Lunar Orbiter Gallery Main Page


by David Kring

In a flurry of activity lasting only 12 months, five lunar orbiters were launched in the 1960s to produce a comprehensive photographic survey of the lunar surface. It was an immensely successful program that provided critical site surveys needed for the Apollo landings and operational planning for geologic traverses by astronauts at those landing sites. The spacecraft also provided extensive coverage beyond the Apollo landing sites, generating a library of data that has been used repeatedly for geologic mapping and analysis elsewhere on the lunar surface over the past 35+ years.

Because the Lunar Orbiter missions provided such extensive coverage of the lunar surface, their photographs are being used again during the incipient stages of Project Constellation, which is designed to renew human exploration of the Moon and lead to habitation of the lunar surface. To facilitate that exploration effort, Mike O'Dell at the Lunar and Planetary Institute (LPI) has assembled a gallery of digitized Lunar Orbiter photographs. This digitized Lunar Orbiter Photo Gallery is the web's most comprehensive collection of Lunar Orbiter photography and supporting documents. It includes more than 2600 high- and moderate-resolution images produced by the Lunar Orbiter program. The gallery organizes high- and moderate-resolution images of the same lunar surface sites, compiling digital scans by both the USGS and LPI. Images have been modestly processed, so that they are easier for most users to access. Users can search through the data by lunar surface coordinates or with a browse library. The browse library also provides information about spacecraft position, photograph position, and details about lunar surface illumination. For researchers needing higher-resolution files, links to USGS and LPI digital sources are provided.

This new photo gallery greatly expands access to Lunar Orbiter photographs and nicely complements the Digital Lunar Orbiter Photographic Atlas of the Moon that LPI produced previously. The older website features a 675-plate photographic atlas of Lunar Orbiter images compiled by David Bowker and Kenrich Hughes in 1971, which represents a select group of the best photographs taken by the Lunar Orbiter spacecraft. We invite users to use both of LPI's Lunar Orbiter libraries. The images are spectacular and provide a wonderful foundation for the next generation of lunar explorers.

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