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Moon Mountain Named After Melba Roy Mouton, NASA Mathematician

Moon Mountain Named After Melba Roy Mouton, NASA Mathematician

Moon Mountain Named After Melba Roy Mouton, NASA Mathematician

Black and white photo of Melba Roy Mouton (1929-1990), a mathematician and computer programmer in NASA’s Trajectory and Geodynamics Division, acting as the Assistant Chief of Research Programs. Credit: NASAALT

Award-winning NASA mathematician and computer programmer Melba Mouton is being honored with the naming of a mountain at the Moon’s South Pole. Mouton joined NASA in 1959, just a year after the space agency was established. She was the leader of a team that coded computer programs to calculate spacecraft trajectories and locations. Her contributions were instrumental to landing the first humans on the Moon.

She also led the group of “human computers,” who tracked the Echo satellites. Roy and her team’s computations helped produce the orbital element timetables by which millions could view the satellite from Earth as it passed overhead.

The towering lunar landmark now known as “Mons Mouton” stands at a height greater than 19,000 feet. The mountain was created over billions of years by lunar impacts. Huge craters lie around its base—some with cliff-like edges that descend into areas of permanent darkness. Mons Mouton is the future landing site of VIPER, our first robotic Moon rover. The rover will explore the Moon’s surface to help gain a better understanding of the origin of lunar water. Here are things to know:

Mons Mouton is a wide, relatively flat-topped mountain that stretches roughly 2,700 square miles

A slow zoom toward a large, flat-topped mountain on the Moon. The gif animation brings us ever-closer to wide topped lunar mountain surrounded by craters that cast retreating shadow as the light changes, revealing more of the feature as the animation continues. Credit: NASA’s Scientific Visualization StudioALT

The mountain is the highest spot at the Moon’s South Pole and can be seen from Earth with a telescope

A gif animation shows a slow pan down at the Moon’s South Pole reveals Earth in the distance against the black backdrop of space. Credit: NASA’s Scientific Visualization StudioALT

Our VIPER Moon rover will explore Mons Mouton over the course of its 100-day mission

A gif animation circles a rendering of VIPER, NASA’s first robotic Moon rover as it moves forward at the Moon’s South Pole. The Sun illuminates the rover’s silhouette against the black backdrop of space as it leaves tracks in its wake Credit: NASA/Daniel RutterALT

VIPER will map potential resources which will help inform future landing sites under our Artemis program

A gif animation pans across a lunar South Pole landscape as the VIPER Moon rover makes its way down the sloping side of a feature on the Moon. Credit: NASA/Daniel Rutter/Ernie WrightALT

The VIPER mission is managed by our Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley. The approximately 1,000-pound rover will be delivered to the Moon by a commercial vendor as part of our Commercial Lunar Payload Services initiative, delivering science and technology payloads to and near the Moon.

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