Author Topic: Apollo 15 backup landing site - Marius Hills ?  (Read 2669 times)

Offline Archibald

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As usual, requesting the infinite knowledge of experts of every kind  ;)

As said in the tin. I come to understand that Apollo 15 backup site was the Marius Hills, and the scientists were deadlocked with Hadley, and it was Dave Scott that decided for them.

What I'm searching is the geographic coordinates of the landing site. I've found a Bellcomm document from 1968 that give 1345 N 56 W

Which doesn't help me much, for many reasons. First, I know next to nothing about lunar coordinates.

 Second, we all know that 1968 was no 1971 as far as Apollo landing sites went. Was the Marius Hills backup landing site similar ?

The reason why I'm asking these question relates to the Marius Hills "skylight" found by Kagyua and LRO in 2010.
Once again, I've found its coordinates -  14.091 - 303.230
I suppose 14.091 must be North, but what is 303.230 ? Is that East, when Apollo (see above) was West ? is 303 East = 57 West, since the Moon is a globe, 360 degree of it ? or am I completely in the blue ?

Finally, is it remotely possible to calculate the distance between the two places ?

Thank you all !
« Last Edit: 04/12/2018 07:19 pm by Archibald »
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Online e of pi

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Re: Apollo 15 backup landing site - Marius Hills ?
« Reply #1 on: 04/12/2018 07:32 pm »
Google Earth's Moon feature seems to plot it out okay. The distance between 14.091 N 303.230 E and 1345 N 56 W measures to be 24.75 km.

Offline Phil Stooke

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Re: Apollo 15 backup landing site - Marius Hills ?
« Reply #2 on: 04/12/2018 07:39 pm »
Marius was not a backup landing site, it was an alternative choice but not the one selected.  Only the first two landings had backup sites to use in the event of a launch delay.   

Offline Archibald

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Re: Apollo 15 backup landing site - Marius Hills ?
« Reply #3 on: 04/13/2018 04:55 am »
Google Earth's Moon feature seems to plot it out okay. The distance between 14.091 N 303.230 E and 1345 N 56 W measures to be 24.75 km.


Thank you very much. Never used Google Moon, I shall get a glance at it.
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Offline Archibald

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Re: Apollo 15 backup landing site - Marius Hills ?
« Reply #4 on: 04/14/2018 07:26 am »
Can't find how to get geographic coordinates into google Earth / Google Moon.  >:(  :( 

I've tracked down a handful of Bellcomm documents from the 1968-69 era with very detailed exploration plans for the Marius Hills.

« Last Edit: 04/14/2018 08:17 am by Archibald »
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Offline RIB

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Re: Apollo 15 backup landing site - Marius Hills ?
« Reply #5 on: 04/14/2018 11:59 am »
Archibald: Are all the Bellcomm decuments clustered on one web site?

Offline Archibald

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Re: Apollo 15 backup landing site - Marius Hills ?
« Reply #6 on: 04/14/2018 01:26 pm »
Yes, mostly at LPI / USRA (the lunar institute near JSC)

I used MS Paint and print screen to restore the maps in the document. I also (finally !) managed to wrap my mind around Google Moon (which quite surprisingly for a Google-thing, is not intuitive nor easy to use)

Look at the attached files. The three "Marius" come from the Bellcomm documents (1968). The fourth is from Google Moon (well, from USGS, to be honest  ::)  )

My current problem is that I can't figure how to link the 1968 pictures with the actual map  :( 

 What I want is to pinpoint the Bellcomm - Apollo landing site on Google Moon.
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Offline the_other_Doug

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Re: Apollo 15 backup landing site - Marius Hills ?
« Reply #7 on: 04/15/2018 03:11 am »
Can't find how to get geographic coordinates into google Earth / Google Moon.  >:(  :( 

I've tracked down a handful of Bellcomm documents from the 1968-69 era with very detailed exploration plans for the Marius Hills.

Yep -- Bellcomm was a great resource.  But they tried to put together what looked like detailed documents based on notional/aspirational flight equipment and budgets.

