The Catacombs The Continuity Guide
Moonbase Location
by Martin Willey

4.1 Moonbase Location


Moonbase Alpha is built in a crater (The Last Sunset) with a flat floor surrounded by rounded hills.

The location of the Moonbase is never stated. It is within walking distance of "area Copernicus of the Copernicus depression" (Space Warp). Copernicus is also recognised as a mountain in Journey To Where, with the Mare Imbrium above it. Copernicus is in fact a crater (20W, 10N), 93 km in diameter and 3,760 m deep, south of the Montes Carpatus (Carpathian Mountains). The only other lunar features mentioned are the Sea of Tranquillity (The Last Sunset) and the Taurus Mountains (a mountain chain adjoining the Sea of Serenity and the Sea of Tranquillity), the area in which Eagle 28 crashed in The Last Sunset.

ITC Year 2 publicity stated that Moonbase Alpha was located in the crater Plato (51 N, 9 W), a 95km diameter wall plain north of the Mare Imbrium. The remarkably smooth lava floor is suitable for construction, but the high mountains surrounding it would be dangerous for spacecraft and the crater shown on screen is evidently much smaller than Plato. Author E C Tubb suggested Tycho in his Breakaway novelisation. Tycho (43S 11W) is 102km wide and has a rough floor and walls, a prominent central peak, and distinctive rays. This also seems unlikely as a moonbase location.

Catacombs Of The Moon Taurus-Littrow Valley

The map seen in the opening scenes of Catacombs Of The Moon is the "Geologic Map of the Taurus-Littrow Region of the Moon (Apollo 17 pre-mission map)". This is a 1:250, 000 geology map prepared for the NASA Apollo 17 mission (NASA reference I-800-1) in 1972. It seems the "Catacombs" are located less than 30 kilometres east of the Apollo 17 landing site. The vast subsurface caves extend about 60 kilometres(!) toward the north. Apparently, Moonbase Alpha is located within walking distance of the Catacombs, i.e. somewhere in the Taurus-Littrow area (20 N 31 E).

Earth in Breakaway- composite thanks to Marcus Lindroos

Above: this shot from Breakaway shows the Earth (an Apollo 11 photo, shown inset). The Earth is low over the lunar horizon, and the Earth's North Pole is at the bottom; therefore Moonbase Alpha must be located near the lunar south pole.

In Breakaway the Earth is only a few degrees over the lunar horizon, and Earth's terminator? shows the poles are at right angles to the horizon. This shows the Moonbase must be located either near the lunar north or south pole. One shot through the windows of Main Mission shows Earth with Africa clearly visible (an Apollo 11 photograph), with the north pole at the bottom. Therefore Moonbase Alpha must be located near the lunar south pole. A crater near Malapert Mountain (85 S 0 E, 5km elevation) is a realistic location, with the Sun and Earth almost constantly visible, aiding both communications and solar energy. There is also speculation of water ice buried in craters that are permanently shadowed near the lunar south pole. Thanks to Marcus Lindroos.

Proposed moonbase locations

Proposed moonbase locations

Candidate Location Suggested by Comments
Tycho (43S 11W) E C Tubb ("Breakaway" novel) Unlikely due to rough terrain
Plato (51N, 9W) ITC Year 2 publicity
Technical Notebook (Hirsch, Mandel)
Alpha is in a much smaller crater with smaller mountains around.
Area of Copernicus (20W, 10N) Walking distance in Space Warp
Taurus-Littrow area (20 N 31 E) Catacombs Of The Moon geology map The catacombs under Moonbase extend to here. Close to Apollo 17 landing site.
Near South Pole e.g. Malapert Mountain (85 S 0 E) Position of Earth over Alpha in Breakaway Proposed location for a real Moonbase.

Copyright Martin Willey. Thanks to Marcus Lindroos.