Explore 50 years of lunar visits with our newest moon map

In 1969, National Geographic released an acclaimed map of the moon. Now, see the latest version featuring decades' worth of fresh data.

This story appears in the July 2019 issue of National Geographic magazine.

National Geographic has always been at the forefront of lunar mapping. As the Apollo program closed in on its goal, cartographers relied on photos from 1966 and 1967 orbiter missions to create the February 1969 hand-­painted map—considered the best reference at the time. Our newest version uses a mosaic of some 15,000 images and detailed height measurements from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, which has surveyed the entire surface. The moon is peppered with probes and landers, the legacy of human efforts to explore it.

Read more about past—and future—travels to the moon in our July cover story “50 years after Apollo 11, a new moon race is on.

The prize of the space race—landing humans on the moon and returning them home safely—fueled the rivalry between the U.S. and Soviet Union in the 1960s. Now robotic missions are determining whether the moon could be a stepping-stone for human ventures deeper into the solar system.

1960

1965

Apollo 8

Apollo 10, 11, 12

1970

Apollo 13

Apollo 14, 15

Apollo 16, 17

1975

Mission type

1980

1985

1990

Country or agency

United States (U.S.)

Soviet Union (U.S.S.R.)/Russia

China

Japan

European Space Agency (ESA)

India

Israel

South Korea

1995

2000

2005

2010

2015

Planned missions

2020

Near side

United States Exploration

North Pole

60°

60°

30°

30°

30°

30°

60°

60°

800 mi

800 km

South Pole

Surveyor 7

1/10/1968

Ranger 6

2/2/1964

Ranger 7

7/31/1964

Apollo 11

Tranquility Base

7/20/1969

Ranger 8

2/20/1965

Apollo 12

11/19/1969

Ranger 9

3/24/1965

Apollo 14

2/5/1971

Surveyor 1

6/2/1966

Apollo 15

7/30/1971

Surveyor 2

9/23/1966

Apollo 16

4/21/1972

Apollo 17

12/11/1972

Surveyor 3

4/20/1967

Lunar Prospector

7/31/1999

Surveyor 4

7/17/1967

LCROSS, Centaur

Impactor

10/9/2009

Surveyor 5

9/11/1967

GRAIL A (Ebb)

GRAIL B (Flow)

12/17/2012

Surveyor 6

11/10/1967

Soviet Union (U.S.S.R.)/Russia Exploration

North Pole

60°

60°

30°

30°

30°

30°

60°

60°

800 mi

South Pole

800 km

Luna 2

9/14/1959

Luna 16

9/20/1970

Luna 5

5/12/1965

Luna 17

11/17/1970

Luna 7

10/7/1965

Luna 18

9/11/1971

Luna 8

12/6/1965

Luna 20

2/21/1972

Luna 21

1/15/1973

Luna 9

2/3/1966

Luna 13

12/24/1966

Luna 23

11/6/1974

Luna 24

8/18/1976

Luna 15

7/21/1969

Other Exploration

North Pole

60°

60°

30°

30°

30°

30°

60°

60°

800 mi

South Pole

800 km

China

Japan

Hiten

4/10/1993

Chang’e 3

12/14/2013

European Space

Agency (ESA)

SELENE/Kaguya

6/10/2009

SMART-1

9/3/2006

India

Chandrayaan-1

Moon Impact

Probe

11/14/2008

Israel

Beresheet

4/11/2019

Far side

North Pole

60°

60°

30°

30°

30°

30°

60°

60°

800 mi

South Pole

800 km

United States

Ranger 4

4/26/1962

Lunar Orbiter 3

10/9/1967

Lunar Orbiter 1

10/29/1966

Lunar Orbiter 5

1/31/1968

LADEE

4/18/2014

Lunar Orbiter 2

10/11/1967

Japan

China

Chang’e 4

1/3/2019

SELENE/Okina

2/12/2009

Familiar Face

With the moon gravitationally locked, the near side always faces the Earth. Its circular plains—called maria, from Latin for seas—formed when lava filled impact basins.

Lunar topography (in feet)

30,000

 *As the moon has no sea level, zero is set where a sphere with a 1,079-mile radius would intersect the surface.

15,000

0*

-15,000

-30,000

Highest point

35,387 ft

10,786 m

Highest point

35,387 ft

10,786 m

Lowest point

-30,112 ft

-9,178 m

Lowest point

-30,112 ft

-9,178 m

Rugged Reverse

The far side is more varied and pocked with craters than the flatter near side. The moon’s features are named for astronauts, scientists, and scholars.

10

11

14

16

12

13

15

17

Apollo missions

8

Mission type

Landing or

impactor

Flyby, orbiter,

or test vehicle

Mission failure

Planned missions

The prize of the space race—landing humans on the moon and returning them home safely—fueled the rivalry between the U.S. and Soviet Union in the 1960s. Now robotic missions are determining whether the moon could be a stepping-stone for human ventures deeper into the solar system.

Country or agency

Lunar missions

Near side

North Pole

Pascal

60°

60°

30°

30°

Cassini

MARE

TRANQUILLITATIS

MARE

VAPORUM

Ptolemaeus

Arzachel

Purbach

30°

30°

Cuvier

400 mi

400 km

60°

60°

South Pole

GLOSSARY (Singular, plural)

Catena, catenae: chain of craters | Dorsum, dorsa: ridge | Lacus, lacūs: small plain

Mare, maria: broad, flat plain | Mons, montes: mountain | Palus, paludes: small plain

Rupes, rupēs: steep slope | Sinus, sinūs: small plain | Vallis, valles: valley

All other named features are craters.

Far side

Rozhdestvenskiy

Plaskett

Shayn

Larmor

Dante

Anderson

Sharonov

Zhukovskiy

Krasovskiy

Hertzsprung

Abul Wáfa

Coriolis

Vavilov

Vening

Meinesz

Bečvář

Korolev

Pannekoek

Daedalus

Amici

Racah

Nassau

Orlov

Birkeland

Leibnitz

Finsen

400 mi

400 km

Rugged Reverse

Familiar Face

With the moon gravitationally locked, the near side always faces the Earth. Its circular plains—called maria, from Latin for seas—formed when lava filled impact basins.

The far side is more varied and pocked with craters than the flatter near side. The moon’s features are named for astronauts, scientists, and scholars.

Lunar topography (in feet)

Highest point

35,387 ft

10,786 m

30,000

15,000

0*

-15,000

Lowest point

-30,112 ft

-9,178 m

-30,000

 *As the moon has no sea level, zero is set where a sphere with a 1,079-mile radius would intersect the surface.

Matthew W. Chwastyk, NGM Staff

Sources: NASA; Gazetteer of planetary nomenclature, Planetary Geomatics Group, USGS; NASA/JPL; University of Arizona; Johns Hopkins university applied physics laboratory; Carnegie institution of Washington; LISA GADDIS, USGS Astrogeology Science Center