Regions of interest (ROI) for future exploration missions to the lunar South Pole

J. Flahaut*, J. Carpenter, J. P. Williams, M. Anand, I. A. Crawford, W. van Westrenen, E. Füri, L. Xiao, S. Zhao

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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The last decades have been marked by increasing evidence for the presence of near-surface volatiles at the lunar poles. Enhancement in hydrogen near both poles, UV and VNIR albedo anomalies, high CPR in remotely sensed radar data have all been tentatively interpreted as evidence for surface and/or subsurface water ice. Lunar water ice and other potential cold-trapped volatiles are targets of interest both as scientific repositories for understanding the evolution of the Solar System and for exploration purposes. Determining the exact nature, extent and origin of the volatile species at or near the surface in the lunar polar regions however requires in situ measurements via lander or rover missions. A number of upcoming missions will address these issues by obtaining in situ data or by returning samples from the lunar surface or shallow subsurface. These all rely on the selection of optimal landing sites. The present paper discusses potential regions of interest (ROI) for combined volatile and geologic investigations in the vicinity of the lunar South Pole. We identified eleven regions of interest (including a broad area of interest (>200 km × 200 km) at the South Pole, together with smaller regions located near Cabeus, Amundsen, Ibn Bajja, Wiechert J and Idel'son craters), with enhanced near-surface hydrogen concentration (H > 100 ppm by weight) and where water ice is expected to be stable at the surface, considering the present-day surface thermal regime. Identifying more specific landing sites for individual missions is critically dependent on the mission's goals and capabilities. We present detailed case studies of landing site analyses based on the mission scenario and requirements of the upcoming Luna-25 and Luna-27 landers and Lunar Prospecting Rover case study. Suitable sites with promising science outcomes were found for both lander and rover scenarios. However, the rough topography and limited illumination conditions near the South Pole reduce the number of possible landing sites, especially for solar-powered missions. It is therefore expected that limited Sun and Earth visibility at latitudes >80° will impose very stringent constraints on the design and duration of future polar missions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104750
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalPlanetary and Space Science
Early online date20 Sept 2019
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2020


The authors wish to thank Erwan Mazarico for kindly sharing his data, as well as the editor and anonymous reviewers for helpful comments. The authors are also grateful to ESA and the ESA topical team on the exploitation of local planetary material for insightful discussions. This study is supported by the CNES “Appel à Projets de Recherche” Luna attributed to J. Flahaut. M. Anand acknowledges support from UKSA and STFC grants ( #ST/P000657/1 and # ST/R001391/1 , resp.). W. van Westrenen acknowledges financial support from a Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research Vici award and from the Netherlands Space Office. This is CRPG contribution N° 2718 . Appendix A

FundersFunder number
Not addedST/N000528/1
Erwan Mazarico
UK Space Agency
Science and Technology Facilities CouncilST/R001391/1, /P000657/1
European Space Agency
Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales
Netherlands Space Office
Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek


    • GIS
    • ISRU
    • Landing sites
    • Lunar poles
    • Volatiles
    • Water ice


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