Moon Mapping Explained

Lunar and Planetary Laboratory Director and Planetary Sciences Department Head Tim Swindle explains why the Rectified Lunar Atlas was so important in planning for the Apollo Program.

Before NASA sent Americans to the moon, University of Arizona researchers imaged and mapped the lunar surface, which allowed them to understand the moon’s geology and NASA to choose landing sites for future robotic and Apollo missions. Led by Gerard Kuiper, the father of modern-day planetary sciences, the team published two atlases. The Rectified Lunar Atlas (1963) gave people a first look at what features on the moon’s edges looked like without distortion, as explained in the video. The Consolidated Lunar Atlas (1967) was comprised of the highest resolution images taken from the ground, mostly from the Santa Catalina Mountains in Southern Arizona. These atlases not only paved the way to the moon, but also birthed the field of planetary science.