The answer is, they aren't. They are really good. So why can't we see more? Let's take the image from the Apollo 14 landing site as an example. At
first look there isn't much to see. There's a reason for that; there isn't much to see. The lander is barely visible and it's the size of a pickup
truck. What else is there? Some instruments and a flagpole (no rover). Other than that there's (yes) rocks and craters.
But what is easy to not get is the scale of what we're looking at. The resolution of the Apollo 14 image is about 1 meter per pixel, so the LM
occupies 3, maybe 4 pixels. Tiny right? Well yes. But is that the best we can do? Pretty much. The LRO will be getting into a lower orbit and the
resolution will improve but there still isn't going to be a whole lot to see. Or is there?
Here is the Apollo 14 landing site. I know, we've seen it. But I want you to compare it to something.
Unfortunately, what I want you to compare it to is copyrighted so I can't embed it but here is the link. Maybe open it in a separate tab.
This is Rio De Janeiro as imaged from the Ikonos satellite. Lots of stuff. It is at a resolution of .8 meters per pixel. Each pixel is about 1 foot
smaller (30%) than it is in the Apollo image (LROC should eventually match it). If the lander were in this image it would cover only 7 pixels. Look at
that image for a while and try to relate it to the image from the moon. Look at the cars. If you didn't know they were cars, you wouldn't know what
they were. Look at the buildings. Those are definitely buildings. I'll say it again; this is practically the same resolution as the LROC images! You
could superimpose the Moon on Rio and it would be about the right size.
Can we look at the image from the moon and say, "Yup, that's the lander all right!" Not really but if we look at the maps we have of the landing
sites we can be sure that the lander is in exactly the right spot.
There is a lot of moon to photograph at these resolutions so it will take a while. But at some point we should be able to compare the LROC images to
the Lunar Orbiter, Apollo, and Clementine images we've been wondering about and learn a lot more about some of those anomalies. Don't worry though,
there will still be rocks we can argue about but the alien bases will be tough to sell.
[edit on 7/19/2009 by Phage]