You will note that these three documents are nearly identical in content.  They each propose use of either Lunar Flying Units (LFUs) or an LRV for extended exploration, but either approach requires a second "logistics vehicle" launch and lander.  These plans were done in the period when extended exploration was to be accomplished with multiple launches per mission and a LM Truck to land additional supplies and equipment.  In these papers, Bellcomm is proposing the LM Truck be launched by a Titan IIIC.

The traverse plans are also very aspirational, in that they are laid out for either LFU or LRV exploration.  The idea was that a crew could use LFUs to ascend/descend to locations inaccessible by foot or by an LRV.

In other words, none of these materials were planned within the J mission capabilities and guidelines.  Had Marius Hills been selected as the Apollo 15 landing site, I guarantee a brand-new, clean-sheet approach to the LM landing point and the traverses would have been taken.  Perhaps some of the same features noted in these documents would have been visited and sampled, but maybe not.

In any event, when time came to fly J missions, wish list items like 5,000 kg rovers that were landed in a LM Truck pre-loaded with a double-sized 650 kg ALSEP were long, long before abandoned.  Money was not going to be available for additional logistics vehicle launches, much less to develop the vehicles themselves.  NASA was lucky to get the funding to make the minor hardware changes, push the envelopes on their processes, and narrow their margins enough to pull the J missions out of the mainline Apollo systems.

So, asking what the Apollo 15 Marius Hills traverses would have been, or the Apollo 17 Alphonsus or Tsiolkovsky traverses, or the Apollo 20 Tycho traverses... the only answer is "they never got far enough to actually develop real J mission traverse plans for any of those sites".

Notional and aspirational plans were made, yes.  Anything that would actually have been followed had an Apollo mission gone there?  Definitely not.

I know, it frustrates me too.  What with the wonderful dataset being developed by LRO, we aren't far away from picking any point on the lunar surface and developing a reasonably realistic panorama as it would look from that location.  And I want to see the spectacular Station 9 panorama from the Copernicus floor, and the Station 12 pan from the side of Tycho's central peak.  Complete with astronauts and rovers.

But since those traverses were never actually planned, you'd need a sideways time machine to find them...

edit:  The only pre-Apollo 15 analysis of an "AES" Apollo landing at Hadley proposed landing on the far side of the rille from the eventual landing site.  There were no plans that I am aware of that actually had the landing site east of the rille, until detailed planning began after the site's selection.  So, again, just sayin'... ;)
« Last Edit: 04/15/2018 03:22 am by the_other_Doug »
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Offline Archibald

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Re: Apollo 15 backup landing site - Marius Hills ?
« Reply #8 on: 04/15/2018 06:00 am »
You nailed it pretty well. In the end the only thing that might be *salvaged* from these documents is the landing spot, since even this plan used a LM, with all the usual caveats - safety, no boulders, communications with Earth, and else.

Edit: not even the landing spot ?

Quote
edit:  The only pre-Apollo 15 analysis of an "AES" Apollo landing at Hadley proposed landing on the far side of the rille from the eventual landing site.  There were no plans that I am aware of that actually had the landing site east of the rille, until detailed planning began after the site's selection.  So, again, just sayin'...

 dang.

Quote
Had Marius Hills been selected as the Apollo 15 landing site, I guarantee a brand-new, clean-sheet approach to the LM landing point and the traverses would have been taken.  Perhaps some of the same features noted in these documents would have been visited and sampled, but maybe not.

I see your point. Here how I saw it. My readings told me that Hadley and Marius made it both to the finale - the scientists were unable to pick a winner, so NASA and Dave Scott did it for them  ;D  So I (naively) assumed that, since both made it to the finale, they were "imaged to death" and the entire areas were well known. But that's 2010 reasonning, in the days of digital imaging.

I forgot that Hadley was chosen over Marius in September 1970, 10 months ahead of Apollo 15 (July 1971) - which mean that the Hadley site was examined and detailed again and again during these 10 months, while Marius was abandonned.

But there is more.

