Lunar terrain mapping and relative-roughness analysis

Professional Paper 599-G

, , and



Terrain maps of the equatorial zone (long 70° E.-70° W. and lat 10° N-10° S.) were prepared at scales of 1:2,000,000 and 1:1,000,000 to classify lunar terrain with respect to roughness and to provide a basis for selecting sites for Surveyor and Apollo landings as well as for Ranger and Lunar Orbiter photographs. The techniques that were developed as a result of this effort can be applied to future planetary exploration.

By using the best available earth-based observational data and photographs 1:1,000,000-scale and U.S. Geological Survey lunar geologic maps and U.S. Air Force Aeronautical Chart and Information Center LAC charts, lunar terrain was described by qualitative and quantitative methods and divided into four fundamental classes: maria, terrae, craters, and linear features. Some 35 subdivisions were defined and mapped throughout the equatorial zone, and, in addition, most of the map units were illustrated by photographs.

The terrain types were analyzed quantitatively to characterize and order their relative-roughness characteristics. Approximately 150,000 east-west slope measurements made by a photometric technique (photoclinometry) in 51 sample areas indicate that algebraic slope-frequency distributions are Gaussian, and so arithmetic means and standard deviations accurately describe the distribution functions. The algebraic slope-component frequency distributions are particularly useful for rapidly determining relative roughness of terrain.

The statistical parameters that best describe relative roughness are the absolute arithmetic mean, the algebraic standard deviation, and the percentage of slope reversal. Statistically derived relative-relief parameters are desirable supplementary measures of relative roughness in the terrae. Extrapolation of relative roughness for the maria was demonstrated using Ranger VII slope-component data and regional maria slope data, as well as the data reported here. It appears that, for some morphologically homogeneous mare areas, relative roughness can be extrapolated to the large scales from measurements at small scales.

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Lunar terrain mapping and relative-roughness analysis
Series title:
Professional Paper
Series number:
Year Published:
U.S. Government Printing Office
Publisher location:
Washington, D.C.
iv, 32 p.