Awesome NASA Time-Lapse Video Shows the Moon's Phases During Apollo Lunar Landings

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of humans first walking on the moon, NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio (SVS) created a fascinating time-lapse video that maps all six landing sites where Apollo astronauts touched down between 1969 and 1972.

The new video shows how the moon's near side appeared over the course of the three years and five months that Apollo astronauts were visiting the surface — complete with a dizzying perspective of the changing moon phases juxtaposed with its subtle wobbling motion, an effect known as libration

Mission details like when Apollo 11, 12, 14, 15, 16 and 17 each arrived on the moon; the names and geographic coordinates of the landing sites; and the amount of time mission crewmembers spent on the lunar surface is also displayed on the left side of the video. According to SVS, all of the landings took place after local sunrise because the lunar surface was cool. This timing also aided navigation, since ''the shadows threw the terrain into high relief,'' NASA officials said in a description of the video

Related: Earth's Moon Phases, Monthly Lunar Cycles (Infographic)

The agency's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) helped scientists pinpoint the Apollo landing site coordinates, and its Narrow Angle Camera took images of the landing sites.

For details like the total number of hours the Lunar Module (LM) was on the moon's surface for each Apollo mission as well as how many hours the astronauts spent outside doing extravehicular activities (EVAs), the SVS team turned to Richard Orloff's NASA history book, "Apollo by the Numbers." 

''The amount of time that the astronauts were able to stay on the surface increased with each mission,'' NASA said in the video description. ''Distance traveled during EVAs on the last three missions were greatly extended by a lunar rover, a battery-powered dune buggy that allowed the astronauts to visit and sample places several kilometers away from the LM.''

Not included in this video is Apollo 13, the harrowing mission that was supposed to be NASA's third moon landing. Though it failed to reach the lunar surface, Apollo 13's incredible series of events ultimately led to the safe return of its three-person crew to Earth.

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Doris Elin Urrutia
Contributing Writer

Doris is a science journalist and contributor. She received a B.A. in Sociology and Communications at Fordham University in New York City. Her first work was published in collaboration with London Mining Network, where her love of science writing was born. Her passion for astronomy started as a kid when she helped her sister build a model solar system in the Bronx. She got her first shot at astronomy writing as a editorial intern and continues to write about all things cosmic for the website. Doris has also written about microscopic plant life for Scientific American’s website and about whale calls for their print magazine. She has also written about ancient humans for Inverse, with stories ranging from how to recreate Pompeii’s cuisine to how to map the Polynesian expansion through genomics. She currently shares her home with two rabbits. Follow her on twitter at @salazar_elin.