The Landing site of Orientale basin




Landing Sites on the Moon

The Orientale multi-ring basin is the largest and best preserved lunar impact structure


Orientale basin - 95°W, 20°S

The Orientale multi-ring basin is the largest lunar impact structure

Also, it is the most prominent and best preserved multi-ring basin on the Moon. Located on the western limb of the nearside, Orientale contains at least four ring structures encompassing a diameter of 930 km making it one of the largest lunar impact structures. With an estimated age of 3.82 Ga, it is the youngest basin with an estimated age of 3.82 Ga.
The ring structures are visible at radial distances from, example, Montes Cordillera at 465 km, the Outer Rook Mountains at 310 km and, the  basin center of Inner Rook Mountains at 240 km. It is also possible to see these structures with another less prominent ring, the Inner Shelf Ring, situated at 160 km.
As showing in the right diagram, outside the Montes Cordillera lays the Hevelius Formation. between the Rook Mountains is the Montes Rook Formation and within the Inner Rook Mountains lays the Maunder Formation. Gravity modeling suggests the center of the basin sits ~3 km below the lunar geoid, with the basin possessing a vertical height range of 5–6 km .
The Orientale's inner most zone, i.e. the Maunder Formation, is seen as its impact melt sheet, while the composition of the outermost zone, the Hevelius formation, is seen as a impact ejecta which is thought to be highly feldspathic. Between these two, the Montes Rook Formation has a weak mafic signature, suggesting a deeper crustal composition.
The most topographically prominent ring is the Montes Cordillera, which would suggest the final crater rim. However, pre-impact structures have been recognized relatively intact between the Cordillera and Outer Rook, implying the Cordillera Mountains are placed outside of the crater rim and are therefore an outer ring structure. The crust beneath the center of Orientale appears to be thinned relative to the crust outside of the basin. Gravity estimates suggest a crustal thickness between ~0 km and 15 km at the basin center, that is some scientists suggest the absent of the entire upper crust below the basin center.

A cross-section through the Orientale Basin. The Inner and Outer Rook rings, as well as the Cordillera Ring are clearly visible. The crust has been thinned under the basin center resulting in uplift of the Moho (the crust/mantle boundary). In this model the rings are composed of either megaregolith or upper crustal material. The upper crust has been completely removed around the basin center (after Head et al. 1993; modified from LPI classroom illustrations). Credit: JPL/NASA

Elevation profile of the Orientale basin (19.4˚S, 92.8˚W) showing the sampling areas for different kind of impact materials. Vertical exaggeration is 25. The different colors in the profile shows where different kinds of impact material can be found on the surface, immediately after the Orientale impact event (i.e. ejecta material, melt material, uplifted material). Subsequent impacts might have mixed the surface material, laterally and vertically.
Sampling areas at complex craters follow a similar pattern, except that the uplifted material can be found in the central peak and that the melt material can be found over the crater floor and on the rims of the crater. Elevation data were generated by the LOLA instrument on the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. Resolution is 64 pixels/deg, or approximately 500m/px at the equator.

Difference in the formation mechanism of a simple (a) and a complex (b) craters.
Using impact craters as natural drills to sample material from deeper layers
Large impact craters and impact basins have the capacity to excavate or uplift material from the lower crust and upper mantle. Figures at the right and below illustrate different stages of an impact event, for simple and complex craters, as well as for basins. Small craters are simple, bowl-shaped depressions. Complex craters (with diameters ~16–20 km on the Moon) display broad flat shallow floors, terraced walls, and central peaks. Larger craters or basins (generally >200km) can have multiple central rings, referred as peak rings, instead of a central peak. The transition between a central peak to peak rings and their precise origin is still unclear.

The structure of a central-peak complex crater
When an impact occurs, material from beneath the zone of melting is uplifted above the crater floor. Investigation of this material, for example in central peaks, can help determine the composition of originally deeper lithologies beneath the lunar surface. Some of this deep, excavated and uplifted material may represent melt sheet material from older, larger impacts that the smaller crater impacted into; testing of the vertical heterogeneity of the uplifted melt could take place.
Figure at the right shows the minimum depth of the origin for central peaks with respect to final crater diameter. These estimates are developed from the notion that the central peak must come from a depth below the zone of melting of the cratering event. Any material above this depth would have been incorporated into the melt. The subsequent craters used for differentiation analyses must lie within the limit of the transient crater because the melt sheet is proposed to be confined within this area.
Another way of using subsequent craters to access the underlying melt sheet is to examine their ejecta. Distal ejecta material would have originated from shallower depths, while material proximal to the crater is thought to have originated from deeper in the crust. it has been Croft found that the depth of excavation is ~1/10 of the transient crater diameter. With a reasonable estimate of the transient crater diameter, calculations could be made to ensure that the impact melt of interest was ejected.

