Eric Briggs
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Thanks to Mary MacDonald at the Christa McAulliffe Center planetarium in Framingham, MA for sending me in this direction.

50 years after Apollo 11, there are still things to be discovered in the rock samples that were brought back. This week there is some news from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, where mineralogists are going to open up some Apollo 17 rock samples that have been sealed since they were collected in the Taurus-Littrow Valley in December 1972.

The best resource that I know of for working online to find what happened when on which Apollo moonwalk is the Apollo Lunar Surface Journal. If you have DVDs that play through the moonwalks in real time, those discs are useful, but the ALSJ website includes time-stamped transcripts of what was said, with running commentaries by the astronauts and experts provided later, with links to sound and image files of the Hasselblad photography that makes up the horizon panoramas that Starry Night uses on the lunar surface.

To visit one of the Apollo landing sites in SciDome, click on the ‘hamburger icon’ at the upper center of your Starry Night Preflight screen where it describes your location. Select ‘View From…’ and in the new window that pops up, pick ‘View from {the surface} of {the Moon}. By doing this, a list of Moon surface named locations should become visible, and if you type in the filter ‘Apo…’ the list will narrow down to only the sites you want to choose from. Select one, and then ‘View from Selected Location’.

Apollo 11

Sea of Tranquillity

The panorama here was taken by Neil Armstrong. Armstrong took all of the Hasselblad pictures and therefore he famously is not in any of them. Buzz Aldrin is standing beside the lunar module ‘Eagle’.

Apollo 12

Ocean of Storms

The Apollo Lunar Surface Journal labels this Alan Bean panorama as ‘Al’s 4 O’clock Pan’ because he was standing with the lunar module at about the 4 o’clock position from his point of view. The Sun was close to the eastern horizon (3 o’clock), with the lunar module (named Intrepid) facing away from the Sun towards 9 o’clock. However, Starry Night has turned this panorama so that the glare from the Sun on the horizon appears to be in the north, because the glare is somewhat objectionable, and better turned away from an audience that is unidirectionally seated.

The Apollo 12 TV camera is visible mounted on a tripod to the left of the sun glare. Although the astronauts set up a large S-band antenna in order to broadcast color television from the lunar surface for the first time, Bean pointed the camera at the Sun shortly after setting it up and broke it. All the rest of the existing footage from Apollo 12 is only 16mm movie film and still photography. The antenna dish is also prominent in this panorama. Pete Conrad is the astronaut in view beside Intrepid.

The special feature of Apollo 12 was its precision landing next to the Surveyor III soft landing probe that had been on the Moon since April 1967. The solar panels of Surveyor III are barely visible in this panorama because Surveyor was sitting inside of the large crater behind the lunar module, and this panorama was taken during the first moonwalk of the mission, before the Sun had fully risen above the crater rim. ALSJ includes several photos the astronauts took of Surveyor during the second moonwalk, 15 hours later, in full sunlight.

Apollo 14

Fra Mauro Highlands

Alan Shepard took this panorama due west of the lunar module Antares during the first moonwalk by himself and Edgar Mitchell, who is standing to the left of the lander in the panorama. Because it’s the first moonwalk, the Sun was close to the horizon again, and glare got into the Hasselblad camera when it was pointed at the lunar module. This panorama has also been rotated so the lunar module is at the back of the dome when you are looking south.

Apollo 15

Hadley Rille

Almost all of the Apollo 15 wide-angle panorama photography was taken by the lunar module pilot Jim Irwin. The commander Dave Scott had other responsibilities, such as some high-resolution photography he took with a special 500mm telephoto lens.

Station 2 pan: It looks like Irwin took several panoramas and other photography at this station. From here the astronauts were able to look down to the bottom of Hadley Rille.

Station 8 pan: Station 8 was also the site where Scott and Irwin set up their ALSEP experiments. Dave Scott is working at the back end of the Lunar Roving Vehicle. The lunar module Falcon is in the background, and you can see that it landed with the windows facing away from the Sun, shortly after local sunrise, so the shadows cast by the mountains around the landing site were nice and long. The cardinal points are correct (East is East.) You can also see that Falcon is tilted several degrees away from plumb where it came to rest.

Station 10 pan: Dave Scott appears in the panorama after dismounting from the LRV. The panorama is in black and white, but the stripes that were actually red on Scott’s helmet and suit are there.

Apollo 16

Descartes Highlands

Landing Site: This panorama was taken by lunar module pilot Charlie Duke at the beginning of the second moonwalk, with commander John Young walking in the background behind the lunar roving vehicle.

Plum Crater: John Young took this panorama after he and Duke had traversed almost halfway around Plum Crater from where they had parked the LRV. Duke is in this panorama twice; after he paused to be in one shot, he moved and Young waited until he was properly framed to be in the next one. There’s a particular rock sample which has been named “Big Muley” on the lunar surface just to the right of the LRV, so named because it is the largest single rock that was ever brought back from the Moon. It’s so big that it shows up in this panorama taken from more than 100 feet away.

Station 2 pan: The crater in this panorama taken by Charlie Duke is named Spook. John Young is in the panorama working on the LRV, possibly pointing the S-band antenna. The color TV cameras on Apollo 15, 16 and 17 were mounted on the LRV with a pan and tilt axis that was operated remotely from Houston, but the TV signal was only active when the astronauts manually pointed the S-band antenna at the Earth once they had parked the LRV.

Apollo 17

Taurus-Littrow Valley

“Schmitt” pan: Lunar module pilot and professional geologist Harrison Schmitt is the astronaut in this panorama, with the rake. The convention on Apollo 14-17 was that the commander wore red stripes on his space suit for identification purposes, and the lunar module pilot did not. On Apollo 11 and 12 there were no marks to help distinguish the one from the other. Jim Lovell would have worn the striped suit on Apollo 13, but as it turned out no moonwalk was necessary on that flight. This panorama was taken at Geology Station 1.

Station 5 pan: Described as a “superb pan” on ALSJ. taken by Gene Cernan.

If you haven’t added any extra movie clips to your SciDome about the Apollo missions in preparation for the Apollo 11 50th anniversary this summer, never fear: there are already some movie clips and still slides on your system, if you know where to look. the ‘SkyGuide’ pane is one of the non-presentation features that are listed on our SciDome Training Checklist, and it is described as ‘non-presentation’ because the media presented in SkyGuide doesn’t have a direct output on to the dome. SkyGuide can still load Starry Night scenes on to your dome, and the SkyGuide pane in Preflight can prompt you with text about the scenes, but if you want to use the SkyGuide pane’s two animations about Apollo 11 on a part of your dome, you need to locate them in the folder structure, copy them into a new ‘Apollo’ subfolder of your ‘Movies’ folder, and then refresh the movies cache.

Here is the folder location for those two Apollo 11 movie clips on your Preflight computer.

 C:\Program Files (x86)\Starry Night Preflight 7\SkyData\SkyGuide\skyguide\tours\spacemissions\apollo_missions_11\media

Then, to play these movie slides on  your dome, load them using the ‘slide’ cue in ATM-4.