09/06/2011 03:00 pm ET | Updated Nov 06, 2011

NASA Releases New Photos Of Apollo Lunar Landing Sites (PHOTOS, VIDEO)

NASA has released never-before-seen images of three lunar landing sites. These high-resolution stills feature stunningly detailed scenes of abandoned experiment sites and trails made by astronauts' boots and lunar rovers.

At a press conference on September 6, NASA Planetary Science Division Director Jim Green debuted the photos of the Apollo 12, 14 and 17 sites, captured by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO).

"We can retrace the astronauts' steps with greater clarity to see where they took lunar samples," said Noah Petro, a lunar geologist for NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, who spoke at the images' presentation, according to NASA's press release.

Arizona State University researcher Mark Robinson, who worked as the principle investigator for the LRO study, explained how these new images differ from previously collected orbital snapshots of the moon's surface. From NASA's press release:

The new low-altitude Narrow Angle Camera images sharpen our view of the moon's surface [...] A great example is the sharpness of the rover tracks at the Apollo 17 site. In previous images the rover tracks were visible, but now they are sharp parallel lines on the surface.

These lunar images also give the viewer a sense of the debris left on the surface of the moon at a time when the amount of space debris orbiting earth has scientists worried. "We've lost control of the environment," retired NASA senior scientist Donald Kessler said in a recent report about space trash, according to the AP. Kessler also suggested that it may become necessary to clean up some of our orbital junk.

NASA is preparing to launch twin probes on a mission to study the moon's gravity. The data collected will give scientists a better understanding of the matter making up the moon--all the way to its core.

Take a look at a comparison of the old and new images from the Apollo 17 landing site (below). Visit NASA's media release to check out more highly detailed images of the lunar surface and play with interactive comparisons of the old and new photos.

LOOK: New, high-res image on top; previous low-res image below