Apollo 11 descends to the Google Moon

By Phil Plait | September 28, 2011 10:16 am

This is pretty neat: an Apollo enthusiast who goes by the handle GoneToPlaid has created a video comparing the Apollo 11 footage of its descent to the Moon with images from Google Moon:

That’s very cool. You can see the same features in the Apollo 11 film footage and in the newer view from Google Moon, which uses images from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter as well as Japan’s Kaguya mission. The lighting was different so sometimes it makes features hard to spot in both — direct sunlight changes shadows, and also creates a spotlight effect which can hide craters and such — but you can see how well everything lines up. GoneToPlaid provides a link to the KMZ files you can use for Google Moon to check this out for yourself as well.

This won’t convince people who think NASA faked the landings, of course, nor do I really care. What I do care about is how this brings home what the astronauts did all those decades ago. Going to the Moon was hard; it’s another world, with all the dangers and unknowns and difficult terrains that made it necessary to explore it before we went, and to do so once again in preparation for going back. Hopefully sometime soon.

Tip o’ the spacesuit visor to Scott Hall. Image credit: NASA.


Related posts:

One Giant Leap seen again
Apollo 17, then and now
LRO spots Apollo landing sites in high res
APOLLO LANDING SITES IMAGED BY LRO!

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff, NASA, Pretty pictures, Space
MORE ABOUT: Apollo 11, Google Moon, LRO

Comments (32)

  1. John Nouveaux

    Wicked cool. Watching this make me feel so seriously unproductive. Kudos to GoneToPlaid!

  2. Chew

    Be sure to check out GoneToPlaid’s YouTube channel. He has lots of Apollo and Moon hoax debunking videos.

  3. GoneToPlaid? Aw, buckle this! Ludicrous speed, go!

  4. Monkey Hybrid

    Wow, really shows what amazing detail NASA went into in order to fake the moon landings. Who would have thought that 40+ years on, NASA’s special effects would still be so realistic in the face of modern science. </sarcasm>

    Seriously though, great stuff!

  5. SkyGazer

    That´s what so great of NASA and all others who put those pictures online for all to admire and to grab… and look what people do with them!
    Amateurs GO!

  6. Chief

    Now someone sitting at home using their computer can do a recreation of the exact landing sequence using off the shelf software, maps and brains. Really cool. Just goes to show how brave Neil and Buzz are to do the landing without aborting with the gas tank sucking fumes.

  7. Cool.

    Now, how about a higher frame-rate version, with NASA audio? :-)

  8. Crux Australis

    Dear FSM, that’s amazing! Superluminal work.

  9. Jayo

    Question: somewhere in the 5 minute… minute… it said something about “Terminal Velocity 2:02.” What did that mean? There’s no atmosphere on the Moon, which means no drag force and no terminal velocity, at least how we mean it on Earth.

  10. I watched this with mild interest. Then the module appeared on the Google Moon version and my heart jumped. In fact, I felt an incipient tear in my eye. Trite words, but true emotion. I am again reminded what humanity can achieve, could be achieving. Science is wonderful — it is, like great arts and the curiosity that drives thinking minds of all sorts, the culmination of all that we are and all that we can aspire to be.
    Thanks, Phil.

  11. @ Ken B or better yet – The Onion audio

  12. I found that unexpectedly moving. Goose-pimply even. Beautiful. Thanks.

  13. vince charles

    “Going to the Moon was hard; it’s another world, with all the dangers and unknowns and difficult terrains that made it necessary to explore it before we went, and to do so once again in preparation for going back. Hopefully sometime soon.”
    .
    To inoculate us against Messier Tidy Upper’s fiscal fantasies and programmatic pablum, here’s industry veteran-turned-space-historian Henry Spencer. Henry has a record of successful flight systems that’s probably older than I am; he’s corrected me more often than I’d like, but less often than I’ve needed:

    http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn18515-nasa-moon-plan-was-an-illusion-wrapped-in-denial.html

    NASA moon plan was an illusion, wrapped in denial

    “I’m not shedding tears for Constellation. Why not? Because it wasn’t going to get us there… Actually reaching the moon would probably have required a major redesign… The demise of Constellation is not the death of a dream. It’s just the end of an illusion.”

    Oh, and this is in addition to the Augustine Commission’s 2009 findings, which happen to match those of Phil’s, and my supervisors, as well as my own estimation, which I had already reached by 2005.

  14. Peter B

    Jayo @ #9 asked: “Question: somewhere in the 5 minute… minute… it said something about “Terminal Velocity 2:02.” What did that mean? There’s no atmosphere on the Moon, which means no drag force and no terminal velocity, at least how we mean it on Earth.”

    Good question. It’s a curious term, and not applicable here.

    The only guess I can come up with is that around that time in the descent was when Armstrong took full manual control of the LM. However, in the information at the time, that part of the landing was called, appropriately enough, the Landing Phase. The Landing Phase started at a point in space called the Low Gate.

    Perhaps you should direct the question to GoneToPlaid. He might have some more information.

  15. Peter B

    The image which appears around 5:20 into the video has an interesting little feature, and I was wondering if others might care to comment on it.

    Near the centre of the image is a crater with a rock at roughly two o’clock on the rim. The rock appears to me to have a bright trail leading away from it, again roughly towards two o’clock. I wonder whether that’s a trail left by the rock rolling. If so, why would it have been rolling? It’s not like rock trails recorded on Apollo 17, as those were of rocks which had obviously rolled down the side of a large hill, while this one appears to be across flat ground only.

  16. Thameron

    So all the people without jobs and who can’t afford the mortgages on their houses that are now half the value that they used to be before the bubble burst are going to clamor for a moon landing in order to…?

    Forget hoping to go back soon. You might want to focus on going back ever. That is unless Bill Gates decides he wants to go there.

  17. Nigel Depledge

    Chief (6) said:

    Now someone sitting at home using their computer can do a recreation of the exact landing sequence using off the shelf software, maps and brains.

    Off-the-shelf brains? I gotta get me some of those!!

    Really cool. Just goes to show how brave Neil and Buzz are to do the landing without aborting with the gas tank sucking fumes.

    Actually, if you dig into the detail you might find it was a metrology error. IIUC, they had 2 or 3 more minutes of fuel than all the gauges were telling them. Source : Apollo 11 Haynes Manual.

  18. Thameron:

    So all the people without jobs and who can’t afford the mortgages on their houses that are now half the value that they used to be before the bubble burst are going to clamor for a moon landing in order to…?

    Ah, yes, the old “all we got from the Apollo missions was Tang” argument. Sure, let’s eliminate NASA entirely, and give everyone their $70 back. That will solve everyone’s problem! Of course, those hundreds of thousands of people that you just laid off might not think it’s as good an idea as you apparently do.

    As I recall, more was spent on Bush’s Iraq wars than all of NASA’s expenditures from V2 through Apollo 11.

    —–

    Nigel Depledge:

    Actually, if you dig into the detail you might find it was a metrology error. IIUC, they had 2 or 3 more minutes of fuel than all the gauges were telling them. Source : Apollo 11 Haynes Manual.

    Assuming that that’s even true, unless Neil and Buzz knew it at the time, it’s irrelevant.

  19. On a related note, it appears that the public perception has turned against the landing deniers. I recently saw a TV commercial for a major auto manufacturer (maybe Honda) where the announcer claimed that if you don’t buy during this opportunity you are like that crazy moon landing denier guy (or some such similar statement).

  20. Nigel Depledge:

    Chief (6) said:

    Now someone sitting at home using their computer can do a recreation of the exact landing sequence using off the shelf software, maps and brains.

    Off-the-shelf brains? I gotta get me some of those!!

    Time to read up on the “Oxford comma”, though I’m not sure it would disambiguate this particular sentence.

    Besides, I’m not sure why you would want an off-the-shelf brain. They’ve never quite as good as the custom-made brains I prefer to use.

  21. Carlos

    While intellectually I know the moon doesn’t change (ok, changes very slowly) this video really drives it home. Seeing features that are identical 40 years later is so unexpected to our brains accostumed to live on earth. Unchanged – of course – except for the left behind descent module.

  22. db26

    I have no doubt we landed on the moon. I have two questions. One, why haven’t we done it again since 1969, especially with all the space missions and todays technology? Two, where is the American flag we planted on the moon from 1969; can’t we see that with todays hi res photos of the moon… does that show up on google moon?

  23. The Naturalist

    Perhaps the Apollo 17 flag is still there. Have you seen the new, higher definition images of the Apollo 17 site? Since they show greater detail its easy to recognize many of the features photographed by the astronauts in the LOR images. For example, I believe its clear from these photos that the flag is still standing and casting a distinct shadow on the surface.

    If you look carefully the area directly above the challenger descent stage but below the rover tracks, there is a distinctive black diagonal line about 4 pixels wide:

    http://www.nasa.gov/images/content/584392main_M168000580LR_ap17_area.jpg

    Looking at this image taken before lift off from the assent module, you can see that the location of this feature corresponds to the location of the flag. Particularly useful are the paths of the rover that enable the location of flag to be identified with precision. Note the interesting loop made by the rover beyond the flag present in both images, which was made by Cernan when he first tested the rover:

    http://history.nasa.gov/alsj/a17/AS17-145-22216.jpg

    I have not done the calculations with the sun angle and the projection of the shadow, but they could be done. From the ground image we know the orientation of the flag and of course its size and height. I would say that from the width of this shadow, there is more than the flag pole standing.

