Apollo Program

From The Moon
Jump to: navigation, search

Apollo Program

(glossary entry)


Apollo is the name of the US program of manned missions to the Moon culminating in nine flights between December 1968 and December 1972. All nine of these spacecraft successfully reached the Moon, with six landing two-man crews on its surface and returning samples from their brief stays there. All nine missions also returned photographs of lunar features; although, due to a near-disastrous mechanical failure, Apollo 13 obtained only a handful.

Additional Information

Lunar Photography

Photography of the Moon from the early Apollo missions consisted largely of hand-held exposures taken with Hasselblad cameras. These were taken both from the surface and through the portholes of the orbiting spacecraft. Although of great interest, it does not appear the times at which they were taken were systematically recorded. This compromises their scientific value because it is difficult to pinpoint the precise vantage point from which they were taken.

The last three Apollo missions (Apollo 15-17) carried in their Command Module SIM bay more sophisticated automatically-operated film-based cameras modeled after terrestrial aerial reconnaissance systems. These are the Apollo Metric and Panoramic Cameras. Both cameras used fixed focal length lens to capture images on 5-inch wide film. The panoramic cameras provided a higher resolution, but feature an unusual format with the film being draped over a cylindrical drum across which the image was scanned by a rotating lens. Both these camera systems were capable of returning stereo imagery, from which the LTO and Topophotomap series of detailed lunar charts were produced. The Apollo imagery is however confined (due to the constraints of the Command Module orbit) to the Moon's equatorial regions, and the missions were also planned so that the Sun is almost always quite high over areas near the Moon's east limb (as seen from Earth).

The LPI has made nearly all the Apollo imagery available over the internet in its Apollo Image Atlas. Unfortunately, the images provided are at much reduced resolution compared to the original films, and support data (when and where the images were taken from) is not readily available.

Arizona State University has recently announced a new program in which they intend to digitize and make available high-fidelity scans of all the original films. Unfortunately only five metric images are available so far, and they have yet to made good on their promise to release monthly batches of new scans. Nonetheless they have made a great contribution by providing (for the first time on the internet), the support data needed to interpret the Metric and Panoramic images. This can be found in the so-called "Apollo Photographic Evaluation (APE) Data Book" files for Apollo 15-17. These books reproduce the printouts of support data for the first and last frame from each sequence. While it would be nice to see the printouts for the other frames, one can at least guess the time at which the intermediate exposures were taken by interpolating between the starting and ending ones (assuming pictures were taken at a steady rate). It is also usually possible to make a guess regarding the spacecraft position from the limited information available at the LPI site. One possible problem is that the reliability of the printouts is unknown. A possible indication of problems is that the same frame number is sometimes listed as the final frame of one sequence and the initial frame of the next -- with separate printouts giving totally different information for the same exposure.

  • Complete printouts of support data for all Apollo images was apparently produced and archived on microfilm or microfiche, now stored at the NSSDC (see, for example, their Apollo 17 Panoramic Camera archive).
  • Rectified versions of the Apollo Panoramic images (corrected to look like a photo taken with a normal distortion-free camera) were apparently produced on 9x80-inch film and are stored at the NSSDC (see, for example, their Apollo 17 archive).

Scans of many Apollo images and publicity images related to the Apollo program can also be found on Kip Teague's Apollo Image Gallery.

Landing Sites

NASA maintains a list of links to articles related to new observations of the Apollo landing sites, especially from LRO. The present Wiki also has pages related to each:

LPOD Articles

A Well Dressed Well (One Small Step For Man, 1969-2009).


There is a vast literature connected with the Apollo program, much of it accessible via the internet. Here are a few starting points:

Many books dealing with the Apollo program are available online: