Apollo's orbital lunar photography

(glossary entry)


During the 9 manned lunar missions of project Apollo (Apollo 8, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, and 17, between 1968 and 1973), the moon's cratered surface was extensively photographed by the orbiting astronauts in their CSMs (Command/Service Modules) and LMs (Lunar Modules).
All sorts of cameras were used. Mostly handheld Hasselblad and Nikon cameras (to make orbital lunar photographs and lots of snapshots inside the spaceships). There was also the Hycon camera, which was only used during Apollo 14. The Hycon made only a few hi-res orbital lunar photographs, because of a technical problem inside the camera.
After the mission of Apollo 14 and its troubled Hycon camera, there were the VERY successful hi-res cameras in the last three missions's SIM-bays (the Scientific Instruments Module in the Service Modules of Apollo 15, 16, and 17; also known as the "J-missions" or Scientific missions).

Known and unknown lunar regions on orbital Apollo photography
The Fairchild mapping (metric) cameras and the Itek panoramic cameras (in the SIM-bays) made controlled photographs of large areas north and south of the lunar equator. Each photograph, made by these cameras, was indexed and plotted on several maps of the moon (the Index Maps). In other words: everything which was photographed by the Fairchild and Itek cameras, is Luna Cognita. The handheld Hasselblad cameras, on the other hand, made some orbital photographs of which the exact location on the moon's surface is still unknown!
A typical example of such curious Hasselblad photography ("Luna Incognita") is Apollo 14's Magazine 66-II, which starts with images AS14-66-9216 to 9223 (shows CSM Kitty Hawk above an un-indexed lunar region). Even Apollo 14's Lunar Index Map //Sheet 2;// Magazines L, M, II doesn't show the locations of these eight orbital photographs. It would be interesting to try to locate the region which was captured during these moments of Apollo 14's orbital exploration!

Stuart "Stu" Roosa aboard Kitty Hawk, finally spotted
A medium resolution scan of AS14-66-9223, which is the last one of a series of eight un-indexed orbital Hasselblads (Magazine 66-II) shows Apollo 14's distant Command/Service Module Kitty Hawk with Command Module Pilot (CMP) Stuart "Stu" Roosa in it, over previously unknown lunar terrain. The location of this sequence of images was determined by interpolating between known locations on revolution 12 of Apollo 14's orbit, when Antares and Kitty Hawk undocked. According to mission documents at the Apollo Lunar Surface Journal, the separation of Antares and Kitty Hawk occurred at 12.7 degrees south and 87.7 degrees east. The mission transcript identifies a number of craters on the way to overflying the landing site at Fra Mauro, and 16nm film footage of Kitty Hawk after separation taken by Antares can be located as showing features between 77.5 and 72 degrees east and around 13.5 degrees south, confirming the orbital trajectory. The orientation of Kitty Hawk also suggested that the still images were taken after the video footage. The size of the frames in this video footage also allowed the correct scale of the photographs to be determined. By comparing each photograph in the sequence it was then possible to work out their correct orientation. The position of the shadow in the crater in AS14-66-9223 suggested it was in the central to eastern portion of the daylight part of the orbit, as it is relatively faint and falls from west to east. By following the orbital path, the location finally revealed itself: the CSM in AS14-66-9223 is roughly 65 km east-south-east of Crozier crater, and just east of McClure N, at roughly 14 degrees south and 53 east. The photographs immediately preceding this image cover roughly 95 km east to west.

AS14-66-9224 to 9228
Earthrise from the LM in orbit. The prominent foreground crater is Meitner, which has a diameter of 87 km. Apollo Lunar Surface Journal contributor Henri Partanen notes that the photos in this sequence are very similar to an Apollo 12 earthrise series that starts with AS12-47-6879. Those photos were also taken at AOS just prior to descent initiation. Because the Apollo 12 and 14 landing sites are both equatorial and are only separated by about 10 degrees of longitude, the orbital planes are similar. A quick check of Starry Night shows that the libration states of the Moon were also similar. Consequently, the views at AOS should be much the same. See, also, a labeled version ( 2.7 Mb ) by ALSJ contributor René Cantin.
- Eric M. Jones, Apollo Lunar Surface Journal, Apollo 14 photo gallery -

Misidentified Apollo 8 photographs
AS 08-16-2611 erroneously identified as "Langrenus". Actually it corresponds to a trailing view of the farside towards east: Marconi rim is at left edge, the high mountain range south of Keeler is seen at right horizon.
AS 08-16-2612 same as previous - Nunki Nunki Nov 2, 2014