  24. Peter B

    db26 @ #22 asked: “One, why haven’t we done it again since 1969, especially with all the space missions and todays technology?”

    Three related reasons: money, politics and public interest. Apollo was very expensive – around $200 billion in today’s money. It’s purpose ultimately was Cold War propaganda – to make the USA’s technology look better than the Soviet’s. Once Apollo 11 had landed on the Moon, the Apollo program lost a lot of its reason for happening, and even then people were calling for Apollo to be cancelled. But, having got the rockets built, NASA had enough momentum to push things out to Apollo 17.

    But NASA’s budget had been shrinking since 1966, and by the early 1970s it got to a point that continuing Apollo meant that other programs couldn’t be pursued. Nixon was happy to cut NASA’s budget in an attempt to reduce spending and pay for the Vietnam War, and he knew that few voters would object.

    And by the early 1970s voters were bored with Apollo. If you watch the movie “Apollo 13″, there’s a scene before the accident in which the crew do a live TV show, but none of the networks screen it, to the surprise of Lovell’s wife and mother.

    “Two, where is the American flag we planted on the moon from 1969; can’t we see that with todays hi res photos of the moon… does that show up on google moon?”

    No, we can’t see it. The main reason is that it (and the five other planted flags) all probably don’t exist any more. They were made of a material which reacts badly to UV light, and they would have decomposed by now.

    Also remember these images are generally taken looking straight down. From that angle the horizontal bar on the flagpole would be far too narrow to be resolved. What’s the Google resolution? 0.25 metres? If you’re thinking Imperial, that’s 10 inches.

    So even if the flag still existed, the best you could manage would be to see the shadow of the flag, but not the flag itself.

  25. Timbo

    Obviously the moon landing was faked because the moon is clearly a lump of cheese put in orbit by the US government.

  26. Thameron

    Ken B –

    You have me all wrong lad. I’d love nothing more than to see probes around every planet, colonies on every suitable world and the terraforming of Venus. The problem of course is that a vast majority of our species (and American Taxpayers who would be called upon to fund those projects) most assuredly do not want those things or give a microfece about anything beyond the atmosphere, and the problem for space enthusiasts is that there is no good way to make them want those things. As Peter B. rightly points out the public got bored with Apollo at the end. The usual line that scientists such as the good Doctor take – ‘you should find this endlessly fascinating because I do’ – isn’t working and I don’t think it is likely to start working any time soon. Trying to make things that are happening in another star system (let alone in another galaxy) relevant to any decision that anyone presently living on this planet will make is a tough sell, and so far it isn’t being sold.

    Human space travel is a luxury (perhaps the ultimate luxury) for those interested in travel beyond the atmosphere. In difficult economic times luxuries are jettisoned. I don’t revel in that fact it just seems inescapable. If the money spent on professional sports went instead into space travel we’d have those colonies that I was speaking of, but people care a great deal more about watching games than they do about space. If you have some method to change that I’d suggest you get about it, and best of luck. So, like I said – No moon travel soon. Perhaps no more moon travel ever.

  27. Superluminous (beyond just brilliant) video. Love it – thanks. :-)

    @21. Carlos :

    While intellectually I know the moon doesn’t change (ok, changes very slowly) this video really drives it home. Seeing features that are identical 40 years later is so unexpected to our brains accostumed to live on earth. Unchanged – of course – except for the left behind descent module.

    Plus the footprints! Don’t forget them – or the various experimenst incl. the laser ranging distance finding one that the Mythbusters used in their episode busting the Moon Hoax myth. :-)

    @ 19. Shoeshine Boy :

    On a related note, it appears that the public perception has turned against the landing deniers. I recently saw a TV commercial for a major auto manufacturer (maybe Honda) where the announcer claimed that if you don’t buy during this opportunity you are like that crazy moon landing denier guy (or some such similar statement.)

    David Letterman joked on his show about Donald Trump trying to prove the Moon landings were a hoax next. (After the Obama birth certificate thing.) In fact, I think Obama joked about that himself so, yeah. :-)

    PS. Slightly off topic – saw a good doco ‘Tank on the Moon’ on the Soviet Lunakhod rovers and the team that built them and helped work on Mars rover projects and an automated bulldozer used to clear debris from the Chernobyl disaster site the other night. (Click on my name for details via ABC Aussie TV website.)

