A mosaic of two Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera images solves a longstanding puzzle in lunar exploration: just how close together did the Soviet sample return missions Luna 23 and Luna 24 land? Both were sent to Mare Crisium. Luna 23 was damaged during its landing on November 6, 1974 and failed to collect any samples, though it did return data for three days. Luna 24 landed nearby on August 22, 1976, collecting 170 grams of dust and rocks and returning them to Earth. But the landing locations were never very well constrained until now. These photos reveal the two landers to be well separated at about 2,400 meters apart. Furthermore, they show Luna 24 to be located on the edge of a small crater, meaning that its samples came from the crater's ejecta blanket. Original image
NASA / GSFC / Arizona State University
Luna 24 landed in Mare Crisium on August 22, 1976, collecting 170 grams of dust and rocks and returning them to Earth. This Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter image reveals that the lander sits on the ejecta of a fairly fresh crater.