Tag: Buzz Aldrin

One small tread for Curiosity, one giant leap for roverkind

By Phil Plait | October 9, 2012 7:03 am

I’m posting this just because I can: a closeup of the tread track left by the Mars Curiosity rover’s wheel in the sand:

That image was taken by the left MASTCAM on Sol 57, the 57th Mars day after the rover landed – October 3, 2012 to you and me, stuck as we are here on Earth.

If this picture looks familiar, if it tickles some part of your brain as it did mine, then it’s probably because it bears a remarkable similarity to the bootprint left on the Moon by Buzz Aldrin. That iconic image will forever represent the moment humanity’s foot first set upon an alien world.

Perhaps currently there is no one iconic picture from Mars that has earned its place in history’s archive. But that day may yet come when we see a picture very similar to Buzz’s… and the dust compressed by a human boot will be red, not grey.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff, NASA, Pretty pictures, Space
MORE ABOUT: Buzz Aldrin, Curiosity, Mars

Moon in the Mirror

By Phil Plait | January 27, 2010 7:30 am

You may know me as a buster of the Moon landing hoax claims, debunking the dumbosity of people who think the Apollo missions were faked.

But I have been leaked a picture that makes it clear that the truth behind Apollo was far, far bigger than anyone has ever suspected. In fact, it’s a real Thriller.

Reader Dan Brennan from the Unmanned Space Flight bulletin board sent this picture to me:


It’s a shot from Apollo 11 of Buzz Aldrin in the command module, a screen capture from the amazing (but Flash-heavy) site We Choose the Moon. Before I even read the content of Dan’s email I knew what he wanted to show me. Can you see it? Look just to the right of Buzz, at what should be a gauge on the control panel… but actually shows what looks for all the world (well, all the cis-lunar space) like Michael Jackson!

In fact, I think it is Michael Jackson.

jackson_apolloThe evidence is overwhelming. Sure, he looks like he’s wearing an eyepatch, but given his wardrobe choices over the years, is an eyepatch all that unlikely? And look at this picture for comparison — my Photoshop skillz are unmatched (happily for millions of satisfied Adobe customers). The resemblance is too strong to be coincidence.

So what’s the deal? You might think that Buzz was a fan, so he had a picture of Jackson taped to the console — though Michael was only about 11 when our first mission to the Moon launched, so that’s silly. The gauge in the panel is visible in other images, and you can tell there’s a glass cover on it. That means the face is not taped on, but is in fact a reflection!

The conclusion is clear. What’s going on here, obviously, is that a time-traveling Michael Jackson stowed away aboard the Apollo 11 capsule to experience the mission for himself.

I mean, c’mon. How do you think he learned how to moonwalk?



One Giant Leap seen again

By Phil Plait | November 9, 2009 8:35 pm

Let me show you something. And when I say "something", I mean something.


See the red arrow, and where it’s pointing? That arrow is pointing to a place that changed humanity forever. You can divide all of history between the time before and the time after what happened where that arrow points.

You see, that arrow is pointing to the spot, the very spot, where Neil Armstrong became the first human to step on another world.


This image is from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, and it shows the Apollo 11 landing site. We’ve seen it before, but this time LRO is in its 50 km mapping orbit, so the resolution on this image is far higher — about 50 or so centimeters (20 inches). In this image, the tracks made by Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin as they scampered on the Moon for 2 hours and 31 minutes are obvious. You can even see the lander footpads, each just less than a meter (a bit over a yard) across.

The bright spots south of (below) the lander are various scientific packages they installed, including the Lunar Ranging Retro Reflector and the Passive Seismic Experiment. If I’ve got the scale right, the faint dark trail going to the upper left is where they put the TV camera. Somewhere between that and the lander is the flag. The Sun was shining straight down in this image, so the flag isn’t visible.

The image above is only one part of a bigger shot:


That big feature to the right is West crater. As the astronauts rode the lunar lander down to the surface, Armstrong saw that the computer was going to put them down right in the rubble field west (left) of the crater. He took control, and with literally seconds of fuel left, put the lander safely down where you see it in this image. His cool hand saved the mission; had they landed among the rubble the lander could have hit a boulder, or landed so lopsided they would not have been able to take off again.

Note the picture’s scalebar. If this were the Earth, you could stroll across this image in maybe 10 minutes. Encumbered as they were in their spacesuits, and lacking time, Armstrong and Aldrin never got very far, and certainly not to West crater. Pity; it’s interesting. Look at the rubble around it! Those boulders which almost wiped out our first attempt to land on the Moon must have been excavated by the impact, and would have provided instant insight into the Moon’s deeper layers.

Of course, we went back five more times. There was plenty of interplanetary booty to be nabbed.

I love these pictures from LRO! I’ve waited for years to be able to see images like this, and they are just as I imagined them. And they come at a propitious time, when the fate of our exploration of space is changing rapidly, and decisions on its future are to be made. It’s at just this time we most need to be reminded of what we can do when we strive for what seems to be impossible, and when we set our sights, quite literally, beyond the horizon.

Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff, NASA, Pretty pictures

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