New LROC images offer sharper views of Apollo 12, 14, 17 sites

September 6, 2011

Lower altitude orbit produces images with two times higher resolution

The Arizona State University team that oversees the imaging system on board NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has released the sharpest images ever taken from space of the Apollo 12, 14 and 17 sites, more clearly showing the paths made when the astronauts explored these areas. Apollo 12 site Download Full Image

The higher resolution of these images is possible because of adjustments made to LRO’s elliptical orbit. On Aug. 10 a special pair of stationkeeping maneuvers were performed in place of the standard maneuvers, lowering LRO from its usual altitude of 50 kilometers (about 31 miles) to an altitude that dipped as low as 21 kilometers (nearly 13 miles) as it passed over the Moon’s surface.

“The new low-altitude Narrow Angle Camera images sharpen our view of the Moon’s surface,” says Mark Robinson, the principal investigator for LROC and professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration in ASU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. The LROC imaging system consists of two Narrow Angle Cameras (NACs) to provide high-resolution images, and a Wide Angle Camera (WAC) to provide 100-meter resolution images in seven color bands over a 57-km swath.

“A great example is the sharpness of the rover tracks at the Apollo 17 site,” Robinson said. “In previous images the rover tracks were visible, but now they are sharp parallel lines on the surface!”

The maneuvers were carefully designed so that the lowest altitudes occurred over some of the Apollo landing sites.

At the Apollo 17 site, the tracks laid down by the lunar rover are clearly visible, along with distinct trails left in the Moon’s thin soil when the astronauts exited the lunar modules and explored on foot. In the Apollo 17 image, the foot trails – including the last path made on the Moon by humans – are more easily distinguished from the dual tracks left by the lunar rover, which remains parked east of the lander.

At each site, trails also run to the west of the landers, where the astronauts placed the Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package (ALSEP), providing the first insights into the Moon’s internal structure and first measurements of its surface pressure and the composition of its atmosphere.

One of the details that shows up is a bright L-shape in the Apollo 12 image marking the locations of cables running from ALSEP’s central station to two of its instruments. Though the cables are much too small to be resolved, they show up because the material they are made from reflects light very well and thus stand out against the dark lunar soil.

The spacecraft has remained in this orbit for 28 days, long enough for the Moon to completely rotate underneath, thus also allowing full coverage of the surface by LROC’s Wide Angle Camera. This low-orbit cycle ends today when the spacecraft will be returned to the 50-kilometer orbit.

These and other LROC images are available at:

Nikki Cassis

marketing and communications director, School of Earth and Space Exploration

Sun Devils soak up solar power

September 6, 2011

Arizona State University exceeds 10 megawatts (MW) of solar-energy capacity, making it the only higher education institution in the United States to have a solar capacity of this size. According to Ameresco Southwest, Inc. – formerly APS Energy Services, Inc. – 10 MW is enough energy to power 2,500 Arizona homes. 

“Surpassing 10 megawatts of solar energy capacity is a tremendous accomplishment for ASU and our partners,” said ASU President Michael Crow. “Over the years we have made several major commitments to sustainability, such as establishing the first school devoted to sustainability, raising awareness of how to live sustainable lives and finding ways to harness natural resources, like our abundance of sunshine. By doing these things, we are making a brighter future for ourselves and the place in which we live.” The sun rises over the Verde Dickey Dome solar installation. Download Full Image

Ten MW represents roughly 20 percent of ASU’s peak load, and reduces its carbon footprint between 5 to 10 percent. Pushing ASU past the 10 MW mark is its latest 700-panel, 168-kilowatt (kW), ground-mount photovoltaic installation on its Tempe campus. Solar installations currently are operating at two of ASU’s four campuses, Tempe and West.

“Ten megawatts is a pinnacle for ASU and represents years of dedication to working toward our campus sustainability goals,” said David Brixen, ASU’s associate vice president of Facilities Development and Management. “To the best of our knowledge, this is the largest solar installation at a single university in the United States.”

ASU’s solar installations that are mounted on the top floors of parking structures and buildings not only provide shade from the fierce Arizona sun, but they also provide ASU with potential energy cost-savings opportunities in the future.

“Harnessing the sun’s power across ASU campuses allows us to benefit from our natural resources and expand our clean-energy capabilities, while also providing future opportunities to reduce our energy costs; monies that can be invested in other sustainability related projects,” said Morgan Olsen, executive vice president, treasurer, and CFO at ASU.

ASU began taking advantage of its geographic location to utilize solar energy in October 2004, with a 34-kW installation at the Tyler Street parking structure on its Tempe campus. Over the years, several business partners have played a role in helping ASU achieve 10 MW of solar-generating capacity, including:

  • Ameresco Southwest, Inc. (formerly APS Energy Services, Inc.)
  • Blue Renewable Energy
  • CarbonFree Technology
  • Independent Energy Group of Arizona, LLC
  • Lafferty Electric Technologies, LLC
  • NRG Energy, Inc.
  • Solar Power Partners, LLC
  • Strategic Solar Energy, LLC
  • Sun Devil Solar, LLC

ASU’s solar installations are facilitated, in part, by the APS Renewable Energy Incentive Program. This program offers financial incentives to customers who add renewable energy systems to their homes or business.

About Arizona State University:

Arizona State University is the largest public research university in the United States under a single administration, with total student enrollment of more than 72,000 in metropolitan Phoenix, the nation’s sixth-largest city. ASU is creating a new model for American higher education, an unprecedented combination of academic excellence, entrepreneurial energy and broad access. This New American University is a single, unified institution comprising four differentiated campuses positively impacting the economic, social, cultural and environmental health of the communities it serves. Its research is inspired by real world application, blurring the boundaries that traditionally separate academic disciplines. ASU champions intellectual and cultural diversity, and welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 100 nations across the globe.

Written by:
Wendy Craft, (480) 965-6695,

Media contact:
Skip Derra, (480) 965-4823,

Wendy Craft

Marketing and communications manager, Business and Finance Communications Group