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Orbiting Atlas #4: Mare Tranquillitatis (The Sea of Tranquility) January 4, 2010

Posted by Nick Azer in Apollo, Google Lunar X Prize, Helium-3, hoax theories, Kaguya, Orbiting Atlas.
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Orbiting Atlas is a weekly series here  at Luna C/I looking at notable points inselenography—the geography of the Moon. Come by every Monday for an exploration of a different locale, and its potential regional signifigance :)

Today, we take a look at the finer details of the most historic location on the Moon:

Mare Tranquillitatis— The Sea of Tranquility

Located in the central-southeast of the near side of the Moon (see above), the flat Mare is, of course, the landing site of Apollo 11 (in the southwest corner; see below); but beyond that, the Mare has developed even more significance.

The tiny Apollo 11 landing site is only a small mark on the ~170,000-square-mile expanse, which is about the size of Iraq or the U.S. state of California. This helps cut off a potential conundrum: as it turns out, Mare Tranquillitatis could be one of the richest areas in all-important helium-3 on the Moon. But, considering that size, there should be plenty of room for both regolith harvesting efforts and any historical conservation. (And, by the way: the site has recently been photographed in high definition, so unless the images and orbiter that took them are also a hoax, Apollo was not a hoax :) ).

A leading Google Lunar X PRIZE team, Astrobotic, plans to explore the landing site in May 2011 with their rover.

The Mare, selenographically, has some interesting features—notably, Rupes/Dorsa (cliffs/ridges) and Rimae (fissures), but otherwise is a giant, flat plain…covered with valuable resources. Get those grazing herds of helium-3 harvesters ready! :)

Below is an HDTV video by Japan’s Kaguya orbiter, showing the Mare and the area of the Apollo 11 landing site:

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