Washington: Researchers have created the most detailed and comprehensive map of the moon`s complex landscape thanks to data provided by NASA`s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO).
"This dataset is being used to make digital elevation and terrain maps that will be a fundamental reference for future scientific and human exploration missions to the moon," said Gregory Neumann of NASA`s Goddard Space Flight Centre.
"After about a year taking data, we already have nearly three billion data points from the Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter (LOLA) on board the LRO spacecraft."
The new LOLA maps are more accurate and sample more places on the lunar surface than any available before, according to a NASA statement.
In terms of coverage, the nearly three billion range measurements so far by the LRO compare to about eight million to nine million each from three recent international lunar missions, says Neumann.
"They were limited to a mile or so between individual data points, whereas our measurements are spaced about 57 metres apart in five adjacent tracks separated by about 15 metres."
"Recent papers have clarified some aspects of lunar processes based solely on the more precise topography provided by the new LOLA maps," adds Neumann, "such as lunar crater density and resurfacing by impacts, or the formation of multi-ring basins".
The map was presented at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco.