This BBC article mentions that the crash sites of the Apollo 11 and Apollo 16 Lunar Modules are unknown. The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has mapped most of the moon’s surface at 100m resolution and presumably is busy capturing even higher resolution images at the moment.

Would the crash sites be visible in the current images (ie would the crater be visible at 100 m resolution)? What is the prospect for finding the crash sites with the LRO in the future?

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    $\begingroup$ The resolution of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter images was much better than 100 m, see this image. 100 m/pixel was the resolution of the global moon map. $\endgroup$ – Uwe Jul 14 '19 at 11:16

The crash areas have probably been photographed, but the hard part is recognizing the impact. Here is the probable impact area of the Apollo 12 ascent stage:

enter image description here

The discoverer notes:

But I have just noted that on the west end of the ellipse is a curious area of small dark streaks, looking like some of the distal ejecta splotches the LRO team has reported around very recent impacts. Except -they don't form a radial pattern and only occur in a linear band oriented pretty much as the LM was travelling

In this list of all LEM ascent stage crash sites, you can see they're all amateur discoveries, by people poring over the LRO photos manually.

For recent crashes like Beresheet, it's easier because you can compare old and new LRO photos. But for the LEM crashes, you have to compare to Lunar Orbiter photos, and it looks like those only photographed the potential landing sites in high resolution.

  • $\begingroup$ If you don't mind me asking, do you know how long it would take to focus (zoom?) on each impact crater (in that image) and figure out which impacts were "man-made" and which were not. $\endgroup$ – LogicalBranch Jul 14 '19 at 18:57
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    $\begingroup$ There's not much zooming they can do beyond the level shown: the original of the image in my post is at 1 m/pixel, on the LRO website you can zoom in 1 more level to 0.5 m/px and that's the limit of the resolution of the LRO camera. $\endgroup$ – Hobbes Jul 14 '19 at 19:10
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    $\begingroup$ The impact was at a low angle, so there's a shallow groove instead of a round crater. $\endgroup$ – Hobbes Jul 14 '19 at 19:13

They absolutely could. The problem is, we don't have high resolution images of the Moon from before those crash dates, and thus it is very difficult to actually tell if a crater is a natural crater or the crash site of Apollo hardware.

Bottom line, we've almost certainly imaged it, but we just don't know what we have seen. If you want to take a look, see http://webmap.lroc.asu.edu/lunaserv.html

  • $\begingroup$ Interesting. How often does an object the size and mass of the LM hit the moon? Don’t “new” craters look different from “old” ones? $\endgroup$ – apollo Jul 14 '19 at 12:15
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    $\begingroup$ most things hitting the moon hit it a lot faster, so a smaller object would leave a similar crater to an LM. Old craters have new craters overlapping them, but otherwise there's no a whole lot of weathering going on @apollo. $\endgroup$ – user20636 Jul 14 '19 at 13:04

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