At the end of the day, both Hadley and Marius high-res landing sites imagery was taken from Lunar Orbiter archive (1968 and before), since LM&SS had been dropped, and PanCam did not flew until... Apollo 15 itself.

in fact the Kaguya team in 2009 that found the "skylight" peered through the Apollo era imagery and searched for it.
Their findings ? https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1029/2009GL040635
(MHH: Maris Hills Hole !)

Quote
The high-resolution Apollo Metric and Panoramic cameras did not image the MHH area.

Lunar Orbiter 5 imaged the upper portion of Rille A (Frame 214 H1H3) with a ground resolution of 2.5 m [Greeley, 1971], but did not cover the MHH.

Lunar Orbiter 4 Frame 157-H2 had the highest spatial resolution (60 m) for this area [Bowker and
Hughes, 1971]. In this image, the MHH is a small black dot, but cannot be distinguished from regular impact craters.

for the sake of comparison, the skylight is 60 m wide, when Lunar Orbiter best imagery (Dennis Wingo) could do 0.8 m and PanCam, 1.5 m (LM&SS would have been 0.3 m but never flew). All three cameras *borrowed* from the NRO.
 Of course resolution is not the end of all things - Apollo era photographic coverage of the Moon was only a fraction of the surface, for a start.
« Last Edit: 04/15/2018 06:13 am by Archibald »
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Offline Archibald

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Re: Apollo 15 backup landing site - Marius Hills ?
« Reply #9 on: 04/15/2018 06:15 am »
On paper the LRV can cover the distance mentionned by E of pi - but of course there is the usual caveat: staying at walking distance from the LM in the case the LRV break down...
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Offline the_other_Doug

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Re: Apollo 15 backup landing site - Marius Hills ?
« Reply #10 on: 04/17/2018 03:22 pm »
I have a recommendation for those interested in the early years of lunar exploration, starting with the conclusions planetary geologists had come to via telescopic observations, and later how these people came together with NASA to select targeted viewing sites for Lunar Orbiter and landing sites for Surveyor and Apollo.

The recommendation is the book To A Rocky Moon, by Don Wilhelms.  This is an excellent treatment of the above topics, without getting so far into geology and geochemistry to lose the average reader from a forum like this.  (The general public "average" reader could get lost these days trying to make sense of My Weekly Reader, so I sort of had to qualify that statement... ;) )

Wilhelms' book does a nice job of summarizing the state of lunar research, and of the thinking in the geologic community about the geology of its surface features, going into the Space Age.  He underpins it with great summaries of the works of Gilbert and Baldwin, early lunar geology enthusiasts, and gives us both amusing and telling personal anecdotes about the people who, for better or worse, ended up being the face of lunar geology during the 1960's and 1970's.

For example, Harold Urey was absolutely convinced that the Moon had never had any molten phases, and that it was made up of chondritic materials, the same as chondritic meteors.  As such, Urey was certain that the lunar surface was composed of rocks that were unaltered since they formed from tiny chondrules within the forming planetary disk.

Surveyor V ran the very first compositional analysis of the lunar surface with an early progenitor of an APXS.  Called the Alpha Back-Scattering Device, and deployed on Surveyors V, VI and VII, it could identify a certain set of base constituents of the lunar soil and rocks.  Exactly like the APXS instruments have done on Mars.

The first deployment, in Mare Tranquillitatis on Surveyor V (about 25 km from Tranquillity Base), was rather definitive in terms of the kind of rock it was seeing.  And, according to a great anecdote Wilhelms gives us, Urey's first comment to a colleague upon seeing the results was the telling -- and extremely sour and annoyed -- observation, "It's basalt, isn't it?"  Meaning Urey was entirely wrong about the Moon, that it was a differentiated body, and as such could provide little to no insight about the original chondritic nature of the solar planetary disk.

