The Most Complete Map of the Moon

Image credit: United States Geological Survey

Future exploration of the Moon requires precise knowledge of the distribution of rock types on the lunar surface. A recent map released by the United States Geological Survey separates the lunar surface into 203 distinct units based on rock type, topography, and age. The map reveals that features such as ancient impact craters and debris from volcanic eruptions are ubiquitous across the Moon. The recently released map is unique in that it covers the entire surface of the Moon at the 1:5,000,000 scale, thus providing the most complete high-resolution map of the lunar surface to date. The data used to compile the map are derived from (1) NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), which is currently in an elliptical orbit around the Moon and is estimated to have enough fuel to continue gathering data until 2027, and (2) Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Kaguya (SELENE) spacecraft, which orbited the Moon from 2007 to 2009. The geologic map makes use of LRO Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter data with 100-meter resolution for the polar regions and Kaguya terrain camera data with 60-meter resolution for the equatorial regions. This global map, combined with future high-resolution maps of local regions on the Moon, can be used to prioritize potential landing areas for robotic and crewed spacecraft. READ MORE