Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Luna 20

On February 21, 1972, Luna 20 landed in the Apollonius Highlands, a highlands region  located between Mare Crisium and Mare Fecunditatis.  It was the only Soviet sample return mission to land in the highlands, and also the only one to return imagery of its surroundings.  Due to difficulties with the sampling apparatus, the drill only penetrated 25 centimeters and returned 55 grams of lunar material. Despite the small size, given the unique regional setting, these samples proved extremely valuable.    Reports of how much image data it returned are conflicting, but only fragments have been published.  These images were assembled by piecing together the available fragments.   Because quality varied greatly, some areas are notably sharper.

The first pair shows the drilling arm as it moves while preparing to drill into the surface. Hills can be seen in the distance in the upper left-hand corner.  One of Luna 20's antennae can also be seen (the long, skinny pole to the left of the sampling arm).  It is much closer to the camera and higher above the surface than the sampling arm, which is why it casts no shadow within the field of the camera.

The next image shows more hills and some craters near the landing site. It is possible that this segment is a continuation of the panorama above, but I am not at all sure of this.  The left hand half of the image is made of much poorer data than the right hand side.  The lower right hand area is obstructed by part of the spacecraft.

Data Courtesy the Russian Academy of Sciences.  Processed Images Copyright Ted Stryk

No comments: