Lunar Science and Exploration
Center for Lunar Science and Exploration

South Pole – Aitken Basin Landing Site Database

This site provides a web-based ArcGIS tool for evaluating landing sites within the South Pole-Aitken (SPA) basin. The development of this tool was prompted by several reports. The Scientific Context for Exploration of the Moon (NRC 2007) found that it was imperative to anchor the early Earth-Moon impact flux curve by determining the age of the oldest and largest basin on the Moon, the SPA basin. Vision and Voyages for Planetary Science in the Decade 2013-2022 (NRC 2012) drew a similar conclusion and recommended a sample return mission to the SPA basin in the near future.  Several formal and informal recommendations by others in the community have also pointed to the SPA basin as a high-priority science and exploration target.

The novel web-based ArcGIS system presented here provides the lunar community with co-registered base maps (e.g., topography and FeO abundances) and a series of feature layers (e.g., for volcanic rilles and ≥20 km-diameter impact craters) that are important input parameters for selecting landing sites.

The system is also integrated with information developed in A Global Lunar Landing Site Study to Provide the Scientific Context for Exploration of the Moon. That study determined that most of the goals articulated by the NRC (2007) report could be addressed within the SPA basin and highlighted, in particular, the attractiveness of Schrödinger basin and Amundsen crater for future missions. As users will see, however, there are a huge number of other interesting locations within SPA. 

Data have been imported at the highest resolution available, although the data bandwidth for a real-time, on-line system currently limit the display of that data to 1000 m.  This system is designed to evolve, however, so that it can provide the lunar community with an enhanced range of information and capabilities in the future. Additional base maps and feature layers are already in development for a second version that will be installed as soon as possible. Detailed instructions for how to use the existing system and/or provide input for future editions are provided below.


There are five tools you can use to interact with the South Pole – Aitken Landing Site Database map (accessible from links at the bottom of this page). These tools are located on the bar at the top of the map or on the map itself once it is loaded:



Zooming in and out is accomplished by clicking on the large “+” and “-“ signs visible in the upper left-hand corner of the map. Panning is accomplished by clicking on the map and dragging. {Note: The Legend disappears when the map is zoomed out to the farthest extent.}


Clicking on the Layers tool will display the list of available layers in a dropdown menu. The available layers are organized into three categories: Overlays (top of list), Science Goals/Features (middle of list) and Basemaps (bottom of list). A layer is made visible or invisible by checking or unchecking the box to the left of the layer in the dropdown menu. Layers at the top of the list will overlay any layers lower in the list. For this reason you may want to have only one Basemap selected at a time. {Note: Only selected Layers will appear in the Legend.}

If the Layers dropdown menu extends beyond the bottom of your browser then it may be truncated. You can view the hidden remainder of the layer list by moving your cursor onto the Layers menu and using the up/down arrow keys or page up/down keys depending on your browser. {Note: Using the up arrow key at the top of the Layers list will take you to the bottom on the list, and likewise, using the down arrow at the bottom of the Layers list will take you to the top of the list (i.e., the Layers list is circular).}


Clicking the Legend button will display legend information in the Details/Legend panel that will help you interpret the information displayed for a particular selected layer. {Notes: Only selected Layers will appear in the Legend. The Legend disappears when the map is zoomed out to the farthest extent.}


Clicking on the Details button will display detailed information in the Details/Legend panel about all of the available layers (selected or not selected). Links are available for Science Goals which provide information for that goal found in the “South Pole-Aitken Basin” section of A Global Lunar Landing Site Study to Provide the Scientific Context for Exploration of the Moon. Other information about these Science Goals and how they can be addressed can be found in other sections of that report.


Clicking on the Print dropdown menu will allow you to produce a landscape or portrait PDF or PNG file of the current map display. After clicking on the desired print option wait for the Printout link to appear replacing the Print option.  Click on the Printout link to load the PDF/PNG map image into your browser and then use your browser’s print capability to print or save to a file.


South Pole-Aitken Basin Landing Site Database

Overlays and Basemaps Only
Science Goals 1 & 2
Science Goals 3 & 4
Science Goals 5 & 6
All Science Goals


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