Lunar Topographic Map

Progress M-13M
100 meter resolution lunar topographic map
Image Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center / DLR / ASU

NASA has released a nearly complete topographic map of the Moon at a resolution of 100 meters (the Global Lunar DTM 100 m topographic model – GLD100)

With the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (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.

Additional information can be found at the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera center at Arizona State University.

The Boulder on the Peak of Tycho Crater

Tycho Central Peak
The Central Peak on Tycho.
Image credit: NASA / GSFC / Arizona State University

This image is a very recent release from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbital Camera (LROC), taken 10 June 2011. The angle was 65 degrees in order to capture the sunrise on the peak in Tycho crater. The large boulder in the center is 120 meters across.

Tycho is located at 43.37°S, 348.68°E, and is ~82 kilometers (51 miles) in diameter. The central peak rises 2 kilometers above the floor of the crater. The floor is almost 5 km below the rim.

Below left is a view of the entire central peak, and below right is a view of the entire crater.

Tycho Central Peak
The central peak of Tycho
Image credit: NASA / GSFC / Arizona State University

Tycho Crater
Tycho Crater
Image credit: NASA / GSFC / Arizona State University

1959 – Twelve Men On The Moon

Copernicus, Eratosthenes and Project Horizon
Image Credit: NASA / GSFC / Arizona State University

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera team recently released this image featuring the famous crater Copernicus with its ejecta splashed across much of the face of the Moon. Copernicus and the crater Eratosthenes lie just south of Mare Imbrium. To the east of Copernicus and south of Eratosthenes lies the nearly featureless plain called Sinus Aestuum. Here, just southeast of Eratosthenes lies the location of a proposed Moon Base. In addition to the scientific value of this area, the rich ores of the Rima Bode regional dark mantling deposit lie nearby.

On 20 March 1959, Arthur G. Trudeau, Chief of Research and Development for the U.S. Army, submitted a request for the study to place a lunar outpost on the Moon. The result was Project Horizon, a plan (dated 9 June 1959) to place a military base with 10-20 men on the surface of the Moon by 1965. Full details are in Vol. I and Vol. II (pdf).

The introduction to the proposal stated that the establishment of a lunar base would:

  • Demonstrate the United States scientific leadership in outer space
  • Support scientific explorations and investigations
  • Extend and improve space reconnaissance and surveillance capabilities and control of space
  • Extend and improve communications and serve as a communications relay station
  • Provide a basic and supporting research laboratory for space research and development activity
  • Develop a stable, low-gravity outpost for use as a launch site for deep space exploration
  • Provide an opportunity for scientific exploration and development of a space mapping and survey system
  • Provide an emergency staging area, rescue capability or navigational aid for other space activity

It further stated the following, prescient about the Soviet manned capability, but extremely optimistic about the timetable for the Moon Base:

Advances in propulsion, electronics, space medicine and other astronautical sciences are taking place at an explosive rate. As recently as 1949, the first penetration of space war accomplished by the US when a two-stage V-2 rocket reached the then unbelievable altitude of 250 miles. In 1957, the Soviet Union placed the first man-made satellite in orbit. Since early l958, when the first US earth satellite was launched, both the US and USSR have launched additional satellites, moon probes, and successfully recovered animals sent into space in missiles. In 1960, and thereafter, there will be other deep space probes by the US and the USSR, with the US planning to place the first man into space with a REDSTONE missile, followed in 1961 with the first man in orbit. However, the Soviets could very well place a man in space before we do. In addition, instrumented lunar landings probably will be accomplished by 1964 by both the United States and the USSR. As will be indicated in the technical discussions of this report, the first US manned lunar landing could be accomplished by 1965. Thus, it appears that the establishment of an outpost on the moon is a capability which can be accomplished.

Underlying all of this was the traditional von Braun team approach:

paramount to successful major systems design is a conservative approach which requires that no item be more “advanced” than required to do the job. It recognizes that an unsophisticated success is of vastly greater importance than a series of advanced and highly sophisticated failures that “almost worked. “

The proposal discusses the ongoing development of the Saturn I by ARPA, expecting it would be fully operational by 1963. The Saturn I stood more than 200 feet tall, and would be superseded by the Saturn II in 1964, standing 304 feet tall. By the end of 1964, a total of 72 Saturn I rockets would have been launched on various programs of discovery, including 40 to support the manned lunar base. In order to support the full complement of 12 men, 61 Saturn I and 88 Saturn II launches would be required by the end of 1966, landing 490,000 pounds of cargo on the lunar surface. 64 launches were scheduled for 1967, landing an additional 266,000 pounds of supplies. The total cost of the eight and one-half year program was estimated to be $6 Billion.

The von Braun team thought very large indeed.

Lunar Base
Project Horizon – Lunar Base 1965
Image Credit: US Army

Project Horizon – Rockets
Image Credit: US Army

Orbital Trajectories
Image Credit: US Army

Let us know what you think. What do you want to know about? Post a comment.

The World At Night – Report from the Scene

The Educational Outreach programs of the National Space Society of Phoenix and the Planetary Society participated in today’s The World At Night exhibition at Christown Mall in Phoenix.

