Landing site name

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Landing site name

(glossary entry)


One of 18 different categories of lunar features recognized in the current system of IAU nomenclature. The IAU uses the term landing site name to refer to "lunar features at or near Apollo landing sites". Features in this category are usually, but not always, small craters.

Additional Information

  • Landing site features are names for minor topographic features discovered during, or used in the training for, the Apollo lunar landings. In the IAU Nomenclature, the actual landing location of a spacecraft (which is not necessarily a recognizable feature) has been memorialized in only three cases: Statio Tranquillitatis (Apollo 11), Planitia Descensus (Luna 9) and Sinus Lunicus (Luna 2). Statio Tranquillitatis is regarded as a Landing Site Name. Planitia Descensus has been given a category of its own (‘Planitia’); but unlike most other Landing Site Names, all three of these are apparently meant to indicate points of zero dimension. These three names were added in 1970 and their locations are supposed to be indicated by a small "x" on lunar maps (Menzel, 1971).
  • Most of the 79 IAU-approved names in this category first appeared on the Defense Mapping Agency's very finely detailed Lunar Topophotomap Series or Lunar Photomaps (Site Traverses), although these maps are presumably simply documenting names already developed in the Apollo mission planning, rather than adding new names. In fact, these names appear to be only a very small subset of the informal names developed during astronaut training. Like any other pilot, the astronauts needed readily identifiable landmarks to aid them in navigation; and colorful, easily-remembered names, served the purpose better than the dry and repetitious scientific ones. See for example, the Landing Site Maps/Images section of the Apollo 11 Lunar Surface Journal for a few of the many names like Boot Hill, "Sidewinder Rille" and "Chuck Hole", assigned over a large swath of the Moon and used to guide the final descent of that mission (see Note below). For the most part the names approved by the IAU have some special geologic significance, for example in describing sampling locations at the actual landing sites, and have been used in that connection in the professional lunar literature.
  • Many other names appearing on the Lunar Topophotomap series of maps, but not related to the Apollo landing sites, have also been added to the IAU nomenclature. In NASA RP-1097 they are regarded as a separate category of Minor Feature. The IAU does not recognize this category and lists most of them as Craters.
  • Most landing site features have diameters of less than 1 km, and hence appear in the IAU database (which rounds diameters to the nearest whole km) with a diameter of "0". The largest named landing feature is the Taurus-Littrow Valley (30 km). - Jim Mosher
  • Apparently the 79 names mentioned above are not all of the astronaut-given names for places of interests at the Apollo sites. For example, Harrison Schmitt lists many names not among the 79 that were used for Apollo 17. Schmitt's list is valuable in telling who the features were named for. - tychocrater Jul 23, 2007
    • Note: According to Robert Musgrove of the NASA Manned Spacecraft Center, the particular set of non-IAU approved navigational landmark names mentioned above was actually developed by the crew of Apollo 10 in preparation for the following mission. In his introduction to Lunar Photographs from Apollos 8, 10, and 11 acknowledges that official lunar names have to be approved by the IAU, but he implies that this informal system of names had to be developed first because the IAU could not respond quickly enough, and second because the features needing naming were too small to be seen from Earth (something that is not strictly true of many of the landmark features). "Therefore, the Apollo crewmembers and the mission planners selected names arbitrarily for those feature that were used as identification points and landmarks for navigation. These designations are not intended to be submitted to the IAU for consideration." - Jim Mosher

Lists of Landing Site names

  • Click here for a list of pages in the-Moon Wiki describing the Apollo landing sites and the named features associated with them.
  • See also the official IAU list for this category.

LPOD Articles