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Trail of Discovery at Fra Mauru
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Trail of Discovery at Fra Mauru

November 27, 2012
The figure above highlights the locations of some of the landmarks explored by the astronauts. As correctly deduced during postflight analysis by the Apollo science teams, it is evident from the astronaut tracks and features seen in surface pictures matched to the LROC image, that the astronauts just barely missed (30 meters) the rim of Cone crater. Saddle Rock, a large boulder visited by the astronauts at Station C1 (below), can be discerned in the LROC image. Apollo Hasselblad photograph showing Saddle Rock at Apollo 14 geology station C1 near the rim of Cone crater. Fra Mauro was one of only two highlands sites to be visited during Project Apollo, and the samples collected at the Apollo 14 landing site continue to provide lunar scientists with important insights into the geology of the Moon. Nearly all of the Apollo 14 samples are breccias (or rocks formed from pieces of other rocks, often held together by an impact-melt matrix). Since the Fra Mauro formation is ejecta from the Imbrium basin-forming event, age-dating the samples returned by Shepard and Mitchell in terrestrial laboratories indicated that the Imbrium basin formed approximately 3.85 billion years ago, providing a crucial absolute age date for the formation of the Imbrium basin. Despite the momentous discoveries made by the Apollo 14 and Apollo 16 crews as they explored the highlands, there is still much we do not know. In particular, lunar scientists are eager to use the remote sensing data returned by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, Kaguya, and Chandrayaan-1 to look for evidence of highland rock types which may be underrepresented in the current Apollo sample collection. Since we only explored two highland locations located in close proximity, it is possible that there are highland rock types which have not yet been sampled. By identifying the location of any under-sampled rock types on the lunar surface using orbital data, the scientific results obtained by these new lunar scouts will help to determine the places on the Moon where we need to send future human explorers. Uncalibrated NAC data; North is up, image width is approximately 1.6 km. Credit: NASA