Well, at least Urey was enough of a scientist to be able to accept results that disproved his own pet theories.  Not so Tommy Gold, for whom two Lunas and five Surveyors did not dispel his absolute commitment to the concept that the maria were nothing more than deep pools of loose dust, into which any LM would sink without a trace.  All the way up to Apollo 11, Gold was publicly insisting that the LM must fire off brightly-painted heavy iron balls into the upcoming surface, and that the LM only be allowed to land if the iron balls did not sink out of sight.  And that failure to adopt this tactic was tantamount to condemning Armstrong and Aldrin to death.

I kid you not.

As far as Hadley is concerned, be aware that there was the main site selection group, the Apollo Site Selection Board (ASSB), and two sub-groups, the Group for Lunar Exploration Planning (GLEP) and a smaller working subset, the rump GLEP, which fed prospective sites up to the main ASSB for their consideration.  When these groups began, formed out of the Surveyor-Orbiter Utilization Committee (SOUC -- boy, they loved acronyms back in the 60's), they carried with them the same kind of planning that Bellcomm fleshed out.  These plans actually started at what was later called the Falmouth Conference (in 1965, if memory serves) which, among other things, proposed a dual-function LRV system.

So, in re Hadley (and I know, it's a circuitous route, literally) the Apollo designers from MSC wouldn't give much hope for landing that far away from the lunar equator, meaning (at least according to the thinking in 1965) places like Hadley were likely not going to be available for manned landings.  So, the original idea, which I believe was born at Falmouth, was to land a crew in one of the more volcanic areas of Oceanus Procellarum, possible in the area of the Marius Hills, and use the LRV to cart the crew around the area.  After the crew left for home, the LRV would be operated in unmanned mode and travel hundreds of kilometers north, through passes in the Apennines, and along the western side of Hadley Rille up to its apparent origin.

When the engineers at MSC opened up their operational restrictions and told the ASSB they could, for flights at some times of the year, propose Apollo landing sites as far north as Hadley, the Rump GLEP started to look seriously at Hadley as a landing site.  But since the majority of the work that had been done to date, in identifying interesting geologic features in the area, had been done for those features that an unmanned LRV driving north from near the  equator might visit, no one had (yet) considered landing in that small little patch of Palus Putredinis bounded on the west by the rille and on the east and south by mounts Hadley and Hadley Delta.

When the mission planners decided that the east side of the rille, which also included what looked like a small caldera complex, armed with a J-mission LRV, had as accessible features the rille, the caldera (North Complex) and the Apennine front, the targeted landing point for the LM moved to the east of the rille.

But, again if memory serves, that re-evaluation of the site and the selection of the final landing point to the east of the rille, did not happen until after Hadley was selected for Apollo 15.  And for one very good reason -- Lunar Orbiter had done very little high-resolution observation of the Hadley area.  Being so far outside of the "Apollo zone", the Hadley area was only observed during the latter two LO flights.  Some areas to the west of the rille, and also several tens of miles south of the eventual landing site, were documented in LO 'H' frames, but the only coverage of the eventual landing area was in a set of Lunar Orbiter 'M' frames.

So, while the best resolution of pictures of the first three Apollo landing sites ranged from one- to two-meter resolution, the best resolution imagery available for the actual Apollo 15 site, east of the rille, was 22-meter.  The smallest craters and blocks visible in their planning images were nearly 70 feet across (for us Americans who can't visualize in metric).

It was a bit of a leap of faith to design the Apollo 15 traverses without enough photographic detail to determine, for example, whether or not the base of the Apennine front was so blocky as to make it non-navigable, either on foot or in the LRV.  Radar investigations suggested it might be super-blocky.  The planners just made the exact locations of the stops along the Apennine front "at the crew's discretion" and crossed their fingers.  But Dave Scott, who really bought into the geology training big-time, took the lack of pre-mission photography seriously, and fought to include a quick pre-EVA recon of the site, for final planning purposes.  Hence the only lunar surface standup EVA (SEVA) in Apollo, where a crewman opened the top docking hatch of the LM and stood on the ascent engine cover, taking pictures and observing the site to aid in final planning for the EVAs to come in the following days.

