Apollo 14 visited the Moon forty years ago today

Forty years ago today, Apollo 14 completed the third successful lunar landing in human history. As the lunar module Antares took off, astronaut Edgar Mitchell snapped a bunch of photographs that have now created this amazing image of their landing site. But this is just a part of the entire mosaic, which reveals their landing site against the stark lunar landscape and the blackness of space...not to mention the golf ball and javelin the astronauts left behind. Check out the full image - and a couple more awesome Apollo 14 images - below.

Apollo 14 is notable for a few things - it was a successful return to the moon after Apollo 13, it was the first moon landing to be continually recorded in color TV, and it was commanded by the oldest man to ever set foot on the Moon in the person of 47-year-old Alan Shepard. But really, if people are familiar with Apollo 14 at all, it's because Shepard managed to hit a golf ball "for miles and miles". Shepard had been the second person and the first American to reach space in the Freedom 7 mission back in 1961, and Apollo 14 was his only other space mission. Not a bad pair of bookends for a career, it must be said.

Apollo 14 visited the Moon forty years ago today

This complete image is put together by a bunch of photographs taken by lunar module pilot Edgar Mitchell - you can click on it to get a closer look. He had also brought a little makeshift sports equipment with him to the Moon in the form of a lunar scoop handle. Mitchell threw the handle like a javelin and declared his and Shepard's activities the first "Lunar Olympics." You can see their javelin and golf ball next to each other in the full picture - they're in the top center of the image just below a rock, although only the javelin is really visible. Here's another photo that gives a better look at their hardware:


Apollo 14 visited the Moon forty years ago todayFinally, here's one last photo commemorating Apollo 14. The second moonwalk was intended to reach the Cone Crater, a thousand-foot wide crater located near their landing site. Mindful of their limited oxygen, Shepard and Mitchell had to turn back when they couldn't find the rim, even though they knew they were close. It wouldn't be until 38 years later that the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter was able to reveal just how close they had gotten, with this image that clearly shows their footsteps within a hundred feet of the crater.

Apollo 14 visited the Moon forty years ago todayIt's amazing to think that the unchanging lunar surface has kept a perfect record of this moment for the last four decades, and there's every reason to think that that record will still be around for eons. It's a poignant reminder, on this anniversary of one of the six lunar landings, that it's sometimes OK if humanity's reach exceeds its grasp.

Via NASA.