 put together.)

”133:03:08 Bean: Okay. In this kind of pack you could almost drive it without a hammer; but, if you’ll hand it (the hammer) to me, I’ll…

133:03:11 Conrad: Yeah, just a second.

133:03:14 Bean: I want to take a couple more shots (that is, photos) of this before we leave. (Pause) There. (Pause) Okay.

133:03:28 Conrad: Get it all the way in (and) I’ll get the pictures.

133:03:30 Bean: All right. (The sound of hammering is audible) It’s driving in real easy, Houston.

[Bean – “I didn’t know that (they could hear the hammering in Houston)!”]

[Conrad – “That’s neat!”]

[Bean – “Coming through my hand, I guess…”]

[Conrad – “Yeah, it’s coming through your hand and getting into the air in the suit and it’s transmitting all the way (to the microphones).”]

[Bean – “Isn’t that something.”]

[Jones – “Now, you had the Snoopy helmets on over your ears.”]

[Conrad – “Yeah, but the microphones are out here (in front of their lips). I never heard that before, either. You can hear you hammering just loud and clear.”]

[Bean – “I would have said it wasn’t possible.”]

As Tom128 says, Pete Conrad and Alan Bean acted as “biological sensors” or transmitters. In an e-mail exchange with Andrew Chaikin, space journalist and author of many Apollo books, about the hammer sound Tom128 received the following reply (reproduced with Andrew’s permission):

“I had heard this during my research for A Man on the Moon back in ’85, and was impressed by the fact that the sound transmitted so well through the hammer, into Alan’s suit, and up to the microphone on his Snoopy cap.”

Alerted by a discussion on the Bad Astronomy and Universe Today forum Tom128 found a further example in the Apollo 17 Lunar Surface Journal at Geology Station 2. Here is the MPEG video link of the hammering sound.  You can hear 5 or 6 hammer strikes. The mission debrief concluded that Gene Cernan’s space suit was acting like a drum, similar to the Gramophone analogy.

Here’s another example from Apollo 15 as Dave Scott throws the heat flow dust cover and then falls over. Journal Text: 124:47:53 QuickTime Video Clip

Cmdr. Dave Scott in the lunar rover at ASLEP station. (NASA)


And here’s another video Tom 128 put together of the Apollo 16 Lunar Module Orion lifting off from the Lunar surface. Listen carefully for the sound of Orion’s ascent engine ignition as the vibrations were conducted into the pressurized cabin of the Lunar Module to the onboard microphones and then relayed back to Houston. There are likely to be many more examples of sounds in the Apollo archives.

Apollo 16. (NASA)


As Tom128 rightly says: “Turn up your volume and enjoy the sights and sounds once again.  Wonderful!”

Jules is a volunteer moderator for the Moon Zoo forum
But Moon Zoo forum regular Tom128 deserves all the credit for this – thanks Tom!

Images with a Difference

Happy 4th of July to all stateside Moon Zooites!

Back in April Moon Zoo forum regular JFincannon drew our attention to a batch of LRO images taken at oblique angles. The resulting NAC images needed the application of an appropriate stretch. 5:1 is a rough guide but doesn’t work for all of them and we are still trying to fathom a way to calculate the correct ratio for each image. However, our results so far are pretty amazing and show views of the lunar landscape up close and personal. So sit back and enjoy something a little different in this week’s composite Image(s) of the Week. There are more pictures and debate over in the forum thread.


For similar images check out the The LRO News site and this amazing video as LROC explores Tycho’s central peak. I recommend full screen for this one – the bigger the better!

Jules is a volunteer moderator for the Moon Zoo forum