Again, though, there are any number of great stories about Apollo site selection, from photographs to politics, in Wilhelms' book.  Including the infamous quote from the chief of the Apollo Spacecraft Program Office, Jim McDivitt, "You will land at Tycho over my dead body"... ;)
« Last Edit: 04/17/2018 04:01 pm by the_other_Doug »
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Online e of pi

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Re: Apollo 15 backup landing site - Marius Hills ?
« Reply #11 on: 04/17/2018 03:49 pm »
So, while the best resolution of pictures of the first three Apollo landing sites ranged from one- to two-meter resolution, the best resolution imagery available for the actual Apollo 15 site, east of the rille, was 22-meter.  The smallest craters and blocks visible in their planning images were nearly 70 feet across (for us Americans who can't visualize in metric).

It was a bit of a leap of faith to design the Apollo 15 traverses without enough photographic detail to determine, for example, whether or not the base of the Apennine front was so blocky as to make it non-navigable, either on foot or in the LRV.  Radar investigations suggested it might be super-blocky.  The planners just made the exact locations of the stops along the Apennine front "at the crew's discretion" and crossed their fingers.  But Dave Scott, who really bought into the geology training big-time, took the lack of pre-mission photography seriously, and fought to include a quick pre-EVA recon of the site, for final planning purposes.  Hence the only lunar surface standup EVA (SEVA) in Apollo, where a crewman opened the top docking hatch of the LM and stood on the ascent engine cover, taking pictures and observing the site to aid in final planning for the EVAs to come in the following days.
I knew about the standup EVA on 15, but hadn't heard that was the reasoning for it--going in so blind that was their first look at anything under 22m makes picking Hadley as a landing site even more incredible, and just highlights the achievements of the crew, their geology trainers, and the geology backroom in...I guess in almost scripting a mission on the fly? Wow. I'll have to track down that book.
« Last Edit: 04/17/2018 03:56 pm by e of pi »

Offline the_other_Doug

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Re: Apollo 15 backup landing site - Marius Hills ?
« Reply #12 on: 04/17/2018 04:20 pm »
So, while the best resolution of pictures of the first three Apollo landing sites ranged from one- to two-meter resolution, the best resolution imagery available for the actual Apollo 15 site, east of the rille, was 22-meter.  The smallest craters and blocks visible in their planning images were nearly 70 feet across (for us Americans who can't visualize in metric).

It was a bit of a leap of faith to design the Apollo 15 traverses without enough photographic detail to determine, for example, whether or not the base of the Apennine front was so blocky as to make it non-navigable, either on foot or in the LRV.  Radar investigations suggested it might be super-blocky.  The planners just made the exact locations of the stops along the Apennine front "at the crew's discretion" and crossed their fingers.  But Dave Scott, who really bought into the geology training big-time, took the lack of pre-mission photography seriously, and fought to include a quick pre-EVA recon of the site, for final planning purposes.  Hence the only lunar surface standup EVA (SEVA) in Apollo, where a crewman opened the top docking hatch of the LM and stood on the ascent engine cover, taking pictures and observing the site to aid in final planning for the EVAs to come in the following days.
I knew about the standup EVA on 15, but hadn't heard that was the reasoning for it--going in so blind that was their first look at anything under 22m makes picking Hadley as a landing site even more incredible, and just highlights the achievements of the crew, their geology trainers, and the geology backroom in...I guess in almost scripting a mission on the fly? Wow. I'll have to track down that book.

The SEVA was born from the geology training trips, which always started with the LM crew getting up on a platform about the height of the LM cabin and doing what their teacher Lee Silver would call the site survey.  Just do a quick 360-degree look, identify the major geologic units visible, and maybe make a quick sketch of the area.  As they progressed, they had one guy do the description and the other guy do the sketch.  They got so good that Irwin could sketch what Scott was describing, and vice-versa, rather competently.

