SMART-1: Travel maps of the lunar north pole

December 5, 2007
SMART-1: Travel maps of the lunar north pole
This mosaic of the lunar north pole was obtained with images taken by the Advanced Moon Imaging Experiment on board ESA's SMART-1. The pictures were taken between May 2005 and February 2006, during different phases of the mission. The mosaic, composed of about 30 images, covers an area of about 800 by 600 km. The lunar near-side facing Earth is at the bottom of the map, while the far-side is at the top. When obtaining the images, SMART-1 was flying over the north pole at a distance of about 3000 km, allowing large-field (about 300 km across) and medium-resolution views (300 m/pixel). Each individual image includes areas imaged with colour filters and a more exposed area. The differences have been corrected accordingly to obtain this mosaic. Credit: ESA/Space-X

A new map obtained with SMART-1 data shows the geography and illumination of the lunar north pole. Such maps will be of great use for future lunar explorers.

The lunar poles are very interesting for future science and exploration of the Moon mainly because of their exposure to sunlight. They display areas of quasi-eternal light, have a stable thermal environment and are close to dark areas that could host water ice – potential future lunar base sites.

The SMART-1 north pole map, covering an area of about 800 by 600 km, shows geographical locations of some craters of interest. Peary is a large impact crater closest to the north pole. At this latitude the interior of the crater receives little sunlight, but SMART-1 was able to observe it during phases when the crater floor was sufficiently illuminated for imaging.

A previous lunar mission, the U.S. Clementine, observed the Peary crater during the north summer, and identified some areas particularly illuminated by the sun in that season. With its Advanced Moon Imaging Experiment (AMIE) micro-camera, SMART-1 has complemented this data set by identifying the areas that are also well-illuminated during northern winter.

“Solar illumination makes these areas ideal for robotic outposts or lunar bases making use of solar power,” added Foing.

Hermite is another lunar impact crater located along the northern lunar limb, close to the north pole of the Moon. Looking from Earth, it is viewed nearly from the side, illuminated by oblique sunlight.

Crater Plaskett is located on the northern far-side of the Moon, about 200 km from the north pole. It receives sunlight at a low angle. Because of the isolation of this crater and its location near the lunar limb, it has been suggested as a possible additional site of a future lunar base that could be used to simulate isolated conditions during a manned mission to Mars.

“From the crater rim, rovers could be sent out to explore nearby craters which are permanently in shadow and may contain water ice. If the layers of ice come from the volatiles deposited by comets and water-rich asteroids, we could better understand how, and how much, water and organic material was delivered to Earth over its history,” said Foing.

Source: European Space Agency

Explore further: Walls of lunar crater may hold patchy ice, LRO radar finds

Related Stories

Walls of lunar crater may hold patchy ice, LRO radar finds

August 30, 2012

(Phys.org)—Small patches of ice could make up at most five to ten percent of material in walls of Shackleton crater. Scientists using the Mini-RF radar on NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) have estimated the maximum ...

Radar Finds Ice Deposits at Moon's North Pole

March 2, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Using data from a NASA radar that flew aboard India's Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft, scientists have detected ice deposits near the moon's north pole. NASA's Mini-SAR instrument, a lightweight, synthetic aperture ...

Recommended for you

Rosetta: The end of a space odyssey

September 26, 2016

Europe's trailblazing deep-space comet exploration for clues to the origins of the Solar System ends Friday with the Rosetta orbiter joining robot lab Philae on the iceball's dusty surface for eternity.

Sounding rocket solves one cosmic mystery, reveals another

September 26, 2016

In the last century, humans realized that space is filled with types of light we can't see – from infrared signals released by hot stars and galaxies, to the cosmic microwave background that comes from every corner of the ...

Hubble views a colorful demise of a sun-like star

September 26, 2016

This image, taken by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, shows the colorful "last hurrah" of a star like our sun. The star is ending its life by casting off its outer layers of gas, which formed a cocoon around the star's ...

Astronomers image newly discovered comet

September 26, 2016

Earlier this week, Slooh member Bernd Lütkenhöner and Slooh astronomer Paul Cox were able to image the newly discovered Comet C/2016 R3 (Borisov) under extraordinary conditions. The comet had been close to the Sun since ...

Nasa scientists find 'impossible' cloud on Titan—again

September 21, 2016

The puzzling appearance of an ice cloud seemingly out of thin air has prompted NASA scientists to suggest that a different process than previously thought—possibly similar to one seen over Earth's poles—could be forming ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.