Tuesday, January 29, 2013

New web-based ArcGIS tool for evaluating proposed landing sites within South Pole-Aitken basin

A very young adornment upon a very old place. Can all the Science Goals outlined in the influential 2007 NRC study "Scientific Context for the Exploration of the Moon" be addressed at South Pole-Aitken basin? An exceptional dark, fresh debris slide down the wall and floor of Fechner T (58.74°S, 122.82°E) a youthful 14 km crater thought to have excavated primeval material originally dredged up by the 4.1 billion year old South Pole-Aitken basin. LROC NAC observation M169772751R, LRO orbit 10153, September 4, 2011; incidence angle 60.16° at roughly 58 cm per pixel resolution, from 55 km [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].
David Kring
Lunar and Planetary Science Institute

The LPI-JSC Center for Lunar Science and Exploration, in support of the NLSI South Pole-Aitken Basin Focus Group, has developed a new web-based ArcGIS tool for evaluating landing sites within the South Pole-Aitken (SPA) basin.  This focus on the SPA basin is prompted by several reports.  

A yellow ellipse marks the location of a valuable future landing site proposed by students participating in LPI Summer Intern program, within "walk-back distance" from a Copernican age crater perched high on a Schrödinger basin peak ring. LROC Wide Angle Camera (WAC) M169698283CE (604nm), LRO orbit 10142, September 3, 2011, resolution 81 meters from 58.55 km [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].
The National Research Council’s 2007 report, The Scientific Context for Exploration of the Moon, concluded the second highest priority is to determine the age of the SPA basin via sample return.  In the National Research Council’s 2012 report Vision and Voyages for Planetary Science in the Decade 2013-2022, a sample return mission was also a high-priority option for a New Frontier-class mission.  Several formal and informal recommendations by others in the community have also pointed to the SPA basin as a high-priority science and exploration target.

This novel web-based ArcGIS system provides co-registered base maps (e.g., topography and FeO abundances) and a series of feature layers (e.g., for volcanic rilles and ≥20 km-diameter impact craters).  Using the ArcGIS tool, users can zoom into lunar surface sites of potential interest.

Important:  This novel tool is accessible from browsers.  You do not need ArcGIS or a license to use ArcGIS on your computer – the system uses a new type of platform that will make it easier for people in the community to access SPA-related data.

The system is also integrated with information used in a previous lunar landing site assessment of the South Pole-Aitken Basin that was developed through the NLSI and the LPI-JSC Lunar Exploration Summer Intern Program.   That study determined that most of the goals articulated by the NRC (2007) report could be addressed within the SPA basin and highlighted, in particular, the attractiveness of Schrödinger basin and Amundsen crater for future missions. As users will see, however, there are a huge number of other interesting locations within SPA.

The oldest and largest verified impact basin, 2100 km-wide South Pole-Aitken, now believed by many to be oblong though the location of its central transitory morphological center remains elusive. Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter laser altimetry (LOLA) [NASA/GSFC].
Data have been imported at the highest resolution available, although the data bandwidth for a real-time, on-line system currently limit the display of that data to 1000 meters.  This system is designed to evolve, however, so that it can provide the lunar community with an enhanced range of information and capabilities in the future. Additional base maps and feature layers are already in development for a second version that will be installed as soon as possible.

The url for the new South Pole-Aitken Basin Landing Site Database is http://www.lpi.usra.edu/nlsi/SPA_Basin_Landing_Site_DB/

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