Arizona ArtBeat: Lunar Landscapes

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During the month of November, visitors to monOrchid gallery in downtown Phoenix have been able to take a tour of the Moon. “Lunar Landscapes” is an exhibition of large format images acquired by a team of scientists at ASU using cameras aboard NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.

The images are online at

Ted Simons: On tonight's edition of "Arizona Artbeat," we visit the moon through a series of images acquired by ASU scientists. It's part of "Lunar Landscapes," a photographic exhibit in its final days at Monorchid Gallery in downtown Phoenix.
Voice onTape: Tranquility base, the eagle has landed.
David Majure: More than 40 years after man first landed on the moon, the moon landed in Arizona at the Monorchid Gallery in downtown Phoenix. "Lunar Landscapes" is an exhibition of high-resolution images captured by cameras aboard NASA's lunar reconnaissance orbiter. Visitors get to explore the lunar surface like never before, thanks to the ground crew that put this show together. ASU professor mark Robinson is the team leader.
Mark Robinson: You look at drawings, walk around the gallery space, make all these plans. A lot of the plans fell apart at the last minute.
David Majure: Robinson's a scientist, not a curator.
Mark Robinson: I've never done this before.
David Majure: But he was happy to step outside his comfort zone in order to share these images with a whole new audience.
Mark Robinson: The moon is an incredibly beautiful place. There's this lack of awareness of really what the moon is about. By most people. Science community sees this all the time. Guy to professional meetings, and you always get OOHs and AAHs, from landscapes. And it seemed like a perfect opportunity to get the word out about how awesome the moon is to a different set of people.
David Majure: So Robinson approached gallery owner Wayne rainey with his idea.
Wayne Rainey: Maybe I was a little dubious in the beginning. You hear somebody that comes in and says they have these incredible shots of the moon, and you're not really sure about who he is, or what his connections are. Yeah, I was a little doubtful maybe at first. But he threw some photographs in the mail, and I was impressed right off the bat.
David Majure: Impact craters, ancient lava flows and landing sites where astronauts once walked on the moon are all captured in stunning detail.
Mark Robinson: Just making sure --
David Majure: Robinson is responsible for the photography. Aspirin investigators for NASA's lunar reconnaissance orbiter camera, he calls the shots from the campus of Arizona state University.
Mark Robinson: It's all teamwork. I spent a lot of time targeting the oblique images. I encouraging people to come down to ASU and see our operation center.
David Majure: Robinson and his scientific team target what to shoot and how to compose their shots.
Mark Robinson: Then you have to visualize into the future what is the lighting going to be like? And we have predicts that come from NASA that tells us when the spacecraft will be at any place on the moon at any instance. Often times I know exactly what lighting I want, but the spacecraft won't be there this month. So you have to wait. Six months later it's going to be there, like -- I waited about a year to get one image, and when we got it it was great, sat down with the targeters, entered the commands, then you wait about three or four days, and then the image comes down, and I was stunned. It was way better than I could visualize.
David Majure: Capturing quality images can be especially challenging with a camera that's orbiting the moon.
Mark Robinson: It's not only orbiting the move, it's moving at 1600 meters per second. So our exposure time that we have is typically half of a millisecond. It's produced about 750,000 images since it was launched into lunar orbit in 2009. The mission is to capture images that will help facilitate putting humans back on the moon.
Mark Robinson: Where can we land things? Where can we find resources that will help us stay on the moon for longer periods of time at less cost? One of the ultimate reasons for going back to the moon is if we're ever going to go to Mars, we have to go through the moon. We're not going to Mars first with humans unless we start going to the moon.
David Majure: LROC's images serve a purpose by documenting the geology of the moon.
Mark Robinson: There's got to be large extents of these units because we see them outside of the crater.
David Majure: The photos were made for science, but that doesn't mean they can't be appreciated as art.
Wayne Rainey: Art is what you interpret it to be F we wanted to dissect art by the matters in which it was created, I think we'd get in trouble pretty quick. It's how it makes you feel, and obviously when you look at this stuff, you feel a sense of wonderment.
David Majure: Opening day was on a first Friday during Phoenix's monthly art walk.
Mark Robinson: People were raving about how fantastic it was. What? We have a spacecraft in orbit around the moon? What? There's big mountains on the moon? I didn't know this. This is fantastic. Then people's reactions seeing the landing site images, what, you can see the tracks where the astronauts walked?
David Majure: The Apollo landing sites are a highlight of the exhibition.
Mark Robinson: That's our spot of the Apollo 11 lunar module. It's still there, basically unchanged since the summer of 1969.
David Majure: You can still see the tracks Neil Armstrong made when he took an impromptu walk to a large crater in order to take some pictures. Robinson would love to follow in those footsteps.
Mark Robinson: In a flash. You bet.
David Majure: And if he ever makes it to the moon, he'd definitely bring a camera.
Mark Robinson: Of course. Absolutely. I'd like to take a nice sophisticated camera, I'd also like to take my Polaroid camera. But it won't work so well in the vacuum of space.
David Majure: Though his heart is sometimes more than 200,000 miles away, he's consent photographing the moon with his feet planted firmly on earth. When people see these images, he hopes they'll see the moon in a whole new light.
Mark Robinson: Every time they look up at the moon, they will think differently about the moon. It's not just this romantic circular bright object in the sky, it's a world. It's a world, it's only four days away. We can go there. And there's a reason to go there. Scientifically exciting, beautiful, has resources, and it's our gateway for human exploration not only to Mars, but the whole solar system. I think people just need to start thinking differently about the moon. The moon is an awesome place.
Ted Simons: Tomorrow is your last opportunity to see "Lunar Landscapes" at Monorchid Gallery in downtown Phoenix. Professor mark Robinson will be giving free tours of the exhibition at 7:00 and 8:00 p.m.
Ted Simons: Friday on "Horizon's" "The Journalists' Round Table," the governor says no to a state-run health care exchange, and the Phoenix coyotes are staying in Glendale after the city approves a new arena management deal. That's Friday evening at 5:30 on "The Journalists' Round Table."
Ted Simons: That is it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thank you so much for joining us. You have a great evening.

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