New Geologic Map Of The Moon Released Online

A research team led by the Chinese Academy of Sciences has released a new high-resolution geologic map of the Moon. The map includes discoveries made in the last ten years, like an updated chronology for the age of lunar features, high-resolution mapping of the lunar surface done from orbit, and detailed chemical analysis of Moon rocks.

The first geological maps of the Moon were created during the Moon Race era from the late 1950s to mid-1970s.

To assure the safety of a manned exploration, it was necessary to know in detail the terrain and the composition of the lunar surface. A photogeologic survey was initiated from 1966 to 1968 by the Soviets, using space probes in orbit around the Moon to map its surface. Between 1959 and 1964 the Americans initiated the Ranger project, followed by the Lunar Orbiter, dedicated to the same goal. The Surveyor project also included some probes landing on the Moon. The surveys showed that there were also fairly soft and rolling terrains, where a spaceship could safely land.

When Neil Armstrong and Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin became the first humans to geologize on the Moon in 1969, the most detailed map of the Moon was a 1:5,000,000-scale geological map published by the USGS. The new map supersedes that with a resolution of 1:2,500,000.

Since the 1990s, the lunar exploration has entered a new booming phase and nearly 20 spacecrafts have been launched to the Moon from not only the US but also new agencies such as China, India, and Japan. To create the new map, the researchers digitized a number of previously released maps with varying scales and combined them thanks to RADAR and satellite images taken by China’s Chang’e-5 lunar exploration mission in one globally consistent large-scale map.

The map shows 12,341 impact craters, 81 impact basins, 17 rock types, and 14 types of lunar structures, like lava flows and fault systems. The map also includes the geological discoveries made at the sampling sites of the historic 1969-1972 Apollo missions and the 2020 landing site of the Chang’e rover, where the youngest lunar rock known so far was found.

The map is downloadable as a 150 MB pdf-file from this site. The related paper “The 1:2,500,000-scale geologic map of the global Moon” is published in the journal Science Bulletin (2022).

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