Identification and characterization of science-rich landing sites for lunar lander missions using integrated remote sensing observations

J. Flahaut, J.F. Blanchette-Guertin, C. Jilly, P. Sharma, A. Souchon, W. van Westrenen, D.A. Kring

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Despite more than 52 years of lunar exploration, a wide range of first-order scientific questions remain about the Moon's formation, temporal evolution, and current surface and interior properties. Addressing many of these questions requires obtaining new in situ analyses or return of lunar surface or shallow subsurface samples, and hence rely on the selection of optimal landing sites. Here, we present an approach to optimize science-rich lunar landing site selection studies based on the integration of remote sensing observations. Currently available remote sensing data, as well as features of interest published in the recent literature, were integrated in a Geographic Information System. This numerical database contains geographic information about all these findings, which can be consulted and used to simultaneously display multiple features and parameters of interest. To illustrate our approach, we identified the optimal landing sites to address the two top priorities (or goals) relative to Concept 3 of the National Research Council of the National Academies (2007), namely to 'Determine the extent and composition of the primary feldspathic crust, (ur)KREEP layer, and other products of differentiation' and to 'Inventory the variety, age, distribution and origin of lunar rock types'. We review site requirements and propose possible landing sites for both these goals. We identified 29 sites that best fulfill both these goals and compare them with the landing sites of planned future lunar lander missions. Finally, we detail two of these science-rich sites (Aristarchus and Theophilus craters) which are particularly accessible through their location on the nearside. © 2012 COSPAR. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAdvances in Space Research
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2012

Bibliographical note

Special Issue on Lunar Exploration

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