Have you seen the new images from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO)? The orbit of the LRO was recently adjusted to bring the sensor closer to the Moon than before. You can see the foot and rover trails from the Apollo landings in more detail than we’ve ever seen them before in lunar imagery.
Now, it’s part of my job to look at images of all sorts every day, so you might expect that I’d be a bit jaded about seeing just another moon image. And yet I have to admit that I got a special thrill from seeing the detail in those images. They brought right back that warm summer evening in 1969 when we first saw humans walking on the moon. I was only 4 years old, and yet I clearly remember how my parents were riveted to the TV. My older sister and I were too young to be captivated by the TV footage, but the excitement nevertheless infected us. So we wandered outside, and laid down our front sidewalk, staring up at the moon. I remember the warmth and roughness of the cement on my back as I strained to see the astronauts and the moon lander up there. Later in our bedroom, we stayed awake late into the night, with the sounds of the TV drifting up from the living room, whispering back and forth about what we would do if we were in those thick white space suits, bouncing around in the moon dust.
The new LRO images also bring to mind a friend of mine who believes that the moon landing was an elaborate hoax. The moon hoax believers can rattle off long lists of evidence that the pictures and videos from the moon are not authentic: the shadows aren’t parallel (indicating more than one light source), the flag waves in an apparent breeze, the photo of the astronaut descending from the lander seems to use fill lighting, Neil Armstrong’s footprint sticks together too well to be made from completely dry moon dust, etc. I don’t want to get into a discussion of whether or not this evidence proves anything. (Although, there is a great Mythbusters episode about the moon hoax). Right now, I’m just feeling sad for everyone who missed out, for whatever reason, on that feeling of wonder and promise that I’ll always hold in my heart with a 4-year-old sense of awe. Maybe that’s part of why I’m a remote sensing specialist. Maybe I recapture a moment of that little girl looking up at the moon, every time I get a new image to explore.