I really enjoyed my trip to the moon’s north pole today. No ship, no suiting up, no Tang. All I had to do was drop by NASA’s new interactive Northern Polar Mosaic and click and scroll. The journey was breathtaking, no exaggeration. You need remember just one thing before you begin your own lunar odyssey – click the full screen icon below the zoom slider, and you’ll feel like you’re peering from the window of a virtual spaceship.
The 681 gigapixel mosaic was created by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) team using 10,581 images with a resolution of 2 meters per pixel and is believed to be the largest, publicly available image mosaic in existence. Four years went into its making.
Users can click and drag to zoom in and out and choose to display labels or not. Ten ‘auto zooms’ to craters of interest are available at the bottom of the map. One of them is the impact site of the lunar gravity probe GRAIL-B, which was deliberately crashed into the moon at the end of its mission in December 2012. One striking difference between this and other panning maps I’ve used is how smooth the zooming is. Moving in and out from place to place feels both real and effortless.
One of my favorite sites is 57-mile-wide Karpinskiy Crater that features a huge crack in its floor. Zooming to the max, boulders as small as an upright piano are visible along the slopes of the fracture. Amazing!
But there’s lots more. Fire up the rocket and have a look yourself!