So, when the mission planners discussed the Arecibo radar returns from the site and told of their concerns that the Apennine front, and to a lesser degree the North Complex, could be non-navigable, Scott decided they needed a SEVA for detailed planning of the Apennine front stops.  But in reality, I think he was really just trying to fit in a site survey, simply because it was good geologic practice.  He used the navigability concerns as a lever to get the site survey he wanted... :)

But the EVAs weren't just done on the fly.  They were planned in detail.  It's just the exact locations of the sampling stops along the Apennine front were "at the discretion" because of the lack of good photography.  The planners extrapolated what they saw in better-resolution images from west of the rille and south of Hadley Delta to determine the site was safe for a landing.  But some mountain talus slopes appeared blocky in neighboring areas, while others did not.  The planners just couldn't extrapolate to what the crew would see at the base of Hadley Delta, so they made various plans for different types of talus slopes.  They ended up getting a pretty non-blocky lower slope, but with enough blocks to enable decent sampling.

And, of course, there were always plans for walking EVAs on the J missions, in case the LRV failed or could not be activated.  On 15, the walking EVAs did include walking about a mile west to the rille's rim on EVA 3, and also walking all the way about 3 to 4 miles south to the foot of Hadley Delta on EVA 2.  EVA 1 would have deployed the ALSEP and then investigated features closer to the LM, within a km or so, no further.

But every J mission had waking EVA plans, with their own timelines and sampling stops.  I've seen them, but I don't recall a lot of details of those from Apollos 16 and 17.  They're out there somewhere, though, I know.
-Doug  (With my shield, not yet upon it)

Offline Archibald

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Re: Apollo 15 backup landing site - Marius Hills ?
« Reply #13 on: 08/26/2018 06:46 am »
Lunar Orbiter IV, frame 157. The Marius Hill Hole is... somewhere on this picture. According to the Japanese scientists that found it first, on SELENE imagery four decades later

Quote
In this image, the MHH is a small black dot, but cannot be distinguished from regular impact craters.

Which is quite logical: resolution was 60 m. Lunar Orbiter 5 also imaged the Marius Hills at 2.5 m... but not the exact location of the MHH (dang !)

I found the said picture at LPRI database.

https://www.lpi.usra.edu/resources/lunarorbiter/images/preview/4157_h2.jpg

And the LROC / SELENE
http://lroc.sese.asu.edu/news/uploads/LROCiotw/KaguyaTerrainCamera_039.png

Rille A looks like a tadpole (dare I say, a spermatozoid !  ;D ). At some point the "tail" makes a 90 degree angle. The skylight is right there.

Lunar Orbiter V  2.5 m resolution pictures cover the *other* rille (which is mostly parallel, Rille B) - in fact only a fraction of Rille B. A small bit of Rille A is marginally visible.

https://www.lpi.usra.edu/resources/lunarorbiter/frame/?5214

From what I can extrapolate from SELENE, seems that they missed the MMH by an hairbreadth.  :(

The high-res picture:
https://www.lpi.usra.edu/resources/lunarorbiter/images/preview/5214_h3.jpg

Look at the h3 picture upper edge. The MMH is... just outside the picture. Had Lunar Orbiter 5 deviated a little from its trajectory... you get the point ?
...at a resolution of 2.5 m, and being 60 m large, it might have been visible... how frustrating when you think about it !!!
« Last Edit: 08/26/2018 09:20 am by Archibald »
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Offline Phil Stooke

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Re: Apollo 15 backup landing site - Marius Hills ?
« Reply #14 on: 08/27/2018 02:51 am »
I agree that SEVA was to cope with the low resolution of available images.

One comment about the thread title.  Early Apollo missions had a backup site - where you go after a 2 or 4 day launch delay.  But for 14 and later mission it was dropped.  Marius was not a backup site for 15, it was an alternative candidate in the site selection process.

You can find lots of illustrations of EVAs at Marius and at alternative landing sites near Hadley-Apennines, and elsewhere, in The International Atlas of Lunar Exploration, my book - but it's too expensive for individuals to buy (so, not a shameless plug then!) so look for it in a nearby university or large public library system - or request it via inter-library loan.   

A big new revision is in progress which will provide much more detail of the Apollo sites and will correct some unfortunate errors.  Plus update it to now.

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