(Image: Detailed map of the moon, Credit: JAXA)
While NASA and other space agencies are busy planning on how to land people on the moon, Japan is busy mapping the lunar in extreme detail using its SELENE satellite (which is currently orbiting the Moon).
(Universe Today) The Japanese SELENE lunar orbiter has returned some of the most detailed maps of the Moon to date. The new collection of high-definition maps includes topological data and mineral location. Critically, the locations of uranium, thorium and potassium have been mapped, essential for mission planners when considering the future of manned settlements on the Moon. Seeing the lunar relief mapped to such fine detail makes for an impressive sight. So far six million data points have been collected and there's more to come. [...]
According to the JAXA press release, these new maps are ten-times more accurate than previous maps. Using the laser altimeter (LALT) instrument, 3D data of the shapes and altitudes of surface features are promising to give the most advanced relief mapping capabilities ever performed on a planetary body other than the Earth.
Hopefully more uranium will be discovered, as it would allow colonists to construct settlements virtually anywhere upon the moon's surface without the need for heavy dependence upon regenerative fuel cells or solar power.
Energy aside, these maps would also help future colonists determine which would be the best locations for settlement, not to mention whether or not building a railroad would be practical upon that dusty world.
While Japan has yet to launch any humans into space, they may be able to barter with NASA for a future trip, especially if they locate any more valuable resources (such as helium-3).
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