The maps, imagery, and stories of the Apollo missions that you can see in both of these ways were developed through a collaboration between Google and the Planetary Content Team at the NASA Ames Research Center.
The Moon mode in Google Earth was released on the 40th anniversary of the first lunar landing on July 20, 2009. Much like the Mars mode, this allows a user to transform the blue and green ball of Google Earth into the Moon, and explore our nearest celestial neighbor as a world in its own right. Each of the 6 Apollo landing sites is detailed with maps and placemarks showing where the astronauts explored. There are photos and videos to help you understand each of the Lunar surface missions, and Streetview-like panoramas taken by the astronauts. There are also global map overlays and detailed geologic and historical terrain charts.
You can explore the Moon from your web browser! Just visit moon.google.com to get started. You can explore the Apollo landing sites, and follow the paths the astronauts took during their walks and drives on the Moon. You can also explore geologic and topographic charts.
Make your own Moon and Mars maps using the Google Maps API
Now you can make your own custom maps of the Moon and Mars
using the Google Maps API, just
like you can for the Earth! You can add your own content, and
embed them in your own web page like this:
Here are links to three more examples of the Moon API in action. The first one includes all the example code you need to get started making your own Moon and Mars maps!
Now you can do even more using the NASA Extensions to the Google Maps API, which give you access to new map types including maps in polar projections!
For those interested in a gentle introduction to the geology of the Apollo landing sites or a detailed synopsis of the missions, we can recommend the following books:
Harland, David M. “Exploring the Moon: The Apollo Expeditions.” Springer, 1999.
Spudis, Paul D. “The Once and Future Moon.” Smithsonian, 1998.
Masursky, Harold and Colton, G. W. and El-Baz, Farouk. “Apollo Over the Moon: A View From Orbit.” Scientific and Technical Information Office 1978. Available on-line.
The Visible map layer is a a mosaic of images taken by the
mission. This is a black-and-white version of what you would see
if you were in orbit around the moon. This composite imagery was
prepared by the the USGS, and consists primarily of data from the 750nm band, just on the edge of a human’s ability to perceive the color red.
Some holes in the 750nm dataset were filled by the USGS with data from other bands, and the remaining holes were interpolated by NASA to produce a more visually pleasing mosaic. The data was warped by the USGS to align to the new Unified Lunar Control Network 2005 (ULCN 2005), the most up to date database of the locations of objects on the moon.
The Elevation map layer was produced by combining a color elevation map derived from the ULCN 2005 data with an Airbrushed Shaded Relief Map which was warped by the USGS to align to the ULCN. The shaded relief map is not photographic image data, but rather was produced by professional map artists by hand from a large amount of source imagery. You may recognize this as the map from the first version of Google Moon, where it appeared in its original black and white.
The maps used in the Apollo layer were drawn from a variety of Lunar Orbiter and Apollo images. The following frames were used:
The Apollo placemark content draws from a range of sources, which are linked to throughout the text. Of these, the most notable by far is the Apollo Lunar Surface Journal (ALSJ). The panoramas were produced at NASA Ames from images available through the ALSJ. Many of the other images and videos were provided by the ALSJ as well, and others come from LPI or elsewhere within NASA, as noted in the placemark text.
The lunar Charts layer displays two sets of charts, the USGS Geologic Atlas of the Moon
and the USAF/NASA Lunar Chart (LAC) series. Both were produced in the 1960s based
on data from the Lunar Orbiter satellites and other information to support NASA’s burgeoning space program and the growing lunar science community at the time.
Though the charts are old, and do not line up perfectly with more modern maps, they still have tremendous scientific value: the Moon has not changed much in the intervening 40 years.
The original versions of the maps were primarily in the Lambert Conformal Conic map projection, so the map data was reprojected at NASA to align with Google Moon’s Mercator projection. The original map collars were then placed back around the newly-reprojected imagery. As a result, the information in the collars regarding the map’s projection and scale should be used for historical purposes only and no longer applies to the charts that you see in Google Moon.
First, we’d like to thank our colleagues and collaborators on this project.
Thanks to all our colleagues at the Astrogeology Branch
of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), especially those who were
responsible for creating the Clementine Global Mosaic, the Unified Lunar Control Network 2005, and
the Lunar Airbrush Map, which form the basis of the Visible and Elevation layers.
Particular thanks to Brent Archinal and Trent Hare for their help in selecting and processing suitable map imagery throughout.
Thanks to the Lunar and Planetary Institute, managed by USRA, for providing the USGS Geologic Atlas of the Moon, the Lunar Chart (LAC) Series, and some Apollo imagery. Thanks to the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University (ASU) for likewise allowing us to reproduce some Lunar Orbiter imagery for the Apollo map layer.
Thanks to Eric Jones, Ken Glover, and the myriad of others who contribute to and maintain the Apollo Lunar Surface Journal. We link to this truly unique and extensive resource throughout the Apollo layer, and much of the placemark content is based on this source material.
Thanks to our collaborators at Google, including Noel Gorelick, Michael Weiss-Malik, and many others, who agreed to undertake this collaboration and who often bent over backwards to make it work.
At NASA Ames, thanks to our resident planetary scientists, Jen Heldmann and Ross Beyer, for their advice, editing, and connections to the rest of the lunar science community. Thanks also to our extremely supportive management team, including Chris Kemp, David Korsmeyer, Terry Fong, and Krishna Kumar, for giving us this opportunity. Above all, tremendous thanks to our summer interns: Roman Kofman, Patrick Auld, and especially Noelle Steber, who spent an entire summer emersing herself in the Moon and authoring the content for the Apollo layer.