Lunar topography

http://lroc.sese.asu.edu/news/index.php?/archives/484-Lunar-Topography-As-Never-Seen-Before!.html

From NASA: LRO Camera Team Releases High Resolution Global Topographic Map of Moon.

The science team that oversees the imaging system on board NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) has released the highest resolution near-global topographic map of the moon ever created.

This new topographic map, from Arizona State University in Tempe, shows the surface shape and features over nearly the entire moon with a pixel scale close to 100 meters (328 feet). A single measure of elevation (one pixel) is about the size of two football fields placed side-by-side.

Although the moon is our closest neighbor, knowledge of its morphology is still limited. Due to instrumental limitations of previous missions, a global map of the moon’s topography at high resolution has not existed until now. With the LRO Wide Angle Camera and the Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter (LOLA) instrument, scientists can now accurately portray the shape of the entire moon at high resolution.

“Our new topographic view of the moon provides the dataset that lunar scientists have waited for since the Apollo era,” says Mark Robinson, Principal Investigator of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) from Arizona State University in Tempe. “We can now determine slopes of all major geologic terrains on the moon at 100 meter scale. Determine how the crust has deformed, better understand impact crater mechanics, investigate the nature of volcanic features, and better plan future robotic and human missions to the moon.”

Called the Global Lunar DTM 100 m topographic model (GLD100), this map was created based on data acquired by LRO’s WAC, which is part of the LROC imaging system. The LROC imaging system consists of two Narrow Angle Cameras (NACs) to provide high-resolution images, and the WAC to provide 100-meter resolution images in seven color bands over a 57-kilometer (35-mile) swath.

The WAC is a relatively small instrument, easily fitting into the palm of one’s hand; however, despite its diminutive size it maps nearly the entire moon every month. Each month the moon’s lighting has changed so the WAC is continuously building up a record of how different rocks reflect light under different conditions, and adding to the LROC library of stereo observations.

Arizona State University has a pan- and zoomable version.

HT: Astronomy Picture of the Day 11/18/2011.

Grace and Peace

Ice on the Moon

From Astronomy Picture of the Day 10/25/2010: Water Ice Detected Beneath Moon’s Surface

Blue is hydrogen-rich (probably water ice) and red is hydrogen-poor.

The explanation from the APOD site:

Is there enough water on the moon to sustain future astronauts? The question has important implications if humanity hopes to use the Moon as a future outpost. Last year, to help find out, scientists crashed the moon-orbiting LCROSS spacecraft into a permanently shadowed crater near the Moon’s South Pole. New analyses of the resulting plume from Cabeus crater indicate more water than previously thought, possibly about six percent. Additionally, an instrument on the separate LRO spacecraft that measures neutrons indicates that even larger lunar expanses — most not even permanently shadowed — may also contain a significant amount of buried frozen water. Pictured above from LRO, areas in false-color blue indicate the presence of soil relatively rich in hydrogen, which is thought likely bound to sub-surface water ice. Conversely, the red areas are likely dry. The location of the Moon’s South Pole is also digitally marked on the image. How deep beneath the surface the ice crystals permeate is still unknown, as well as how difficult it would be to mine the crystals and purify them into drinking water.

Earth Observatory — recent images

Some of my favorite recent images from NASA’s Earth Observatory Image of the Day:

e07_SeaIce

Swirling sea ice near Baffin Island (credit: NASA/Terra/MODIS)


e07_apollo11

Apollo 11 landing site (credit: NASA/Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter). Images of other Apollo landing sites are at NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter site. The orbiter isn’t in its final orbit, and future images will have better resolution.


e07_apollo11_launch

Apollo 11 launch pad (credit: NASA/Earth Observing-1 satellite)


e07_tambora

Mount Tambora, Indonesia — Site of the largest volcanic eruption in recorded history, 1815, which led to the 1816 “Year without a summer.” (Credit: International Space Station/Expedition 20 crew)

Grace and Peace

Moon rover

NASA’s Image of the Day Gallery has a concept of what the next lunar rover will look like:

NASA
Credit: NASA

Here’s the description from NASA:

NASA’s Next Generation Moon Rover

In the year 2020, NASA will be back on the moon. This time NASA will explore thousands of miles of the moon’s surface with individual missions lasting six months or longer. Just as we did during the Apollo program, NASA will be developing new concepts and technologies that also will benefit life on Earth.

One concept that is in NASA’s current plans is a Lunar Electric Rover. This small pressurized rover is about the size of a pickup truck (with 12 wheels) and can house two astronauts for up to 14 days with sleeping and sanitary facilities. It is designed to require little or no maintenance, be able to travel thousands of miles climbing over rocks and up 40 degree slopes during its ten-year life exploring the harsh surface of the moon. The rover frame was developed in conjunction with an off-road race truck team and was field tested in the desert Southwest by driving on rough lava.

Grace and Peace