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Photometric Investigations of Lunar Landing Sites and Silicic Regions using LRO Narrow Angle Camera Images

Tuesday, May 19, 2015
Ryan Clegg

The United States currently has no lunar exploration program in place, and with the exception of China, no country has landed a spacecraft on the Moon in the last 43 years. Because returned lunar samples do not represent the full range of compositions on the Moon, and there are no active U.S. spacecraft on the lunar surface, we must rely on remote sensing to further our understanding of the formation and evolution of the Moon beyond the body of knowledge gained from Apollo and Luna era samples and exploration, and the more recently discovered lunar meteorite sample suite. Photometry, a remote sensing technique that studies the light scattering properties of a planetary surface, is a powerful method for determining differences in composition and regolith structure. Photometric data from orbital images coupled with soil sample data can greatly enhance our understanding of the regolith properties of the Moon. While the U.S. currently has no plans to send any new robotic or manned missions to the Moon, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) is delivering a comprehensive data set with which to broaden our understanding of the lunar surface. I will discuss using photometric studies of LRO Narrow Angle Camera (NAC) images to better understand the lunar surface, specifically how rocket exhaust from lunar landers interacted with lunar regolith during the early rounds of landed exploration (Surveyor, Apollo, and Luna), how the landing of the recent Chinese Chang'e-3 spacecraft interacted with the surface at its landing site, and how the compositional diversity of non-mare volcanic regions compares to ground-truth landing sites and other key photometric sites on the Moon. I will also discuss using spectral analysis of glassy analog as ground-truth comparison with reflectance measurements obtained from the NACs. This work has implications for improving landing safety, sampling techniques, and identifying locations of high scientific value for future landed missions.

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