Where on the Moon will the first crewed Artemis mission Land? While NASA is still deliberating on the exact location, they’ve chosen several candidate landing sites near the lunar south pole. This new image captured by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter reveals what the astronauts might see out the window as they approach their destination.
The region shown here is called Malapert massif, and one of the Artemis III candidate landing sites is the relatively flat spot above a 5,000-meter (16,400 feet) cliff. Another 3,500-meter (11,480 feet) cliff would be visible from this vantage point. It would be a spectacular place to visit, but the terrain could pose a challenge for landing – especially for the first human mission to land on the Moon in over 50 years.
“Imagine the view from the summit,” wrote LROC principal investigator Mark Robinson, on the LRCO website. “One could argue that the sheer grandeur of this region makes it a prime candidate. But then again, a landing here might be too exciting?”
The high-resolution camera on board LRO, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) took this photo on March 3, 2023 when the spacecraft was about 170 kilometers (105 miles) beyond Shackleton crater looking towards the nearside. For reference, Shackleton Crater is about 19 km (12 miles) wide.
From this viewpoint, we see the back side of Malapert massif. The Artemis III candidate landing region is partially visible from this viewpoint. Shackleton is the crater near the top left. The relatively flat area above the “5000” in the image below is the heart of the Artemis 3 landing region, which continues down the slope toward the Earth-facing side of the Moon, as seen here:
NASA has identified 13 candidate landing regions near the lunar South Pole. Each region contains multiple potential landing sites for Artemis III, which will be the first of the Artemis missions to bring crew to the lunar surface, including the first woman to set foot on the Moon.
See more images from LROC here.
Find out about a new spacecraft that is helping scientists peer into the permanently shadowed regions of Shackleton crater. Mark Robinson is the PI on ShadowCam, too.