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Jason DavisDecember 26, 2014

Get an Up-Close Look at the Lunar Surface with These 3D Apollo Images

The photos shot by astronauts walking on the moon during the Apollo missions are timeless. A typical image set contains stunning vistas of a barren world scattered with alien hardware from Earth. Most surface shots were captured using handheld, 70 millimeter Hasselblad cameras. A few, however, were taken with an odd device resembling a cane stuck to an oversized coffee dispenser: the Apollo Lunar Surface Closeup Camera, or ALSCC.

Apollo Lunar Surface Closeup Camera (ALSCC)

National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution

Apollo Lunar Surface Closeup Camera (ALSCC)
The Apollo Lunar Surface Closeup Camera (ALSCC), developed by the Eastman Kodak Company, was used to capture high-resolution, stereoscopic images of rocks and lunar regolith.

The ALSCC only flew on Apollos 11, 12 and 14. It was designed to capture close-up, stereoscopic images that could be used by scientists to learn how regolith and small rocks settle on the surface. The camera itself contained two lenses and was mounted to a small pole with a trigger handle on the end. To use the ALSCC, an astronaut simply plopped it down over an area of interest and pulled the trigger. A small flash fired, capturing two, offset images measuring nine square inches each.

ALSCC on the lunar surface

NASA / Lunar and Planetary Institute

ALSCC on the lunar surface
The Apollo Lunar Surface Closeup Camera (ALSCC) sits on the lunar surface near a rock-strewn crater during the Apollo 11 moonwalk.

Because the resulting images are stereoscopic, they can be plugged into a red-cyan anaglyph generator. Viewing the result through standard 3D glasses gives you an idea of how it would look to crouch on the lunar surface with your spacesuit faceplate to the soil. The following anaglyphs were created using images indexed in the Lunar and Planetary Institute's Apollo Image Atlas.

Astronaut bootprint, Apollo 12

NASA / Lunar and Planetary Institute

Astronaut bootprint, Apollo 12
Catalog description: Soil surface disturbed by astronaut boot.
Hard rock surface, Apollo 11

NASA / Lunar and Planetary Institute

Hard rock surface, Apollo 11
Catalog description: Hard rock surface.
Astronaut bootprint, Apollo 14

NASA / Lunar and Planetary Institute

Astronaut bootprint, Apollo 14
Catalog description: Astronaut bootprint; Taken at at a location midway between the LM and Station A.
Soil disturbed by engine exhaust, Apollo 12

NASA / Lunar and Planetary Institute

Soil disturbed by engine exhaust, Apollo 12
Catalog description: Surface not greatly disturbed by LM descent engine exhaust.
Thermal degredation sample, Apollo 12

NASA / Lunar and Planetary Institute

Thermal degredation sample, Apollo 12
Catalog description: Thermal Degradation Sample; Taken in the vicinity of Station A.

Read more: pretty pictures, human spaceflight, the Moon

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Jason Davis

Journalist and Digital Editor for The Planetary Society
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