Writer's Guide to Government Information

Resources to inject real life detail into your fiction

Archive for the tag “moon”

Astrogeology (USGS)

Astrogeology (USGS) – http://astrogeology.usgs.gov

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What was the path taken by Apollo 14 on the lunar surface?
  • Where can I find a detailed map of Mercury?
  • Where can I get a paper globe of Europa?
  • Where can I find a dataset for the Mars Science Laboratory: Landing Site Selection?


While the whole of the astrogeology site will be interesting to amateur astronomers, writers will probably make the most use of the maps section at http://astrogeology.usgs.gov/maps. There are maps and in some cases globes of Callisto, Europa, Ganymede, Io, Mars, Mercury, The Moon, Dione, Enceladus, Mimas, Rhea, and Tethys.

Among the Moon maps are “transverse maps” of several of the Apollo missions, which show where the astronauts went and what they did. Mineralogical and geological maps for the Moon are available as well.
The maps menu at the top of the screen has several more options, including the Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature (The official source for named craters and other features on moons and planets) and Pilot – Planetary Image Locator Tool (Quick access to images of dozens of solar system bodies.

If you decide you’d like to use some of these maps or alter them to show your colonies, go right ahead. As the website itself says, “Images, maps, data, and information authored or produced by the USGS Astrogeology Science Center are in the public domain.”


Project Horizon [moon base] (US Army)

Project Horizon (US Army)
(V.1 http://www.history.army.mil/faq/horizon/Horizon_V1.pdf)
(V.2 http://www.history.army.mil/faq/horizon/Horizon_V2.pdf)

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What skills would be needed to maintain a lunar outpost?
  • What functions might a permanent lunar colony do?
  • How were spaceships and spacesuits envisioned in the 1950s?
  • What items need to be included in a budget for a lunar outpost?
  • What are the limiting factors on launch sites to build a lunar outpost?


A two volume feasibility study by Werner Von Braun’s group at the Army Redstone Center that argued for a full time moonbase of about 15 soldiers. The cost estimate to build this moonbase was less than that of the actual Apollo program.

The first volume is organized as follows:

  • Introduction – includes justification of the project, include the “fact” that the Soviets had the capability of landing a man on the moon by 1968.
  • Technical considerations and plans – Discusses the study’s scope, a description of the outpost, transportation requirements, etc.
  • Management and planning considerations
  • Non-technical supporting considerations – includes political, psychological and security implications

The narrative section of volume 1 is followed by three appendices:

  • Policy of the United States with respect to activities in space
  • Legal and political implications – includes the murkiness of land claims on the Moon and argues against using Antarctica as a precedent
  • Technical services support capabilities – discusses the types of specialities needed to build and maintain an outpost.

Volume 1 also has a list of figures, tables and charts that may provide helpful information to the writer, including:

  • Cross Section of typical outpost compartments
  • Typical lunar suit
  • Lunar landing vehicle

The second volume, at 298 pages, goes into deeper detail on the outpost and is organized into the following chapters.

  • Introduction
  • Outpost
  • Space transportation system
  • Communications electronics
  • Launch site
  • Program logistics
  • Research and development
  • program cost and schedule
  • Bibliography

Like volume 1, this volume also has a list of tables and figures. Some of the tables of possible interest to writers include:

  • Human engineering considerations
  • Flight time and velocity values for various Earth-Moon trajectories
  • Data summary of Saturn II with nuclear upper stage
  • Summary of weights of material transported to the lunar surface (1965-1967)
  • Map of Moon with areas of interst for landing site
  • Nuclear power plant on Moon (60kw)

These two volumes together should at the very least acquaint you with the basic requirements of a lunar outpost, which really haven’t changed all that much since 1959. These volumes could be used in an alternate history or used in the story of manned exploration by other races. While I can’t prove he had access to these reports, Clive Cussler’s book, Cyclops central theme feels like a privatized version of Project Horizon.