An investigation of several orbital mystery photographs (Apollo 10)
- What are the coordinates and names of these high-albedo craterlets?
- In NASA SP-232 (Analysis of Apollo 10 Photography and Visual Observations) they (those photographs) are labeled "not used" and/or "unable to locate".
AS10-28-3996 high albedo craterlet - located halfway between Moissan and Glazenap, also visible in AS10-29-4191 & 4192
AS10-28-4014 (distinct ray-craterlet which could be the same as the one depicted in AS10-33-4878, see below)(this could be the very young looking craterlet immediately north of Soddy)(see also Apollo 17's panoramic ITEK-frame AS17-P-2066, scroll to the right, beyond the frame's centre)
AS10-28-4019 high albedo craterlet on the southern rim of Abul Wafa
AS10-28-4022 high albedo craterlet, halfway between Firsov (south-south-east of) and Buisson (north-north-west of)
AS10-28-4023 distinct ray-craterlet 60km west-north-west of Buisson
AS10-28-4024 (distinct ray-craterlet, this photograph and its preceding one, 4023, shows overlap, the depicted region is the same as in AS10-33-4883, see below)
AS10-28-4028 (inner slopes and floor of Saha W immediately northwest of Saha itself; pinpoint location of depicted area recently discovered by Danny Caes)
AS10-29-4197 (B-and-W vertical photograph north-west of Glazenap and south of Hartmann
AS10-29-4216(B-and-W) oblique view towards SW, Buisson V at bottom left, with bright craterlets seen in image AS10-33-4883 - Nunki Nunki Aug 16, 2011
AS10-30-4411/ 4412/ 4413 (the bright ray-craterlet on the floor of Tacchini; location discovered by Danny Caes)
AS10-31-4560 (B-and-W, horizon, no coordinates mentioned). According to Sheet 3 of the Apollo Mission 10 Lunar Photography Index, this photograph should show something of Mare Crisium's southwestern rim, near or at the horizon (seen from the southeast near the equator).- DannyCaes DannyCaes Aug 31, 2013
AS10-32-4799 (B-and-W, curved horizon) looking SW inmediately west of Pasteur rim. Bright craterlet at left edge lies adjacent to Pasteur V; bright rayed craterlet proceeding towards center is Ganskiy Hansky F.
AS10-32-4800 (B-and-W, curved horizon) same as 4799. Part of Pasteur floor is seen at left edge.
AS10-32-4801 (B-and-W, curved horizon) looking towards SW, west of 4800. Wyld J lies at left inferior corner, Hirayama C is the darker crater seen towards right edge at center and Hirayama itself occupies the upper right sector - Nunki Nunki
AS10-33-4878 (distinct ray-craterlet which could be the same as the one depicted in AS10-28-4014, see above)(this could be the very young looking craterlet immediately north of Soddy)(see also Apollo 17's panoramic ITEK-frame AS17-P-2066, scroll to the right, beyond the frame's centre)
AS10-33-4883 (near Buisson, west of Buisson V; location recently discovered by Nunki, visitor of the LPOD site)(see also at AS10-28-4023 and 4024 above)
AS10-34-5078 (color) Looking south-east across the north-eastern edge of Einthoven
AS10-34-5079 (color) Looking south-east between Einthoven R and Pasteur A

Orbital "unplottable" photographs of Apollo 11
AS11-42-6323 The Sidewinder Rille and a small unnamed depression at 0°30' North/ 28°10' East. These small formations in the southern part of Mare Tranquillitatis are detectable on chart 7 in the 21st Century Atlas of the Moon by C.A.Wood and M.Collins! - DannyCaes DannyCaes Sep 27, 2013
AS11-42-6325 near-terminator photography - 60 km south-east of Armstrong
AS11-43-6384 view towards ENE, from Congreve (just outside the lower border of image) to mountainous region north of Korolev basin (outer rim of Engel'gardt visible at upper horizon) - Nunki Nunki Aug 16, 2011
AS11-43-6410 oblique view east of Coriolis, towards E. The high elevations at horizon are between Krasovskiy and Icarus. The bright crater at bottom right border is Coriolis G and complex Lipskiy X is above another bright crater at middle right of image.
AS11-44-6616 region of Mare Fecunditatis northwest of the Messier pair, looking westward toward the curved horizon, note Mount Marilyn! - DannyCaes DannyCaes Aug 28, 2016
AS11-36-5427 view towards NE, Papaleksi NW rim at upper right, with bright craterlet. The low foreground terrain is the interior of the proposed Kohlschütter-Leonov basin; the mountainous background horizon is the common rim with Freundlich-Sharonov basin. - Nunki Nunki Mar 17, 2013
AS11-36-5428 south of Mills, view towards NE, Mills K is the subdued crater near center, Papaleksi NW rim at top right ( latitude coordinate of NASA photo is wrong by 12°)