Location, age, and size of craters within Orientale Basin. The inner white circle represents the transient crater ; the outer white circle represents the basin rim (930 km diameter). The ages of craters shown by closed white circles are undetermined.
Click on the picture to see bigger
The largest crater inside the estimated transient diameter of Orientale basin is Maunder. It is a complex crater with a diameter of 55 km suggesting that its central peak originated from a depth of ~7.3 km, therefore within the melt sheet of Orientale. The ejecta blanket of Maunder shows considerable variability compared to that of the surrounding areas and may be estimated for variations in compositions with distance.

Just in left, a Digital Terrain Model ("DTM") of the large Orientale Basin (1100 km diameter), located on the western hemisphere of the Moon, produced from stereo images obtained by LROC's Wide-Angle Camera. The image shows the hill-shaded, color-coded DTM with heights varying from approx. -4,700 meters to 9,400 meters. The small white boxes are areas without WAC coverage [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University/ DLR].
To determine the structure of the Orientale multi-ring basin, two possible site sampling is proposed. These sites are  on or near the Outer Rook Ring, that lies the Inner Rook and Montes Cordillera rings. The formation between the two Rook rings is known as the Montes Rook Formation.
Studies suggest that, the Outer Rook ring is an appropriate site to sample because it may represent the main rim or a peak ring of the Orientale Basin. The Montes Rook Formation is also a very interesting site because its spectral data suggests it possesses a weak mafic signature. This latter may showing a lower crustal material, inferring the removal of the upper crust during the basin-forming impact.
These sites were also chosen due to a break in the Outer Rook Ring at this location; if crew landed here they could visit the massif at either the northern or southern end of the valley, or both.
The locations of two possible sample sites, Sites A and B, within the Orientale Basin are showing at the right. The Site A is located in a break in the ring; from here either the northern or southern section of the ring could be sampled. The Site B is located in the Montes Rook formation near some isolated massif structures.
An overview of Orientale is presented in the top right for reference and highlights the area within which the sites reside. IR: Inner Rook Ring, OR: Outer Rook Ring, and MC: Montes Cordillera (LROC WAC mosaic of Orientale Basin. Arizona State University).

Site A

Site A. The two strips on the left are the full extent of LROC NAC images M105063975LE and M105063975RE. The blue circle represents a 10 km exploration radius; it is not placed at any particular location. Two specific localities at this site are highlighted, and scaled up in the images on the right. They highlight zones where samples can be taken from boulders and/or outcrops.
The Site A is located at ~350 km in the south east from Orientale's center, where there is a gap within the Outer Rook Ring at approximately (-22.3oN, -83.2oE) (Fig. 6.34).
A crew landing within this valley would be able to sample both, or either of, the northern or southern faces of this Outer Rook massif. At the northern face, large in situ boulders as well as possible outcrops for sampling are visible at the summit of the massif. The Kaguya altimetry data, reveals that the slope angle on the north is ~18o, well within the range of a lunar rover vehicle, allowing the sampling of these summit boulders. In addition to this, boulders which have fallen down the slopes can be sampled at the massif base. On the massif slopes, outcrops containing stratigraphy suitable for sampling may also be present. Crew members would be able to traverse along the base of the ring, collecting samples and looking for stratigraphic sequence sections. The sampling of peak ring material would allow testing of the peak ring formation hypotheses and the structure of the Orientale Basin. For example, if sampling of the ring material infers a deep (lower) crustal origin, this would provide evidence for the Outer Rook forming by the interaction/collision hypothesis, rather than the megaterrace which suggest a shallow (upper) crustal origin for the Outer Rook Ring.
A seismic survey could be carried out through the valley to infer the sub-surface structure. A survey across the massif itself may be possible as a lunar rover could easily traverse this. Seismic studies could also be used to test peak-ring formation mechanisms by studying wave velocity and rock density, thereby inferring the stratigraphy of the peak ring.
For example, higher density, originally deep-seated rock overlaying lower density shallow crustal rock, would again provide evidence for the interaction/collision hypothesis of peak-ring formation.

Site B

Site B. The two strips on the left are the full extent of LROC NAC images M102709239LE and M102709239RE. The blue circle represents a 10 km exploration radius; it is not placed at any particular location. Two specific localities at this site are highlighted and scaled up in the images on the right. They highlight zones where samples can be taken from the faces of massifs or from freshly exposed material.
The Site B, located at ~20 km of the northwest of the Site A, could also be a potential sampling site. This locality lies just inside the Outer Rook Ring within the Montes Rook Formation. At this particular locality, a group of what appear to be isolated massifs are present at approximately (-21.14oN, -84.17oE) (Fig. 6.35). These could potentially represent part of the extent of the transient crater or material which has slumped off the Outer Rook Ring. Spectrally, this is also an area of interest as it displays elevated Ti and Fe content relative to the rest of the basin (Fig. 6.36), possibly representing lower crustal material and help to infer the possible depth of excavation. From a locality in this region, the inner slope of the Outer Rook Ring to the east could be potentially sampled in a similar fashion to that outlined at Site A. However, this would limit the data collection opportunities within the isolated massifs at Site B due to the 10 km exploration radius. If however, the exploration radius was 40 km localities at both sites could be sampled (Fig. 6.36) allowing a more thorough examination of the Outer Rook Ring.
These two example sites show the limited amount of data and multi-ring basin features that can be collected from a single mission constrained by a 10 km exploration radius. With this travel constraint it would be impossible to visit both these example sites in a single mission; both sites could be visited if the exploration radius was increased to 40 km. This highlights the importance of selecting potential sample sites within a multi-ring basin, especially if other goals and objectives also need to be achieved. Therefore significant pre-mission planning must be undertaken to highlight potential sampling sites. Factors such as geochemical content, slope angle, basin attributes, and lunar location (e.g. sunlight, direct communication with Earth) must be carefully considered when planning a sample return mission to a multi-ring basin.

