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Orbiting Atlas #6: Oceanus Procellarum—The Ocean of Storms January 25, 2010

Posted by Nick Azer in Apollo, 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 significance :)

For this edition of the Orbiting Atlas, we set sail off to…

Oceanus Procellarum (The Ocean of Storms)

The destination of Apollo 12 (as pictured above), the massive Oceanus Procellarum is perhaps the largest single region on the Moon (and by far the largest non-highland region)—hence the “Ocean” label.  About 1,300+ miles from north to south and ranging from 450-600 miles wide, it’s approximately the size of Mongolia.

Being essentially a giant Mare, the mostly-flat Oceanus serves as the lunar great plains. While generally featureless, there are a few points of special interest along the eastern edge—namely, the unusually-bright crater Aristarchus, and the longest groove on the Moon, Vallis Schröteri (the intended destination of Apollo 18 before cancellation).

Aristarchus is potentially an interesting target for geologic study and/or resources, as its brightness is due to its youth and relative lack of weathering from the solar wind.

In the long run, the vast size and flatness of the Ocean of Storms could lend to both convenient helium-3 harvesting (lots of elbow-room, few obstacles, and plenty to go around?) and long-range transportation and exploration tests, perhaps providing a comparable environment to large sections of Mars.

The Apollo 12 mission provides an interesting anecdote about the weather: while taking off from Earth en route to the ‘Ocean of Storms’, their rocket was, of course, hit by lightning. :)

Check out an HD video of the Oceanus’ northwestern side taken by the Japanese orbiter Kaguya:

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