5 December 2007
SMART-1: Travel maps of the lunar north pole
A new map obtained with SMART-1 data shows the geography and illumination of
the lunar north pole. Such maps will be of great use for future lunar
The lunar poles are very interesting for future science and exploration of
the Moon mainly because of their exposure to sunlight. They display areas of
quasi-eternal light, have a stable thermal environment and are close to dark
areas that could host water ice – potential future lunar base sites.
The SMART-1 north pole map, covering an area of about 800 by 600 km, shows
geographical locations of some craters of interest. Peary is a large impact
crater closest to the north pole. At this latitude the interior of the
crater receives little sunlight, but SMART-1 was able to observe it during
phases when the crater floor was sufficiently illuminated for imaging.
A previous lunar mission, the U.S. Clementine, observed the Peary crater
during the north summer, and identified some areas particularly illuminated
by the sun in that season. With its Advanced Moon Imaging Experiment (AMIE)
micro-camera, SMART-1 has complemented this data set by identifying the
areas that are also well-illuminated during northern winter.
“Solar illumination makes these areas ideal for robotic outposts or lunar
bases making use of solar power,” says ESA’s SMART-1 Project Scientist,
Hermite is another lunar impact crater located along the northern lunar
limb, close to the north pole of the Moon. Looking from Earth, it is viewed
nearly from the side, illuminated by oblique sunlight.
Crater Plaskett is located on the northern far-side of the Moon, about 200
km from the north pole. It receives sunlight at a low angle. Because of the
isolation of this crater and its location near the lunar limb, it has been
suggested as a possible additional site of a future lunar base that could be
used to simulate isolated conditions during a manned mission to Mars.
“From the crater rim, rovers could be sent out to explore nearby craters
which are permanently in shadow and may contain water ice. If the layers of
ice come from the volatiles deposited by comets and water-rich asteroids, we
could better understand how, and how much, water and organic material was
delivered to Earth over its history,” said Foing.
Notes for editors:
These images were analysed in the framework of a study project for the
design and operations of lunar polar robotic landers and rovers, by Marina
Ellouzi, a Master’s student in space engineering at the Paris-Meudon
Observatory. The polar mosaics were presented and discussed at the 9th ILEWG
International lunar conference in October 2007.
For more information:
Bernard Foing, ESA SMART-1 Project Scientist
Email: Bernard.Foing @ esa.int
Jean-Luc Josset, SMART-1 AMIE Principal Investigator
Space-X Space Exploration Institute
Email: Jean-Luc.Josset @ space-x.ch
[NOTE: Images supporting this release are available at