Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Here's an interesting blog post from Discover Magazine showing not just an image of Orientale Basin (the largest crater on the Moon) but also how large it is compared to the United States. The crater and the area surrounding it cover an area similar to that of eight average-sized American states. Keep this image in mind for perspective whenever the claim that "we've already been to the Moon; why go back?" comes up. Because as you can see here, the only areas explored have been six landing sites near the equator (the ones in green), during the day, and for a total of only some twelve or thirteen days on the surface.
To give some idea of how varied the Moon is, here's the distribution of uranium on the surface, here's how concentration of water in the upper soil varies by latitude, and then of course the north and south poles not only have ice water in the permanently shadowed craters but also have near total sunlight outside them.
Coming up this year: Chang'e 2, perhaps in October. As always, the big advantage to the Moon is that missions can be launched when they're good and ready, not just every year and a half when a launch window opens up.