Landslide on the Moon

Seen here is a broad mountain, the South Massif, that borders the Taurus Littrow Valley where the Apollo 17 astronauts landed.

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The 7 km wide base and 2.3 km tall South Massif mountain, shot an an angle from orbit by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO). Source: LROC Blog

One of the objectives of Apollo 17 was to sample the landslide material (having high reflectance). The way this landslide formed is mind boggling. Some ejected material (ejecta) from the impact that created the Tycho crater landed all the way in this region, more than a thousand kilometers away. The shake up caused by these ejecta impacts caused material from the mountain slope to slide down.

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Apollo 17 landing site in the Taurus Littrow valley, between the South Massif and the North Massif. Credit: NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO)

Knowing the age of the landslide material would thus give away the age of the Tycho crater. Sampling the landslide material via Apollo 17 determined the age of Tycho to be about 110 million years, a very young age in geological time scales.

Landing in one region enabled us to know about a feature halfway across the Moon! With NASA announcing America’s return to the Moon’s surface this week, looking forward to exciting science output from the upcoming commercial lunar landers.

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