Between 1,000 and 1,500 children and parents stopped by between 10 AM and 3 PM to ask questions, collect trading cards, copies of the Ad Astra magazine, coloring sheets, stickers, decals, bookmarks, photographs and fact sheets from the members. Activities included making soda straw rockets and mission patches. Around a hundred soda straw rockets were built and launched.

The Challenger Space Center in Peoria brought out their Liquid Nitrogen demonstrations, the Dry Ice Comet, Freeze Dried Ice Cream and the Space Helmet Activity.

The Arizona State University School of Earth and Space Exploration put on some captivating exhibits including the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera results from the spacecraft currently orbiting the Moon, and information on Mars, Robotics and Meteorites.

Hard At Work

Hard At Work

LRO Exhibit

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Exhibit


Last week, we facilitated two tours of the LROC Lab and the Mars Space Flight Facility. Our interested party were science geeks and folks interested in space from The Humanist Society of Greater Phoenix.

Below left, is the view of the LROC Lab where the image download link resides. The students and faculty monitor the image download from these computer screens. We want to thank Steven and Veronica for their lively commentary at LROC. On the right is one of the screens tracking the image download parameters.

You can book your own tour of the LROC facility here.

LROC Lab Image Download Control

On the left is one of the incoming images of the Moon’s surface from the NAC (Narrow Angle Camera). Overlain are targets previously identified and cataloged for researchers. If you are interested in an object or location on the surface of the Moon, you can request to be notified when it is imaged. Below on the right are some of the folks on the tour.

Incoming Image Tourists

Over at the Mars Space Flight Facility, Meg Hubbard took us in tow and gave an hour over to discussion of the three operating instruments at Mars. Two instruments are the mini-TES (Thermal Imaging Spectroscopes) instruments on the Mars rovers Spirit (model below left) and Opportunity. This is the tool that “… collects high-resolution infrared spectra that will help identify the mineralogy of all geologic materials including silicates, carbonates, sulfates, phosphates, oxides and hydroxides. Mini-TES will also measure the lower atmospheric boundary layer and provide information on suspended dust, water ice, and water vapor opacity. “

The other instrument is the Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) on the Mars Odyssey satellite. This instrument “… is a thermal emission imaging system. It contains two independent multi-spectal imaging sub-systems: a 10-band thermal infrared imager (IR), and a 5-band visible imager”.

Earlier, the Mars Global Surveyor carried the full sized Thermal Emission Spectrometer, Modeled below, right. “Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) launched from Cape Canaveral Air Station on 7 November 1996 and was successfully put into orbit around Mars on 12 September 1997. On 31 January 2001, MGS completed the mapping phase of the mission, which lasted one martian year (two Earth years). On 2 November 2006, mission controllers lost contact with the spacecraft, ending the mission”.

Thank you to all the people at ASU and these two great facilities for their time and effort. It was worth every minute.

Spirit Mars Global Surveyor

LROC – Videos

The LRO Laboratory posted this view of the Tsiolkovskiy crater on July 3 at 20:32:11.289 UTC. The images were obtained at an altitude of 83 km. Tsiolkovskiy is located at 21.2°S/128.9°E , and details such as individual boulders, boulder trails, hummocks, and possibly small outcrops can be readily identified in the ejecta blanket of Tsiolkovskiy crater on the lunar farside.

Named after Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, the Russian father of astronautics, the crater, 185 km in diameter, is a major feature of the far side of the Moon. It is distinguished by its deep, dark crater and high island peak.

This video of Compton Crater was posted on Youtube by the LROC lab on 2009 July 5 21:39:49 UTC. Orbit 136 took LRO over Compton Crater at an altitude of 172 kilometers. The crater floor, central peak, and distinctive tectonic features are visible.

Compton is 182 km in diameter, and located on the far side of the Moon, in the Northern Hemisphere at 55.3°N/103.8°E .

Other interesting aspects of the Compton Crate include the existance of a small-scale Thorium anomaly near the craters Compton and Belkovich

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter

As this post is being written, we are 2 days and 22 hours from the launch of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. Phoenix has a special interest in this because Arizona State University (ASU) is responsible for the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera.

[edit] And with the slip of the Space Shuttle launch, we are still 2 days and 22 hours away from LRO launch (18 June if all goes well).

The LRO is the first step on NASA’s Vision for Space Exploration. It is designed to create a comprehensive mapping of the lunar surface and potential resources. The LROC is one of six instruments in the payload:

Cosmic Ray Telescope for the Effects of Radiation
This telescope will characterize the lunar radiation environment allowing scientists to determine potential biological impacts.

Diviner Lunar Radiometer Experiment
This device will measure surface and subsurface temperatures from orbit. And will identify potential ice deposits.

Lyman Alpha Mapping Project
This will map the entire lunar surface in the far ultraviolet spectrum.

Lunar Exploration Neutron Detector
This instrument will search for hydrogen as evidence of water ice near the moon’s surface.

Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter
This will search for potential landing sites.

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera
Two narrow angle cameras will make high resolution black-and-white images of the surface. A third, wide angle camera, will take color and ultraviolet images over the complete lunar surface.