The new images were taken over the course of a month-long period when the LRO spacecraft entered into a low altitude orbit that dipped to within 14 miles (22 kilometers) of the moon's surface at times. LRO normally circles the moon at an altitude of about 31 miles (50 km) above the lunar surface.
As the spacecraft zeroed in on the three Apollo landing sites, the probe was also able to collect valuable observations using its other instruments.
"We were able to make new measurements of radiation environments close to the lunar surface," said Richard Vondrak, an LRO project scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.
Today, the probe returns to a more circular orbit, Vondrak said. In mid-December, LRO will shift into an elliptical orbit with its lowest altitude at 19 miles (30 km) over the south pole, and its highest point at 124 miles (200 km) over the north pole.
The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has been in orbit around the moon since June 2009. The $504 million car-sized spacecraft first captured close-up images of the Apollo landing sites in July 2009, which revealed new details about the sites and even spotted hardware that was left behind on the lunar surface.
The LRO probe is currently on an extended mission through at least September 2012.
On Thursday (Sept. 8), NASA will launch a new mission to measure the moon's gravity field in unprecedented detail. The Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission is made up of twin spacecraft that will orbit the moon in tandem.
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