Moon Information via the NASA Open Data Portal

Moon Information via the NASA Open Data Portal   https://data.nasa.gov/

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What did the Apollo 12 landing site look like from the surface?
  • What might lunar litter look like?
  • Where can I find geologic maps of the moon?


Links to imagery and other data about the moon that will help writers accurately describe terrain and lunar locations. Some of the more interesting sets are (Descriptions from website):

  • Lunar Sample Display Locations – A database of every location around the planet holding returned lunar samples from the Apollo missions.
  • Lunar Map Catalog – The Lunar Map Catalog includes various maps of the moon’s surface, including Apollo landing sites; earthside, farside, and polar charts; photography index maps; zone mosaics; shaded relief; topographic; and a geologic atlas.
  • Apollo Surface Panoramas – Apollo Surface Panoramas is a digital library of photographic panoramas that the Apollo astronauts took while exploring the Moon’s surface. These images provide a spectacular boots-on-the-ground view of the lunar landscape. The panoramas are stitched together from individual 70mm Hasselblads
  • Apollo Image Atlas – The Apollo Image Atlas is a comprehensive collection of Apollo-Saturn mission photography. Included are almost 25,000 lunar images, both from orbit and from the moon’s surface, as well as photographs of the earth, astronauts and mission hardware.

Story Idea:

The Lunar Sample Display Location database could be used as a way to set a location for a moon rock heist story.


Apollo Missions page (Apollo)

Apollo Missions page (Apollo) – http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/apollo/missions/index.html

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What did the control panel for the lunar module look like?
  • What six alternative missions were envisioned for Apollo 11 if it could not meet its objective of landing on the moon?
  • When was the first lunar rover used?


This site will give you all the details of every mission. Just click on the appropriate Apollo mission on the right hand side of the screen, then click “get more information.” This will bring up a page with the mission patch, personnel, mission milestones and a summary of the mission.

For a far greater amount of material for each mission, click on “Apollo Lunar Surface Journal.” This link takes you to the Apollo Press Kits. These documents are a few hundred pages each and are detailed mission briefings including what actions would be taken in the event the mission needed to be aborted.

For details on how to describe Apollo spacecraft without digging through the the Press Kits, click on “Apollo Spacecraft Drawings.” which bring up a scrollable window of various parts of the command and lunar modules sent to the Moon.

These details may come in handy for describing early space flight on other worlds, or for stories set during the Apollo program. It might also aid in stories of future lunar exploration that visit old Apollo sites.

Complete Sun and Moon Data for One Day

Complete Sun and Moon Data for One Day – http://aa.usno.navy.mil/data/docs/RS_OneDay.php

Representative questions this resource can answer:

  • When will the moon rise over Athens, Georgia on July 4th?
  • Is there a full moon over Bourbon Street in New Orleans on November 20th?


This page is searched in the same way as the Sun or Moon Rise/Set Table for One Year page, but the results focus on a single day. If your story refers to a sun or moon event on a specific day, try this out. You can also use dates from the past. Here’s an entry for my late dad’s birthday:


U.S. Naval Observatory

Astronomical Applications Department

Sun and Moon Data for One Day

The following information is provided for Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California (longitude W118.4, latitude N34.1):

Wednesday 2 August 1933 Pacific Standard Time


Begin civil twilight 4:38 a.m.

Sunrise 5:05 a.m.

Sun transit 12:00 noon

Sunset 6:54 p.m.

End civil twilight 7:21 p.m.



Moonrise 3:36 p.m. on preceding day

Moonset 1:11 a.m.

Moonrise 4:42 p.m.

Moon transit 9:30 p.m.

Moonset 2:20 a.m. on following day

Phase of the Moon on 2 August: waxing gibbous with 88% of the Moon’s visible disk illuminated.

Full Moon on 5 August 1933 at 11:32 a.m. Pacific Standard Time.


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