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Satellite images show items left behind at Apollo 11 moon landing site 50 years later

Fifty years on, remnants from the 1969 Apollo 11 moon landing are still visible on the moon's surface, essentially frozen in time. Without the threat of wind and water erosion we're used to on earth, even the footprints left behind by the Apollo 11 astronauts are believed to still be cemented into the moon's surface.    Buzz Aldrin described the moon's 'magnificent desolation' when he and Neil Armstrong became the first humans to ever set foot on the lunar landscape that had set untouched for 4.5 billion years.    The astronauts left behind ample evidence of their expedition, some scientific and some sentimental. They set up a camera, Laser Ranging RetroReflector (LRRR) and Passive Seismic Experiment Package (PSEP) to send information back to earth in the future and ditched some of the gear used to collect samples loaded back onto the Eagle spacecraft - along with excrement that had accumulated on the journey. They also displayed several commemorative items, including a family photo, mission patches, medals for fallen astronauts, a silicon disk with messages from world leaders and an American flag erected in the frozen terrain. The lander stage of the Lunar Module (LM) is also still on the surface. Five decades later many of those items are still visible in satellite images taken from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, while no one has ever returned to the Apollo 11 site. The clearest images of the Apollo 11 site were taken in 2011, showing the LRRR and its cover, the PSEP, the LM and the camera. The tracks the instruments made through the dust are also visible.  The American flag is no longer standing, having toppled to the ground the moment Apollo 11 lifted off.   Dennis LaCarrubba, who worked for the company that made the flag purchased off-the-shelf before the mission, said the nylon has since been bleached by the sun given that the moon has no atmosphere to protect it from UV rays.  'Have you ever seen burnt newspaper from a fireplace? All the color is gone and everything,' LaCarrubba told The Atlantic. 'That's probably what the flag would look like now.'While the first flag isn't visible in satellite images, other flags placed at later Apollo landing sites appear to have been bleached as well.   For years scientists thought the sun exposure would destroy the flags completely, but the photographs taken in the last decade show that the emblems endured. LROC's cameras don't capture enough detail to make out astronauts' boot prints, many of which were likely erased in the liftoff blasts. The images provide proof that the lunar landing wasn't a hoax, despite many countless conspiracy theories that they were PR stunts orchestrated by the US government amid a competitive space race.    Julie Stopar, a member of LROC's imaging team, said she carries photos of the Apollo sites with her at all times in case she runs into conspiracy theorists.  'They'll ask me jokingly - and in some cases, not so jokingly - "Are you sure we really landed on the moon?"' she told The Atlantic. Stopar said she tells doubters: 'Yes, I am sure. I've seen it, and we have pictures of it.  'And then I'll ...Read more

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