The European Space Agency’s SMART-1 spacecraft continues to capture images of the Moon in a mission to test new technologies and return new data about our nearest celestial neighbor. In one of the latest images, Hadley Rille, an enormous lava channel over 3.3 billion years old, stretches toward Mount Hadley in the upper right. Geologists believe the formation was created when lava still flowed on the surface of the Moon early in its formation. Because the Moon is so small, it lost much of its internal heat early. Heavy bombardment by meteors and/or comets also likely ended early in its history. Without an atmosphere or lengthy internal heating like the Earth, the Moon’s surface is static and ancient.
Apollo 15 astronauts landed near Hadley Rille in 1971. The United States hopes to return humans to the Moon by 2020. They will make use of data returned by SMART-1 and future lunar orbiters, landers, and rovers to work out requirements for manned missions and eventual outposts and colonies.
- ESA Press Release – “SMART-1 views Hadley Rille near Apollo 15 landing site“
- SMART-1 Mission Site
- Advanced Moon micro-Imager Experiment (AMIE)