Writer's Guide to Government Information

Resources to inject real life detail into your fiction

Archive for the tag “other solar system bodies”

NASA missions, past, present and planned

NASA missions, past, present and planned – http://www.nasa.gov/missions/index.html

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What was the purpose of NASA’s Gravity Probe B?
  • When was the last transmission from Pioneer 10?
  • What are the current locations of Voyagers 1 and 2?
  • Where did the Mars Viking Lander land?


Like the page says, links to mission factsheets and/or websites (when available). Available information varies widely by mission. Some missions will have multimedia.

Probably most useful in stories set in the era of the mission, or in the far future when the aging spacecraft gets recovered by a starship.

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.”

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