Orbital "unplottable" photographs of Apollo 12
AS12-52-7712 oblique view towards NNW, King at center bottom ( ¡ notorious melt pond ! ), Guyot north rim at the limb (Nunki)
AS12-52-7713 oblique view south-west of King towards NNW, Abul Wafa in shadows, Firsov K at upper border (Nunki)
AS12-50-7446 view along SW rim of Fermi towards SE. The crater occupies left half of image, at upper right is Shiritskiy F - Nunki Nunki Aug 18, 2011
AS12-50-7447 same as AS12-50-7446
AS12-50-7404 oblique view towards SE; Beijerinck is the low floor crater at center, Gagarin ocuppies right third of image towards the horizon, at left is the SW rim of (uncertain) Keeler-Heaviside Basin; the mountains at the horizon are part of NW rim of South Pole - Aitken Basin - Nunki Nunki Aug 21, 2011
AS12-51-7530 oblique view towards SE, crater in shadows at center is Marconi , bright range at the horizon is part of Gagarin north rim; triangular peak at bottom right corner ( 7.000 mts high) belongs to Dellinger rim.- Nunki Nunki Mar 19, 2013

Orbital "unplottable" photographs of Apollo 13
- Very faint lunar surface not discernible -
AS13-60-8607 Chaplygin (right), Marconi (left). (Danny Caes)
AS13-60-8608 Marconi (right). (Danny Caes)
AS13-60-8609 Chauvenet (near centre), Dellinger (top). (Danny Caes)
AS13-60-8610 Chaplygin (Danny Caes)
AS13-60-8611 Chaplygin (Danny Caes)
AS13-60-8612 between Chaplygin and Schliemann (Nunki). Following Nunki's detection, the central crater in this photograph should be Schliemann T and the distinct crater near the upper left corner should be Schliemann W (Danny Caes, with help of Nunki and LAC 85 in the Clementine Atlas).
AS13-60-8613 Chaplygin (Danny Caes)
AS13-60-8614 Chaplygin (Danny Caes)
AS13-60-8615 Chaplygin (top). (Danny Caes)
AS13-60-8616 Denning center, Pirquet towards left limb, secondary chains from Tsiolkovskiy (Nunki)
AS13-60-8617 Chauvenet and satellites C and Q at upper left, satellite J barely discernible at center image (Nunki)
AS13-60-8618 Love G and H at top edge, Ten Bruggencate Y at top right corner, Lane at right edge, Perepelkin and Shirakatsi at center (Nunki)
AS13-60-8619 Tsiolkovskiy (near horizon). (Danny Caes)
AS13-60-8620 SW oblique view, Lane and Ten Bruggencate craters at bottom (Nunki)
AS13-60-8621 SW oblique view, Perepelkin at center, Lane bottom center, Danjon upper center (Nunki)
AS13-60-8622 Shirakatsi and Dobrovol'skiy at top right corner, Fermi occupying image width towards the limb (Nunki)
AS13-60-8623 Love at top right edge, Perepelkin and Shirakatsi at right edge, Danjon at image center, Fermi at bottom right limb (Nunki)
AS13-60-8624 Lane at top left corner; Ten Bruggencate Y, Prager G and Glazenap P at center; Pannekoek at bottom edge and Glazenap at bottom right corner (Nunki)
AS13-60-8627 Pirquet close to bottom right edge, Levi Civita S and Pavlov V towards the limb, Subbotin at center limb (Nunki)
AS13-60-8628 Pirquet (slightly rightward of centre), Denning (near lower right corner, leftward of it). (Danny Caes)
AS13-60-8657 oblique view NW of Mare Moscoviense, north at right; Bridgman at bottom center, Millikan at upper right (Nunki)
AS13-60-8666 oblique view NW of Mare Moscoviense, north at upper left; Brigdman at center, Wiener and Campbell (dark floor) at right towards the limb (Nunki)
check Hi-Res above photos now available - Nunki Nunki Mar 7, 2011

