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For the First Time, We Have a Comprehensive Map of the Moon

The lunar surface is now completely mapped for the first time, in a collaboration between NASA, the USGS, and JAXA.

For the first time, the entire surface of the Moon was completely mapped and uniformly classified, according to the United States Geological Survey. There's even a free video of the slowly-spinning Moon.

RELATED: HOW MANY TIMES HAVE WE BEEN TO THE MOON

Entire surface of the moon mapped

The lunar map, named the "Unified Geologic Map of the Moon," will be the new definitive blueprint of lunar geology for all human missions in the future, reports phys.org. It will also be invaluable to the wider scientific community, educators, and, of course, the general public. The digital map is free and available to all online, showing the moon's geology in unprecedented detail (on a 1:5,000,000 scale).

"People have always been fascinated by the moon and when we might return," said current USGS Director and former NASA astronaut Jim Reilly. "So, it's wonderful to see USGS create a resource that can help NASA with their planning for future mission."

Interpolating Apollo-era lunar data from NASA

To make the digital map a reality, scientists used information gathered from six Apollo-days regional maps, interpolated with more recent satellite missions to lunar space. The existing historical maps were redrawn to line them up with more modern datasets. This preserved previous observations and geological interpretations. In addition to merging new and old data, USGS researchers also worked on a unified description of stratigraphy — also called rock layers — on the surface of the moon. This helped resolve issues from previous maps, when rock names, ages, and descriptions were periodically inconsistent, reports phys.org.

"This map is a culmination of a decades-long project," said USGS geologist and lead author Corey Fortezzo. "It provides vital information for new scientific studies by connecting the exploration of specific sites on the moon with the rest of the lunar surface."

The elevation data of the moon's equatorial region comes from stereo observations gathered from the Terrain Camera of the recent Selenological and Engineering Explorer (SELENE) mission — led by the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). The topography of the south and north poles was supplemented with data from NASA's Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter.

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