Lunar and Planetary Institute






Apollo 16 Mission


Science Experiments - Metric and Panoramic Cameras

Astronaut Thomas K. Mattingly II performs a spacewalkAstronaut Thomas K. Mattingly II performs a spacewalk during the Apollo 16 trans-Earth coast to retrieve the film canisters from the metric and panoramic photography experiments in the Service Module. Mattingly is assisted by astronaut Charles M. Duke Jr., lunar module pilot.

Apollo 15, 16, and 17 carried a set of cameras in the Scientific Instrument Module of the Service Module. These cameras were used to obtain high-resolution photographs of the lunar surface, for use both in studying the geology of the surface and producing detailed topographic maps of the surface. These cameras included a Metric Camera, a Panoramic Camera, and a Stellar Mapping Camera. The Metric and Stellar Mapping Cameras were operated as a unit along with the Laser Altimeter. The Panoramic Camera was operated separately, but was often used at the same time as the Metric Camera. The film canisters used by these cameras were retrieved from the Service Module and stowed in the Command Module during a spacewalk by the Command Module pilot on the return trip to Earth.

The Metric Camera obtained pictures of the surface covering 165 kilometers on a side, with a horizontal resolution of 20 meters, based on a nominal spacecraft altitude of 110 kilometers. The Stellar Mapping Camera obtained photographs of star fields at the same time, which were used to establish the spacecraft's precise orientation, thus improving the accuracy of the resulting lunar maps. The Panoramic Camera obtained pictures of narrow strips, 20 kilometers wide in the direction of spacecraft motion and 320 kilometers long across the spacecraft's ground track. These pictures had extremely high resolution, showing features just 1 to 2 meters across. Photographs with both cameras were taken so that there was substantial overlap in the ground coverage of consecutive photos. This allowed the technique of stereo photography to be used to determine the heights of features shown in the photos. Under ideal conditions, the heights of these features could be determined to an accuracy of better than 10 meters. The results of this stereo photography were used in producing topographic maps.

During Apollo 16, the Metric Camera was used on 16 orbits and during the early hours of the return to Earth, obtaining 2491 usable photographs. The Panoramic Camera was used on eight orbits and during the early hours of the return to Earth, obtaining 1586 usable photographs. This covered virtually all of the Moon visible in sunlight to the Apollo 16 crew.

Examples of Apollo 16 Metric Photography

This photo of the Moon's heavily cratered farside was obtained at the beginning of Apollo 16's return voyage to Earth. This photo of the Moon's heavily cratered farside was obtained at the beginning of Apollo 16's return voyage to Earth. A small portion of the Moon's nearside is visible on the left side of the photo, including Mare Smythii and Mare Marginis. (Apollo 16 Metric photograph AS16-3008.)
   
This oblique photograph was taken looking north over the central part of the Moon's farside. This oblique photograph was taken looking north over the central part of the Moon's farside. This region is virtually saturated with craters. This type of intensely cratered surface is typical of most of the Moon's farside and of those parts of the nearside that have not been flooded by mare basalt. (Apollo 16 Metric photograph AS16-728.)
   
This photograph shows King Crater on the Moon's farside. King Crater is 77 kilometers in diameter and more than 5 kilometers deep. This photograph shows King Crater on the Moon's farside. King Crater is 77 kilometers in diameter and more than 5 kilometers deep. It is the freshest crater in this size range on the farside of the Moon. Its overall form is generally typical of large lunar craters. The floor of the crater is relatively flat in places and has numerous small hummocks in other places. The central peak has a complex, Y-shaped form and is larger than normal for a crater of this size. The inside of the crater rim contains a series of terraces and slump blocks. Just north of the rim of King Crater, there is a dark, flat patch of ground that formed where molten material ponded in an old, degraded impact crater. This material might have been molten by the impact that formed King Crater; alternatively, it has also been suggested that it formed volcanically. The boom from the Gamma-ray Spectrometer is visible on the right side of the photo. (Apollo 16 Metric photograph AS16-1580.)
   
