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Astrogeology Steps Up Lunar Orbiter Data with Apollo Images

Thursday, March 16, 2006

The U.S. Geological Survey Astrogeology Program takes another step forward in reviving the lunar data from the 1960’s. The cartographic group is evaluating the use of modern softcopy digital mapping techniques to extract a digital elevation model (DEM) from Lunar Orbiter (LO) and Apollo digitized imagery. Products enabled by this endeavor will supersede earlier maps and will be functional for upcoming lunar missions and coincide with the vision to gain a new foothold on the moon.

Cartoon poking fun at stair-step artifacts in Lunar Orbiter imagery
The original Lunar Orbiter photographs reconstructed in the 1960’s had limited utility for topographic mapping due to stair-step artifacts in the reconstructed photographs. To correct this problem, Lunar Orbiter images were digitized and reconstructed to fit tto calibrated reseaux and fiducials locations, and the stair-step artifacts in the resulting images were greatly reduced. Although the Apollo imagery was previously used to produce topographic maps, they were limited in size and accuracy, and most notably, had kilometer-sized offsets between them because different control networks were employed during their production. To correct this, a revised global network for the Moon that included Clementine imagery acquired in the 1990’s was generated, so that future mapping would be based on a common control network. The Unified Lunar Control Network 2005 improved the accuracy and the density of control points and included computed elevations values for each point.

To take reviving Lunar Orbiter to another level, the cartographic group considers the pros and cons for using digital elevation models from Apollo (metric vs. panoramic) and/or Lunar Orbiter imagery to produce controlled DEMs, orthoimage mosaics and other products that will be useful in future mission planning and scientific analysis. Upcoming missions such as SELENE – Japan, Chang’e 1 –China, Chandrayaan-1 – India, and -Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter - USA, will have access to highly detailed topographic data.

President Bush announced in a press release, on January 14, 2004, that our goal is to return to the moon by 2020. "Beginning no later than 2008, we will send a series of robotic missions to the lunar surface to research and prepare for future human exploration." The Astrogeology team continues their lunar groundwork.

Learn more about Lunar Orbiter, ULCN 2005 network, and Mapping with Apollo Images