3D Moon a 'roadmap' for lunar missions

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23 Nov, 2011 Updated Wed 23 Nov 2011 15:21 CEST
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German researchers have created a stunning 3D model of the Moon, using 70,000 images from NASA. They hope it will help lay the groundwork for future manned and unmanned lunar missions.

The model by the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) – Germany’s equivalent to America's NASA space agency – was created using 70,000 images from a NASA spacecraft orbiting the moon since 2009.

Project scientist Frank Scholten reviewed the images pixel by pixel, figured out their exact locations and then calculated 100 billion 3D points in order to create the model.

It covers 37 million square kilometres – more than 98 percent of the moon’s surface, DLR reported.

The calculations, performed by 40 computers, took two weeks to complete.

"Over the last few years, planetary research has been focusing primarily on other planets, Mars being just one example. The Moon remained in the background during this period," said Scholten in a DLR statement.

He added that the research will help provide solutions to previously unanswerable questions – such as whether there is water or ice on the Moon’s surface – by providing an accurate topographical map.

Another cool advantage of the model is being able to simulate the flights of previous astronauts who came to visit, helping scientists better understand the parts of Moon they explored.

But the model’s biggest benefit may come years in the future when space explorers pay another trip to the celestial body – the last time man stepped on the Moon was in 1972 during NASA's Apollo 17 mission.

“With this data, we are laying important foundations for future Moon missions, whether manned or unmanned," said lunar researcher Ulrich Köhler in a statement. "These 3D maps of the Moon enable us to better evaluate future landing sites.”

The Local/mdm



2011/11/23 15:21

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