    @26. Thameron :

    “So, like I said – No moon travel soon. Perhaps no more moon travel ever.”

    I really, really, hope you are wrong about that.

    I gather that China is planning to go to the Moon – with people not just machines – and others are too. It is such a logical step to use as a proving nearby testing ground for Mars missions and planetary exploration technology generally and we’ve done so little really in exploring it so far.

    I think you’ll find people will return one day – maybe not soon though and maybe not Americans at leats for the next fifty-hundred years.

    If the money spent on professional sports went instead into space travel we’d have those colonies that I was speaking of, but people care a great deal more about watching games than they do about space.

    Agreed. That sort of attitude (those peoples not yours Thameron) really infuriates me. Governments waste so much money on sport – people playing games – and arts and whilst these things have their value – & I love a good cricket match or motor race as much as anyone – why do they not get singled out for criticism as supposedly “wasteful” in the same way that the space program and science does? Why are people happy for huge amounts to be spent building football stadiums and Olympic venues when that money could be invested in science instead? Arrgggh! :-(

  28. @13. vince charles :

    To inoculate us against Messier Tidy Upper’s fiscal fantasies and programmatic pablum, here’s industry veteran-turned-space-historian Henry Spencer.

    So you claim to have Henry (“who’s that?”) Spencer on your side?

    I have Neil Armstrong, yes *that* Neil Armstrong, Gene Cernan, Jim Lovell, Gabrielle Giffords (Congresswoman & wife of a Shuttle pilot), & Johnson Space Center Director Chris Kraft who directed the Apollo program plus many others on mine.

    (NB. Click on my name for an article where Kraft expresses his views of Constellations cancellation.)

    I think that means I win! :-P

    Also when it comes to the cancellation of Constellation, I’m seconding what this guy says :

    “We had our hands on spaceships and we learned how to make them increasingly safer and then Washington pulled the plug. … We won’t have the ability to put an American on the space station, in an American rocket, for at least a decade,” he says. He doesn’t hide his disappointment with President Barack Obama. “We all knew for years that the Shuttle program had a sunset but Constellation was supposed to provide human access to the space station. When Obama cancelled Constellation, he cancelled the pride that every American should have in our accomplishments. One half of one percent of the federal budget funds NASA and they can’t afford this program?”
    – Gregory Cecil, Space Shuttle tile technician quoted on page 47, “Throttle down” article in ‘Air & Space’ magazine, Nov 2010.

    Sadly, the question is now moot anyhow. Thanks to Obama the US manned space program is NOT even considering returning to the Moon. Constellation is gone with all the joy, science and we’ll never know what else that it could have delivered because it was denied a full and proper chance to show us. (Remember Apollo was viewed as a hopeless lemon once too.) I think that’s a tragic stupid, needless error & I hate Obama for making it. :-(

  29. Nigel Depledge

    MTU (27) said:

    Governments waste so much money on sport – people playing games – and arts and whilst these things have their value – & I love a good cricket match or motor race as much as anyone – why do they not get singled out for criticism as supposedly “wasteful” in the same way that the space program and science does? Why are people happy for huge amounts to be spent building football stadiums and Olympic venues when that money could be invested in science instead? Arrgggh

    You almost answer your own question here.

    The public at large (in many nations) see sport as a “better” forum for showcasing national pride than they do science.

    Back in the 1950s and ’60s, not so much. Science and technology were seen as equally good or better forums (fora?) for showcasing national pride. Couple this with a hefty dose of Cold War paranoia (“if the Russkies can put a rocket up there, they can bomb us any time they want, Mr President”) and you had the space race.

  30. Nigel Depledge

    MTU (28) said:

    Thanks to Obama the US manned space program is NOT even considering returning to the Moon. Constellation is gone with all the joy, science and we’ll never know what else that it could have delivered because it was denied a full and proper chance to show us. (Remember Apollo was viewed as a hopeless lemon once too.) I think that’s a tragic stupid, needless error & I hate Obama for making it

    Leaving aside the shortcomings of Constellation and Orion, do you really think Obama is solely responsible for canning Constellation? Or do you not think maybe that the failure of Congress to give NASA an appropriate budget to do the job (even under GWB’s administration) might also have something to do with it?

  31. Ray Martin

    Truly astonishing!

NEW ON DISCOVER
OPEN
CITIZEN SCIENCE
ADVERTISEMENT

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

ADVERTISEMENT

See More

ADVERTISEMENT
Collapse bottom bar
+

Login to your Account

X
E-mail address:
Password:
Remember me
Forgot your password?
No problem. Click here to have it e-mailed to you.

Not Registered Yet?

Register now for FREE. Registration only takes a few minutes to complete. Register now »