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The Apollo 12 Visit to Surveyor 3: A Preview of Space Archaeology

25 Nov 2019, 14:34 UTC
The Apollo 12 Visit to Surveyor 3: A Preview of Space Archaeology
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Archaeology is the study of human activity through the recovery and analysis of artifacts and other evidence of material culture. While normally one associates archaeology with the study of ancient civilizations, it can also include research into activities from the present era as well. In recent years there has been an interest in visiting historical hardware in space or even on the Moon in part for scientific reasons but also as potential destinations for future space tourism. The historical and cultural significance of these sites and the potential impact of visitors has sparked a heated debate about how such sites should be protected.
A high-resolution view of the Apollo 12 landing site acquired by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) in 2011. Click on image to enlarge. (NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University)
While it will be some time before human archaeologists realistically will have an opportunity to visit a long-abandoned Apollo lunar landing site or some derelict unmanned lunar lander, we already have had a preview of what such an expedition will look like. As part of the second surface EVA on November 20, 1969 during the Apollo 12 lunar landing mission, astronauts Pete Conrad and Al Bean visited the unmanned Surveyor 3 ...

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