Missing Tracks: AS17-137-20979

AS17-137-20979 (ALSJ)
This photo of the repair made to the rover's right rear fender was taken during the Apollo 17 mission just prior to leaving Station 2.  By the time this photo was shot the rover had already traveled approximately 9 kilometers from the LM.

As you can see, there's no discernable track leading to the rover's rear wheel and yet there's plenty of surface dust available as evidenced by the well-formed footprint left in the lunar soil directly behind the wheel.  So, how did the lunar rover happen to arrive at its present location if it wasn't driven there?

Like virtually all of the images displayed on this website, this particular image originated from the Apollo Lunar Surface Journal which is hosted on a NASA server.  The original high resolution image can be found here.  

Interestingly, NASA and its affiliates don't always provide access to the higher quality ALSJ image.  Rather, an alternate image is often provided that is of much lower resolution and cropped so that it doesn't show the footprint behind the vehicle's rear wheel.  Could this be because the footprint draws unwanted attention to the missing track?  See here for the image that is provided at images.jsc.nasa.gov.  A local copy of this particular image is provided here.  The uncropped but lowered resolution image provided by the Lunar and Planetary Institute and can be viewed here.  

Another source of the uncropped, lowered resolution image on the web is the Smithsonian.  You'll find their copy of the image here.  A local copy is stored here (the one before they cut the resolution is available here).   As with the aforementioned low quality image provided by NASA, this image too appears to be displayed in such a way as to de-emphasize the footprint behind the rear wheel.  Notice that, of all the possible locations where the photo's ID could have been displayed, the location that was chosen was... right on top of the footprint!

NASA apologists will tell you that the anomaly exhibited by the above photo is the result of surface dust having been kicked around by the astronauts during the hour spent at station 2; that the track was simply covered over by kicked dust.  However, no evidence exists in the photo that suggests this is actually what happened.  For example, notice that the track is even missing beneath the curvature of the wheel itself and yet there's no build-up of soil along the base of the wheel.  How can this be if kicked dust is to blame for the missing track?  Notice also that the track was covered to the exact same level and texture as the surrounding soil.  

Apparently not quite sure of their explanation--and as you can see, for good reason--apologists have also suggested that the rover may have been picked up by the astronauts and moved in order to avoid an obstruction that was in their path...  Again, no photographic evidence exists to validate this claim.  Read my rebuttal of one NASA apologist's "analysis" of this particular photo regarding the missing tracks anomaly here.  



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