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Atlas’ Back: Mare Tranquillitatis April 19, 2008

Posted by Nick Azer in Apollo, Atlas' Back, Google Moon, Helium-3, Mare Tranquillitatis.

For the first edition of Atlas’ Back, a semi-regular series of features touring selenographic features of the moon, we have ourselves a look at Mare Tranquillitatis: The Sea of Tranquility.

The name being the latin form of “Sea of Tranquility”, Mare Tranquillitatis is the most famous of the Maria, the basaltic plains originally mistaken for actual seas by early astronomers (hence the name, which is latin for “seas”). The above map has the landing sites for Ranger 5, Apollo 11 (the first manned landing), Apollo 16, and Apollo 17 (the last manned landing up to this point) marked, illustrating the massive historical signifigance of this sea in the sky.

With the amount of attention and activity directed towards Mare Tranquillitatis, there’s plenty of images to go around. A few visual highlights to give you a feel for the mare:

Buzz Aldrin on Mare Tranquillitatis.

A view of the mare from the window of the Apollo 11 lander, right after landing.

An Earthrise photo, taken from Apollo 11 prior to landing (different from the famous “Earthrise” photo, featured recently and significantly in the film “An Inconvenient Truth” and widely regarded as having helped found the environmentalism movement; that was taken from orbit during the earlier Apollo 8 mission).

From a distance; Mare Tranquillitatis is the expansive dark patch in the upper left there, with the Apollo 11 landing site being in the lower left corner, as can be seen clearly via the handy Google Moon (a Google Earth counterpart currently geared around the Apollo landings).

The mare is about 300,000 sq km (roughly the same size as the Phillipines), and as that bit of size research turned up, is apparently also a very good site for Helium-3, with (as that abstract notes) about 50% of the mare being minable. Though, my initial reaction here would be to think of Mare Tranquillitatis as a site for the moon’s first protected historical park, and not, say, strip mining.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this brief tour of Mare Tranquillitatis; there’s many more tours of this sort to come, both from me here, and from many others elsewhere, as this last photo below (of the mare) illustrates pretty well. Stay tuned for the next edition of Atlas’ Back


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