Using new high resolution terrain mapping data obtained by the Deep Space Network, NASA has created some new animations that take viewers to the Moon’s south pole. The videos include a flyover of Shackleton Crater and a very nifty animation of descent to the lunar surface of a future human lunar lander.
“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 obtaining the data. “With these data we can see terrain features as small as a house without even leaving the office.”
Here’s the descent and landing animation. Make sure you watch to the very end, because the ending is the most impressive part, when you realize where you’ve landed.
The rim of Shackleton Crater is considered a candidate landing site for a future human mission to the moon.
And there’s more:
The mapping data collected indicate that the region of the Moon’s south pole near Shackleton Crater is much more rugged than previously understood. Hereâ€™s an animation of a flyover of the lunar south pole
Another animation shows the amount of sunlight falling on the Moon’s south pole during one lunar day. Notice that the interior of some craters remain almost completely dark — no sunshine ever strikes these areas — and some scientists feel there could possibly be water ice inside these craters.
To create these animations scientists targeted the Moon’s south polar region three times during a six-month period in 2006, using Goldstone’s 70-meter (230-foot) radar dish. The antenna, three-quarters the size of a football field, sent a 500-kilowatt-strong, 90-minute-long radar stream 373,046 kilometers (231,800 miles) to the moon. The radar bounced off the rough-hewn lunar terrain over an area measuring about 644 kilometers by 402 kilometers (400 miles by 250 miles). Signals were reflected back to two of Goldstone’s 34-meter (112-foot) antennas on Earth. The roundtrip time, from the antenna to the Moon and back, was about two-and-a-half seconds.
For more images and animations go to NASAâ€™s Moon Exploration page.