Solar System Research

, Volume 53, Issue 5, pp 383–398 | Cite as

Potential Lunar Base on Mons Malapert: Topographic, Geologic and Trafficability Considerations

  • A. T. BasilevskyEmail author
  • S. S. Krasilnikov
  • M. A. Ivanov
  • M. I. Malenkov
  • G. G. Michael
  • T. Liu
  • J. W. Head
  • D. R. Scott
  • L. Lark


Polar areas of the Moon are prospective sites for construction of a lunar base due to the near constant illumination conditions and the potential presence of water ice in the regolith of cold traps. The mountain Mons Malapert (MM) near the South pole of the Moon is a key candidate for the location of such a base. MM is an ~30 × 50 km mountain elongated in a WNW-ESE direction with a NNE extension. Its summit stands ~5 km above the 1838 km datum, has constant visibility from Earth and long periods of sunlight (87 to 91% of the year). In this analysis we consider the topographic, geologic and trafficability characteristics of Mons Malapert, which need to be taken into account in the further consideration of MM as a lunar base location. The topography and its derivatives were studied using LROC WAC images and the LOLA-based DTM. South of MM lie the ~50 km craters Haworth and Shoemaker whose floors are in permanent shadow and show a neutron spectrometric signature of high water-ice content that may be a source of water for the base. The geology of the MM region is defined by its position on the rim of the South-Pole-Aitken basin, the largest and most ancient impact basin on the Moon. The ancient age of this area is confirmed by crater spatial density which shows ages of ~4.2 Ga. The MM slopes are mostly rather steep: from ~20 to 30°, while slopes on its summit and base are more gentle. LROC NAC images of this area show that while the summit and base of MM are covered by numerous small craters, its steep slopes show a deficit of craters and are complicated by low ridges appoximately perpendicular to the downslope direction. These characteristics of the steep slopes suggest effective downslope movement of the regolith material that, in turn, suggests that the mechanical properties of the surface layer here are relatively weak. The siting, building and operation of a lunar base implies activity not only in-base and close proximity, but also traversing to other distant sites of interest for resources and scientific investigations. So planning the Mons Malapert base requires the detailed analysis of the trafficability of the region. To consider this issue we return to experience gained by the operations of Soviet Lunokhod 1, 2 and the US Apollo Lunar Roving Vehicles. On the basis of new and evolving technology, rovers designed for the MM lunar base may significantly differ from earlier rovers, but consideration of trafficability of the earlier rovers is important for future planning. Our analysis shows that neither Lunokhods nor the Apollo LRV could successfully climb most of the slopes of Mons Malapert. The acceptable trafficability appears to be only possible along the WNW crest of the mountain. For emergency cases wheel-walking rovers may be considered. Mons Malapert seems to be a good locality for the lunar base but more studies are needed.



This work was partly supported by Russian Science Foundation, project no. 17-17-01149, and Institute fur Geologische Wissenschaften, Freie Universitaet Berlin. We gratefully acknowledge financial support from the NASA Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI) grant for Evolution and Environment of Exploration Destinations under cooperative agreement number NNA14AB01A at Brown University.


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Copyright information

© Pleiades Publishing, Inc. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. T. Basilevsky
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • S. S. Krasilnikov
    • 1
  • M. A. Ivanov
    • 1
  • M. I. Malenkov
    • 3
  • G. G. Michael
    • 2
  • T. Liu
    • 4
  • J. W. Head
    • 5
  • D. R. Scott
    • 5
  • L. Lark
    • 5
  1. 1.Vernadsky Institute of Geochemistry and Analytical Chemistry, RASMoscowRussia
  2. 2.Planetary Sciences and Remote Sensing, Institute of Geological Sciences, Freie Universitaet BerlinBerlinGermany
  3. 3.Space Research InstituteMoscowRussia
  4. 4.Institute of Geodesy Geoinformation, Technische UniversitätBerlinGermany
  5. 5.Department of Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences, Brown UniversityProvidenceUSA

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