This map of the Moon shows the five candidate landing sites chosen by the Apollo Site Selection Board in February 1968. Photographs gathered during earlier uncrewed reconnaissance missions gave NASA information about terrain features. (Credit: NASA)
By Nicole Quenelle NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center
MOJAVE, Calif., September 13, 2019 (NASA PR) — When Apollo 11’s lunar module, Eagle, landed on the Moon on July 20, 1969, it first flew over an area littered with boulders before touching down at the Sea of Tranquility. The site had been selected based on photos collected over two years as part of the Lunar Orbiter program.
But the “sensors” that ensured Eagle was in a safe spot before
touching down – those were the eyes of NASA Astronaut Neil Armstrong.
“Eagle’s computer didn’t have a vision-aided system to navigate
relative to the lunar terrain, so Armstrong was literally looking out
the window to figure out where to touch down,” said Matthew Fritz,
principal investigator for a terrain relative navigation system being
developed by Draper of Cambridge, Massachusetts. “Now, our system could
become the ‘eyes’ for the next lunar lander module to help target the
desired landing location.”