“It has a stark beauty all its own.” Those are the words Neil Armstrong used to describe the lunar landscape shortly after becoming the first man to set foot on the moon.
No one has been back to the Sea of Tranquility site where the Apollo 11 lunar module (LM) deposited Armstrong and fellow NASA astronaut Buzz Aldrin in July of 1969. But thanks to the agency’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) now orbing the moon, it’s possible to view the astronauts’ old stomping ground without having to get out of your chair.
In this image--taken from 15 miles above the lunar surface and posted March 7 on a NASA site, the dark regions around the LM show the paths the astronauts created in the powdery dust of the surface. One trail leads to the Passive Seismic Experiment Package (PSEP), which provided seismic data. Another leads to the Laser Ranging RetroReflector (LRRR), which continues to this day to provide data. You can even spot the discarded cover of the LRRR. And then there’s the trail that leads toward the Little West crater—evidence of an unplanned excursion Armstrong made near the end of the two and one-half hours he spent on the surface.
If it doesn’t look like Armstrong and Aldrin ventured far from the relative safety of the LM, you’re right. NASA says their tracks cover less area than a typical city block.