(a) UVVIS, (b) rgb false color, (c) FeO, and (d) TiO Clementine images highlighting the example sites (shown by the turquoise rectangles of the LROC images). The dashed blue circles represent a 10 km exploration radius, while the white circles represent a 40 km exploration radius. Given the larger exploration radius, both sites could be visited in a single mission. Site A (lower turquoise rectangle) would allow sampling of the Outer Rook Ring; Site B would allow sampling of isolated massifs and areas of elevated Fe and Ti (lighter colors) within the Montes Rook Formation.
Various hypotheses regarding the formation of multi-ring basins can be tested at a variety of locations within a basin. However, only one particular feature, for example a peak ring, could be studied in a single mission given a 10 km radius of exploration. Two rings could be studied and sampled at Orientale (the Inner and Outer Rook Rings) in one mission given a far larger exploration radius of 35 km.
The full extent of a multi-ring basin structure could not be examined in a single mission, given current architectural limits. Nevertheless, at a well-chosen site locality, vital field data could be collected, allowing the testing and re-evaluation of multi-ring basin formation hypotheses and scaling laws.

Under the cover, the Orientale Impact Basin for Science

The shaded relief in this image is not a photograph. It's a very accurate computer rendering based on a digital model of the terrain. The model is derived from a digital elevation map called SLDEM2015. This map combines data from the laser altimeter (LOLA) on NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) with stereo imagery from the Terrain Camera on the Japan Space Agency's SELENE spacecraft.
The angle of the virtual Sun was chosen to throw Orientale's terrain into high relief — it's just after sunrise at Orientale, about a day past full Moon. The camera is on the western terminator (day/night line) looking north.
The colorful part is the gravity anomaly based on measurements by GRAIL. Red indicates areas of higher gravity, or excess mass, and blue indicates lower gravity or areas of mass deficits. The GRAIL data reveals the structure of the basin beneath the surface. The red in the center of the basin, for example, shows that the crust is particularly thin there, and that denser mantle material is closer to the surface.
Below, an oblique view of the interior of the Orientale basin. NAC images M1124173129L & R, image centered at 24.23°S, 264.30°E, scene width is approximately 16 km and the cliff at center is 1.7 km high Credit:[NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].

The striking linear features seen in the top image are portions of a series of cracks that are near-radial to the basin and are unlike typical lunar graben. This portion of the interior is thought to have a high proportion of material that was melted by the extreme shock pressures of the impact event that crated the Orientale basin, and the cracks may have formed as the hot material, draped over underlying topography, cooled and shrank. It is hard to picture the effects of an impact so large it would have obliterated the state of Texas, but here you can almost see the molten and shifting terrain settling and cracking. 

Irregular Mare Patches/Ina Caldera - 5.3°E, 18.66°N

Ina Caldera is a volcanic landform composed of smooth  mounds surrounded by uneven terrain lower in elevation. Ina is proposed to be very young at less than 100 million years, and very old, at more than 3,5 billion years.Dating materials would resolve this issue and potentially constrain the younger end of the Crater Size-Frequency Distribution (CSFD).

Compton-Belkovich Volcanic Deposit (CBVD)- 99.5°E, 61.1°N

The CBV Complex is a small isolated topography and morphologic feature of  about 25 X 35 km. Located on the second ring of the Humboldtianum basin and at about 20 km east of the topographic rim of the Belkovich crater.

P60 Basaltic Unit - 53.8°W, 22.5°N

The P60 is located just in the South of the Aristarchus Plateau and is considered as the youngest mare basalt on the Moon at about 1 Ga. 

Magnetic Anomalies and Swirls - 59°W, 7.5°N - Reiner Gamma

The Reiner Gamma Formation is centered in the Oceanus Procellarum on the near the visible side of the Moon, with an extension of about 30 by 60 km.


On November 5, 2011 the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) acquired a high resolution image of the Apollo 11 landing site.

On August 19, 2011 the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) acquired a high resolution image of the Apollo 12 landing site. 

On August 18, 2011 the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) acquired a high resolution image of the Apollo 14 landing site.



On November 6, 2011 the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) acquired a high resolution image of the Apollo 16 landing site.

On August 14, 2011 the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) acquired a high resolution image of the Apollo 17 landing site. 

More information can be found at