Lunar and Planetary Institute

Apollo 12 Mission

Landing Site Overview

The Apollo 12 lunar module made a precision landing on the lunar surface on November 19, 1969, in Oceanus Procellarum at 3°11'51" south latitude and 23°23'8" west longitude. The touchdown point was on the northwest rim of Surveyor Crater only 600 feet from the target point, the Surveyor III spacecraft, which landed on April 20, 1967. This precision landing was of great significance to the future exploration program because landing points in rough terrain of great scientific interest could then be targeted.

"At first glance out of the spacecraft window, there was absolutely no distinguishable color difference. About the only difference noticed was in looking cross-Sun versus looking down-Sun. There were no immediately apparent white rim craters near us. Most of the craters observed from the LM window did not have any particular elongation. The craters seemed to be the same texture as the area surrounding them. All the material looked the same until we were very close to the individual rocks."

Landing Site Selection
As with Apollo 11, engineering and safety considerations dominated the criteria for landing site selection for Apollo 12:

    Smoothness:  Relatively few craters and boulders

    Approach:  No large hills, high cliffs, or deep craters that could cause incorrect altitude signals to the lunar module landing radar

    Propellant Requirements:  The least expenditure of spacecraft propellants

    Recycle:  Effective launch preparation recycling if the Apollo Saturn V countdown is delayed

    Free Return:  Within reach of the spacecraft launched on a free-return translunar trajectory

    Slope:  Less than 2° slope in the approach path and landing site

These criteria dictated landing in a mare region near the equator. Mare regions in Oceanus Procellarum were given high priority because telescopic study suggested that these areas are younger and of a slightly different composition than the Apollo 11 landing site.

Because Apollo 11 landed about 4 miles beyond its planned target, it was deemed important to demonstrate a precision landing capability on Apollo 12. This capability was vital to the success of later, more complex missions. Accordingly, a landing at the Surveyor 3 landing site was planned. This provided both a clear marker for determining the accuracy of the landing as well as an opportunity to return pieces of the spacecraft to Earth to determine the effects of 2 1/2 years in the lunar environment. Also, this landing site offered the possibility of sampling ejecta from the large crater Copernicus, thereby constraining the age of this crater. Finally, this landing site allowed good orbital imaging of the Fra Mauro site that was later explored by Apollo 14.

Orbital Views of the Landing Site
Apollo 12 site: Earth-based telescopic view Apollo 12 site: Earth-based telescopic view
The arrow points to the landing site in the eastern part of Oceanus Procellarum, a mare region hundreds of kilometers west of the Apollo 11 landing site in Mare Tranquillitatis. Both sites were chosen purposely to be relatively close to the lunar equator. (Consolidated Lunar Atlas photograph E17, Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, University of Arizona.)
Apollo 12 site: Low-resolution vertical view Apollo 12 site: Low-resolution vertical view
This Lunar Orbiter photograph includes Lansberg Crater (upper left) and some of the outliers of highland material surrounded by the Oceanus Procellarum lavas. The bright rays trending from upper right to lower left are from Copernicus Crater. (NASA Lunar Orbiter photograph IV-125-H3.)
Apollo 12 site: Moderate-resolution vertical view Apollo 12 site: Moderate-resolution vertical view
Many of the craters visible in this photograph are likely secondary craters, at least some of which may be associated with Lansberg Crater. This location is lacking in many distinctive or unique-appearing features, which made it more difficult for the astronauts to quickly pick out landmarks during approach. However, the descent trajectory brought the Lunar Module precisely to the target location, a site within walking distance of the unmanned Surveyor 3 spacecraft. (NASA Lunar Orbiter photograph III-154-M.)
Apollo 12 site: High-resolution vertical view Apollo 12 site: High-resolution vertical view
Most of the craters are probably produced by the impact of ejecta excavated from larger craters. Note the subdued appearance of the rims of many craters. The time of landing was selected to have the Sun low in the local sky so that even the subdued crater rims would cast long shadows. (NASA Lunar Orbiter photograph III-154-H2.)
Apollo 11 site: Enlargement of high-resolution view Apollo 12 site: Enlargement of high-resolution viewThe landing site is next to the northern rim of the 150-meter-diameter Surveyor Crater, named after the unmanned Surveyor 3 spacecraft that successfully soft-landed on the eastern rim of the crater in April 1967. Astronauts Pete Conrad and Alan Bean retrieved parts of the Surveyor spacecraft during their second EVA. Several of the adjacent craters were also visited by the crew during the EVAs. (NASA Lunar Orbiter photograph III-154-H2.)

Zoom in on the Landing Site (93KB) in quick time format

Stereoscopic Views of the Landing Site

Stereoscopic Views of the Landing Site
Stereoscopic View of the Landing Site

Stereo Viewing
Red/Green (Anaglyph) Images
To view anaglyph stereo pairs you need red-green (or red-blue) stereo glasses. These glasses have a red lens over the left eye and green (or blue) lens over the right eye.

Black and White Images
To view side-by-side stereo pairs, use pocket stereo viewers (obtainable from local educational suppliers, bookstores, etc.).

Side-by-side stereo pairs can also be viewed with the unaided eye by focusing on each image separately and allowing the eyes to cross. If you wear glasses, it may be necessary to remove them and view the pairs from 6 to 10 inches away. These techniques may require some practice (the Apollo 15, 16 and 17 stereo pairs are good for this purpose). Another means of assisting this process is to place an index card upright between the two images, forcing each eye to see the different images. Only approximately 10% of the general public cannot view images stereoscopically.

The Apollo 12 landing site is located on the smooth volcanic plains of Oceanus Procellarum. The landing site is marked by a small green cross. Like Apollo 11, this site was chosen for its lack of relief, as comparison with subsequent landing sites shows. The bright streak running vertically across the scene is a bright ray of ejecta from the large crater Copernicus located over 300 kilometers to the north. These views (Hasselblad frames AS12-54-8090 and AS12-54-8091) show an area 29 kilometers across from top to bottom, with north at the top. The vertical exaggeration is about 3.

Surface Views of the Landing Site  
Panoramic Views Around the Landing Site  

North from the Apollo 12 Landing Site

North from the Apollo 12 Landing Site
East from the Apollo 12 Landing Site East from the Apollo 12 Landing Site
South from the Apollo 12 Landing Site South from the Apollo 12 Landing Site
West from the Apollo 12 Landing Site West from the Apollo 12 Landing Site