According to NASA, every day they receive “thousands” of applications from institutions, universities, creators, designers, film studios and even video game developers, who ask for documents with the geographical and topographic details of the Moon. Tired of this, especially since it is a titanic task to solve each request, NASA decided to make a free public 3D map of the Moon, which is available to everyone.
The document is called ‘CGI Moon Kit‘, and is mainly composed of the data that has been collected by the Lunar Recognition Orbiter (LRO) of NASA, which has been orbiting the Moon capturing topographic data from the satellite for just over 10 years.
Wonderful details of the Moon available to everyone
Ernie Wright, an image specialist scientist at NASA, was responsible for this project after interpreting all the images, combining the raw data from the LRO and the images to build an accurate 3D map of the Moon.
“The ‘CGI Moon Kit’ will make the LRO data available to many other artists who want to do the kind of things I do.”
Wright explains that to create the map he had to use a 3D animation program and all the images collected by the LRO today. The original idea was that it be a resource for scientific visualization and study for NASA, but after receiving several requests, he decided to make it available to the public, allowing anyone to have access to the LRO mission.
The LRO is equipped with a camera that serves as a scanner, which builds an image line by line of the lunar surface. It also has a laser altimeter (known as “lunar orbiter laser altimeter” or LOLA), which uses laser pulses to detect the dimensions of the Moon. These pulses are directed to the surface of the Moon and bounce back towards the LRO, with which LOLA measures the nanoseconds it takes for lightning to return as a method to read the topography of the Moon.
The ‘CGI Moon Kit’ can be downloaded for free and contains several types of data and images, such as a ‘displacement map’, which visualizes the topography through color, as well as an ‘elevation map’, which are designed for use in 3D rendering software. Anyone can use this data to recreate a precise surface of the Moon, with its craters, plateaus and real peaks.