NASA is gearing up to return humans to the moon, but first they’re using their Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter satellite to make incredibly detailed 3-D maps of the lunar surface.
Below is the latest map of the moon released April 13 by the U.S. Geological Survey. The equator runs through the center. This image is the result of over 6.5 billion measurements by the Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter, which calculates the changes in height of the moon’s surface features using precise laser technology.
The blue-grey is false colouring used as a scale to represent height in this topographical moon map. The tallest features on the map, indicated on the far left in dark grey, are located on the far side of the moon — the more heavily cratered lunar half.
The highest point on the moon is near the Korolev plain and is actually 6300 feet higher than the highest point of Mt. Everest on Earth! LRO discovered this towering feature in 2010, and scientists think it formed as the result of gigantic meteor the smashed into the moon’s south pole over 4 billion years ago.
Below is an image of the north pole (left) and south pole (right) of the moon. You can see that the south pole has deeper craters — indicated in dark blue — compared to the north pole. These deep craters are an ideal spot for harboring ice because their deep chasms are forever shaded from the sun’s light.
These maps will help NASA scientists identify future landing sites for manned missions as well as point out potential resources for moon mining, like pockets of ice forever frozen in consistently shadowed regions on the poles. This water, in theory, could power future rocket missions to asteroids, Mars, and beyond.
NASA’s LRO has been orbiting the moon since June 2009 and, over the course of its five-year mission, has collected more data than any other planetary mission in history and all other planetary missions combined.
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