NASA obtains detailed map of moon’s south pole

February 29th, 2008 - 12:33 am ICT by admin  

Washington, Feb 28 (Xinhua) The US National Aeronautics and Space Administrations (NASA) announced here that it has obtained the highest resolution images to date of the moon’s rugged south polar region. Scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory collected the data using the facility’s Goldstone Solar System Radar located in California’s Mojave Desert.

“We now know the south pole has peaks as high as Mt. McKinley and crater floors four times deeper than the Grand Canyon.

“There are challenges that come with such rugged terrain, and these data will be an invaluable tool for advance planning of lunar missions,” Doug Cooke, deputy associate administrator at NASA’s headquarters, said Wednesday.

The latest images of the moon’s south polar region have a resolution of 20 metres per pixel.

“I have not been to the moon, but this imagery is the next best thing,” said Scott Hensley, a scientist at JPL and lead investigator for the study. “With these data we can see terrain features as small as a house without even leaving the office.”

Previously, the best resolution of the moon’s south pole was generated by the US Clementine spacecraft, which could resolve lunar terrain features near the south pole at one kilometre per pixel. The new resolution generated by JPL is 50 times more detailed.

The new mapping data indicates that the region of the moon’s south pole near Shackleton Crater is much more rugged than previously understood. The Shackleton rim area is considered a favourable landing site for future human missions to the moon.

In the future, NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) will provide the next generation of lunar imaging and data. The launch of the spacecraft is scheduled for late 2008.

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