Orbital "unplottable" photographs of Apollo 14
AS14-70-9838 (description: "Dark")(McClure near the frame's lower right corner)
AS14-70-9839 (description: "Dark") (Al-Marrakushi at right border)
AS14-70-9840 (description: "Dark")(Crozier near the frame's lower left corner)
AS14-71-9849 (no description) Al Khwarizmi at lower left (with central peak), Moiseev and Moiseev Z at center-right, Ginzel H and L at top right; several swirls in the upper half of the frame
AS14-72-9977 ("not identifiable") According to Nunki, one of the visitors of the LPOD site, this frame and also AS14-72-9978 are oblique north looking views of the bright ray-craterlets located at 0°31'S 110°40'E, immediately west of Buisson V, caught vertically in Apollo 10's AS10-33-4883.
AS14-72-9978 (same as preceding 9977)
AS14-78-10375 (near terminator photography) Images AS14-78-10375-10378 are discussed here Apollo over the Moon: A view from orbit (NASA SP-362) and are a short sequence of continuous exposures of the area near the south-eastern edge of Oceanus Procellarum, south of Kunowsky crater.
AS14-78-10376 (near terminator photography)
AS14-78-10377 (near terminator photography)
AS14-78-10378 (near terminator photography)

Orbital "unplottable" photographs of Apollo 15
AS15-88-11956 (Apollo 15's CSM Endeavour and the moon's curved horizon) Looking towards La Perouse and the bright cratelet La Perouse A. Von Behring is in the foreground.
AS15-88-11957 (Apollo 15's CSM Endeavour and the moon's curved horizon) Visible below the LM window frame are bright shallow crater Rankine on the right and MacLaurin D on the left
AS15-88-11958 (Apollo 15's CSM Endeavour and the moon's curved horizon) La Perouse A visible on the horizon with von Behring ahead of it, Rankine on the right
AS15-88-11959 (Apollo 15's CSM Endeavour and the moon's curved horizon). Shows craters Hargreaves, Morley, and Maclaurin, and also the southern part of Mare Spumans. See also Kipp Teague's Hi-Res scan of 11959. - DannyCaes DannyCaes Apr 23, 2011
AS15-88-11960 (Apollo 15's CSM Endeavour and the moon's curved horizon). The last photograph of this series shows Apollo 15's CSM Endeavour over the southern part of Mare Spumans (the dark area near the right margin of the frame). Several rays of the bright crater Petit are noticeable near the frame's upper right corner. Looking southeastward. See also Kipp Teague's Hi-Res scan of 11960 and LAC 80 in Ben Bussey's and Paul Spudis's Clementine Atlas of the Moon. - DannyCaes DannyCaes Apr 23, 2011

Thanks NUNKI (Patricio Leon) and ONEBIGMONKEY for additional research!
And also SYD of Kipp Teague's Apollo Discussion Group!
- DannyCaes DannyCaes Feb 12, 2011

Additional Information

Another example of un-indexed orbital Hasselblads is Apollo 10's Magazine 35-U, which shows several interesting color photographs of well-known formations, such as: Gutenberg, the Messier twins, Montes Secchi, etc...
Why were these photographs not indexed?
Anyway, it's worthwhile to locate the captured formations, and to add them (the photograph's ID-numbers) to the corresponding pages in THE MOON WIKI !
January 2010: a new page (for Apollo 10's Magazine 35-U) is about to be created:

The Earthshine photographs of the moon's western Oceanus Procellarum/ Mare Orientale region.
During the last Apollo mission (Apollo 17 in december 1972), the orbiting CMP (Ronald Evans) made a series of Earthshine photographs with 35mm NIKON camera. Some of these Earthshine-photographs were reproduced in the APOLLO 17 PRELIMINARY SCIENCE REPORT. The exact locations of the photographed regions (the frames) are online in the Lunar Index Maps of Apollo 17.

LPOD Articles

A Lost Gem: the discovery of the wrinkle-ridge system Lamont and crater Carrel on the forgotten Hasselblad photograph AS11-37-5438.
An Overlooked Gem (the Mare Orientale region in Earthshine).


-Robin Wheeler's excellent The SIM-bay cameras (and all the related Apollo Flight Journal pages by David Woods and Frank O'Brien).

This page has been edited 95 times. The last modification was made by - DannyCaes DannyCaes on Aug 28, 2016 7:10 am - mgx2