This photograph shows cratered terrain in the central part of the Moon's nearside. This photograph shows cratered terrain in the central part of the Moon's nearside. Part of Mare Nubium is also visible on the left. In the bottom portion of the photo is the Davy crater chain, which is about 47 kilometers long and consists of 23 craters, each 1 to 3 kilometers in diameter. This chain was given some consideration as a possible landing site during the Apollo program. At that time, it was thought that the Davy chain was either a string of secondary craters from some other, large impact structure (although the source crater is not obvious) or a chain of volcanic features. More recently, the impact of the Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 comet chain with Jupiter in July 1994 has led to the suggestion that the Davy crater chain might have been the result of a similar comet chain striking the Moon. (Apollo 16 Metric photograph AS16-1972.)
   
This oblique photograph was taken looking north near the equator on the central portion of the Moon's nearside, about 650 kilometers from the rim of the Imbrium Basin. Ejecta from large impact basins can affect the surrounding terrain for hundreds of kilometers. This oblique photograph was taken looking north near the equator on the central portion of the Moon's nearside, about 650 kilometers from the rim of the Imbrium Basin. The many ridges and grooves in this photograph all point back toward the Imbrium Basin and give this region a scoured appearance. This type of terrain, termed "Imbrium sculpture," formed when material from the Imbrium Basin impacted in this region. The smooth region in the upper portion of the photograph is Sinus Medii, a small mare unit in the center of the Moon's nearside. (Apollo 16 Metric photograph AS16-1411.)
   
The Moon in Three Dimensions

Photographs taken while looking down from great heights, such as from an airplane or an orbiting spacecraft, often have a two-dimensional quality to them, with little or no indication of how high the features shown in the image actually are. If a region is photographed from two different perspectives, the differences in appearance of the two photos can be used to determine the heights of features in the images. This is known as stereo photography and is conceptually similar to the process the human brain uses to merge the images from the left and right eyes into a single image that provides information about the distances to various objects.

The images shown here have been digitally processed to illustrate this stereo effect. The images should be viewed with special red- blue stereo glasses. The red lens goes over the left eye and the blue (or green) lens goes over the right eye. These stereo images were processed by Paul Schenk, Lunar and Planetary Institute. (Stereo images © copyright Lunar and Planetary Institute, 1997.)

King Crater, 77 kilometers in diameter, is a good example of a large, complex crater. It has a prominent central peak and well-developed wall terraces. King is about 5 kilometers deep and the central peaks rise 1.5 to 2.5 kilometers above the crater floor. The heights in this image are vertically exaggerated by a factor of 1.7. (Based on Apollo 16 Metric photographs AS16-1870 and AS16-1871.) King Crater
   
Ejecta from the Imbrium impact basin influenced the surrounding terrain for hundreds of kilometers in all directions. The ridges and grooves shown in this photograph were produced by Imbrium Basin ejecta. This terrain is known as "Imbrium sculpture" because of its scoured appearance. The mountain peaks in this area are 1 to 2 kilometers higher than the plains regions. The Davy crater chain is at the bottom of the image. This image is 84 kilometers across and the heights in this image are vertically exaggerated by a factor of 3.2. (Based on Apollo 16 Metric photographs AS16-1676 and AS16-1678.) Ejecta from the Imbrium impact basin
   

Example of Apollo 16 Panoramic Photography

Photograph was taken south of the crater Spencer Jones on the Moon's farside.

This photograph was taken south of the crater Spencer Jones on the Moon's farside. It shows representative examples of small lunar craters. Such craters lack the terraced walls that typify large craters such as King Crater. The largest of the craters seen here, in the left-central part of the photograph, is about 15 kilometers across and has a flat floor. In many of the other craters, the floor of the crater is obscured by shadows. However, based on photographs of other small craters, it is known that craters smaller than about 15 kilometers in diameter on the Moon typically have curved, bowl-shaped floors, rather than the flat floors found in larger craters. North is to the right in this photograph. (Part of Apollo 16 panoramic photograph AS16-4136.)

Additional information on the Metric Camera (NSSDC)

Additional information on the Panoramic Camera (NSSDC)