This image of the Apollo 17 landing site reveals the final footprints left on the Moon, as well as the buggy (Lunar Roving Vehicle, LRV) and the descent stage of the Challenger lunar module.
Other images from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter show descent stages of modules such as Antares, and the Surveyor 3 lander close to the Apollo 12 lander Intrepid.
The LRO has taken advantage of a more elliptical orbit to obtain closer, sharper images of the traces left by Apollo astronauts on the Moon. It captured images of the Apollo spacecraft and rover tracks in 2009; now it has delivered images sharp enough to distinguish between lines of footprints and the double wheel tracks of the Moon buggy, showing exactly where astronauts walked, took samples and set up experiments.
The LRO orbit was altered to make it a more extreme ellipse, without affecting the average altitude. The new orbit brought LRO to within 21 km of the surface at the nearest point on the sunlit side. The orbit was maintained for 28 days in order to get complete coverage of the surface, and on 6 September 2011 the orbiter returned to its normal orbit.
This image is published in the October 2011 issue of Astronomy & Geophysics.