NASA's LRO creates Moon's most precise landscape yet

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Washington, Dec 18 (ANI): NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has successfully created the most accurate landscape available to date, of the Moon.

"This dataset is being used to make digital elevation and terrain maps that will be a fundamental reference for future scientific and human exploration missions to the moon," said Dr. Gregory Neumann of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "After about one year taking data, we already have nearly 3 billion data points from the Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter on board the LRO spacecraft, with near-uniform longitudinal coverage. We expect to continue to make measurements at this rate through the next two years of the science phase of the mission and beyond. Near the poles, we expect to provide near-GPS-like navigational capability as coverage is denser due to the spacecraft's polar orbit," he added.

These maps of the Moon created are the most complete till date.

"The positional errors of image mosaics of the lunar far side, where direct spacecraft tracking - the most accurate -- is unavailable, have been one to ten kilometers (about 0.62 to 6.2 miles)," said Neumann.

"We're beating these down to the level of 30 meters (almost 100 feet) or less spatially and one meter (almost 3.3 feet) vertically. At the poles, where illumination rarely provides more than a glimpse of the topography below the crater peaks, we found systematic horizontal errors of hundreds of meters (hundreds of yards) as well."

The data would also scientists to define Moon's current and historical illumination environment.

"Until LRO and the recent Japanese Kaguya mission, we had no idea of what the extremes of polar crater slopes were," said Neumann.

"Now, we find slopes of 36 degrees over several kilometers (several thousands of yards) in Shackleton crater, for example, which would make traverses quite difficult and apparently causes landslides. The LOLA measurements of shadowed polar crater slopes and their surface roughness take place at scales from lander size to kilometers. These measurements are helping the LRO science team model the thermal environment of these craters, and team members are developing temperature maps of them."

Neumann will present the map at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco December 17. (ANI)

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