The International Archives of the Photogrammetry, Remote Sensing and Spatial Information Sciences
Publications Copernicus
Articles | Volume XXXIX-B4
01 Aug 2012
 | 01 Aug 2012


R. L. Kirk, B. A. Archinal, L. R. Gaddis, and M. R. Rosiek

Keywords: Extra-terrestrial, extraterrestrial, planetary, international, databases, cartography, geodesy, mapping

Abstract. The first decade of the 21st century has seen a new golden age of lunar exploration, with more missions than in any decade since the 1960’s and many more nations participating than at any time in the past. We have previously summarized the history of lunar mapping and described the lunar missions planned for the 2000’s (Kirk et al., 2006, 2007, 2008). Here we report on the outcome of lunar missions of this decade, the data gathered, the cartographic work accomplished and what remains to be done, and what is known about mission plans for the coming decade.

Four missions of lunar orbital reconnaissance were launched and completed in the decade 2001–2010: SMART-1 (European Space Agency), SELENE/Kaguya (Japan), Chang'e-1 (China), and Chandrayaan-1 (India). In addition, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter or LRO (USA) is in an extended mission, and Chang'e-2 (China) operated in lunar orbit in 2010–2011. All these spacecraft have incorporated cameras capable of providing basic data for lunar mapping, and all but SMART-1 carried laser altimeters. Chang'e-1, Chang'e-2, Kaguya, and Chandrayaan-1 carried pushbroom stereo cameras intended for stereo mapping at scales of 120, 10, 10, and 5 m/pixel respectively, and LRO is obtaining global stereo imaging at 100 m/pixel with its Wide Angle Camera (WAC) and hundreds of targeted stereo observations at 0.5 m/pixel with its Narrow Angle Camera (NAC). Chandrayaan-1 and LRO carried polarimetric synthetic aperture radars capable of 75 m/pixel and (LRO only) 7.5 m/pixel imaging even in shadowed areas, and most missions carried spectrometers and imaging spectrometers whose lower resolution data are urgently in need of coregistration with other datasets and correction for topographic and illumination effects. The volume of data obtained is staggering. As one example, the LRO laser altimeter, LOLA, has so far made more than 5.5 billion elevation measurements, and the LRO Camera (LROC) system has returned more than 1.3 million archived image products comprising over 220 Terabytes of image data.

The processing of controlled map products from these data is as yet relatively limited. A substantial portion of the LOLA altimetry data have been subjected to a global crossover analysis, and local crossover analyses of Chang'e-1 LAM altimetry have also been performed. LRO NAC stereo digital topographic models (DTMs) and orthomosaics of numerous sites of interest have been prepared based on control to LOLA data, and production of controlled mosaics and DTMs from Mini-RF radar images has begun. Many useful datasets (e.g., DTMs from LRO WAC images and Kaguya Terrain Camera images) are currently uncontrolled.

Making controlled, orthorectified map products is obviously a high priority for lunar cartography, and scientific use of the vast multinational set of lunar data now available will be most productive if all observations can be integrated into a single reference frame. To achieve this goal, the key steps required are (a) joint registration and reconciliation of the laser altimeter data from multiple missions, in order to provide the best current reference frame for other products; (b) registration of image datasets (including spectral images and radar, as well as monoscopic and stereo optical images) to one another and the topographic surface from altimetry by bundle adjustment; (c) derivation of higher density topographic models than the altimetry provides, based on the stereo images registered to the altimetric data; and (d) orthorectification and mosaicking of the various datasets based on the dense and consistent topographic model resulting from the previous steps. In the final step, the dense and consistent topographic data will be especially useful for correcting spectrophotometric observations to facilitate mapping of geologic and mineralogic features.

We emphasize that, as desirable as short term progress may seem, making mosaics before controlling observations, and controlling observations before a single coordinate reference frame is agreed upon by all participants, are counterproductive and will result in a collection of map products that do not align with one another and thus will not be fully usable for correlative scientific studies.

Only a few lunar orbital missions performing remote sensing are projected for the decade 2011–2020. These include the possible further extension of the LRO mission; NASA’s GRAIL mission, which is making precise measurements of the lunar gravity field that will likely improve the cartographic accuracy of data from other missions, and the Chandrayaan-2/Luna Resurs mission planned by India and Russia, which includes an orbital remote sensing component. A larger number of surface missions are being discussed for the current decade, including the lander/rover component of Chandrayaan-2/Luna Resurs, Chang'e-3 (China), SELENE-2 (Japan), and privately funded missions inspired by the Google Lunar X-Prize. The US Lunar Precursor Robotic Program was discontinued in 2010, leaving NASA with no immediate plans for robotic or human exploration of the lunar surface, though the MoonRise sample return mission might be reproposed in the future. If the cadence of missions cannot be continued, the desired sequel to the decade of lunar mapping missions 2001–2010 should be a decade of detailed and increasingly multinational analysis of lunar data from 2011 onward.