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Small-Scale Landing Hazards

Every Apollo mission had to fly around a bit to select a good landing site. Every bit of the lunar surface is heavily cratered; the little ones don't show up well in most of the photos because of the lighting and film limitations. It's very likely the piloting computer's aim point will take you into a spot where you'd rather not land.

On Apollo 11 specifically, Neil Armstrong said he had to fly over a large, uneven crater that had some nasty-looking boulders around its rim.

Mountains along the approach path are an even worse hazard to the landing because the approach trajectory is really shallow until you get to the last couple hundred feet.

We'll probably have to design for very uneven terrain. You might have noticed in the cartoons I've done for the reference mission I put rather large struts on the landing gear, and broad footpads. We'll want to be able to level the lunar base once we're down, and that might require quite a bit of travel in the landing gear.

We are considering landing a little camera with a homing beacon to do the final site selection in the general area it lands. If we can produce several of these things, we can get some neat pictures and direct our spacecraft to a nice landing site as well. With a homing beacon to fix the touchdown point, we only need one little flat spot with a clear path along the approach and departure paths; the rest can be as lumpy as it can get.

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