First geological map of the MOON revealed to help Nasa plan lunar missions

THE first-ever geological map of the Moon has been created – revealing the lunar surface in never-before-seen detail.

Nasa will be able to use the colourful new map to plan future missions to the Moon.

It was created using Apollo-era maps and the latest data from satellites.

Details of the Moon's alien geology are revealed in scientific detail.

Better yet, the maps are available to view online for free, so schools and enthusiasts can enjoy them too.

"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 missions."

It's the first time that the entire Moon has been mapped and classified.

Nasa is currently ramping up its lunar plans, including a manned return to the Moon by 2024.

Having a detailed understanding of the lunar surface will be key to these future missions.

The Moon – our closest neighbour explained

Here's what you need to know…

  • The Moon is a natural satellite – a space-faring body that orbits a planet
  • It's Earth's only natural satellite, and is the fifth biggest in the Solar System
  • The Moon measures 2,158 miles across, roughly 0.27 times the diameter of Earth
  • Temperatures on the Moon range from minus 173 degrees Celcius to 260 degrees Celcius
  • Experts assumed the Moon was another planet, until Nicolaus Copernicus outlined his theory about our Solar System in 1543
  • It was eventually assigned to a "class" after Galileo discovered four moons orbiting Jupiter in 1610
  • The Moon is believed to have formed around 4.51billion years ago
  • The strength of its gravitational field is about a sixth of Earth's gravity
  • Earth and the Moon have "synchronous rotation", which means we always see the same side of the Moon – hence the phrase "dark side of the Moon"
  • The Moon's surface is actually dark, but appears bright in the sky due to its reflective ground
  • During a solar eclipse, the Moon covers the Sun almost completely. Both objects appear a similar size in the sky because the Sun is both 400 times larger and farther
  • The first spacecraft to reach the Moon was in 1959, as part of the Soviet Union's Lunar program
  • The first manned orbital mission was Nasa's Apollo 8 in 1968
  • And the first manned lunar landing was in 1969, as part of the Apollo 11 mission

It also helps Nasa understand which areas of the Moon might be most fruitful to explore.

"This map is a culmination of a decades-long project," said Corey Fortezzo, USGS geologist and lead author. "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."

Nasa plans to return to the Moon in 2024 with the Artemis mission.

This will include the first woman to visit the Moon, but it will also lay the foundation for future missions to Mars.

Part of Nasa's plan for the Moon is to set up a "lunar gateway" that will serve as a stop-off point on the way to Mars.

It's hoped that a sustained human presence on the Moon will be achievable by 2028.

In other news, Nasa recently revealed its plans for the colonisation of the Moon.

Nasa astronauts could build Moon base using their own PEE and lunar dirt to make ‘space concrete’.

And the Hubble Space Telescope has revealed new data about what may be the most powerful cosmic storm in the universe.

Do you think you'll ever get to visit the Moon? Let us know in the comments!

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