Von Kármán (lunar crater)

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Von Kármán
Von Karman LROC.jpg
LRO image
Coordinates44°48′S 175°54′E / 44.8°S 175.9°E / -44.8; 175.9Coordinates: 44°48′S 175°54′E / 44.8°S 175.9°E / -44.8; 175.9
Diameter180 km
Colongitude188° at sunrise
EponymTheodore von Kármán
Shaded relief topographic map of the crater.
Oblique Lunar Orbiter 5 image, looking west; north sector of crater buried by Leibnitz ejecta

Von Kármán is a large lunar impact crater that is located in the southern hemisphere on the far side of the Moon. The crater is about 180 km (110 mi) in diameter and lies within an immense impact crater known as the South Pole–Aitken basin of roughly 2,500 km (1,600 mi) in diameter and 13 km (8.1 mi) deep.[1] Von Kármán is the site of the first soft-landing on the lunar far side by the Chinese Chang'e 4 spacecraft on 3 January 2019.


The northern third of this formation is overlain by the rim and outer rampart of the walled plain Leibnitz, forming a deep indentation in the formation. The remainder of the outer wall is roughly circular in shape, although it is irregular and heavily worn by subsequent impacts.

The interior of Von Kármán has been subjected to flooding by lava flows after the original crater formed, leaving the southern portion of the floor nearly flat. This surface has a lower albedo than the surrounding terrain, and is nearly as dark as the interior of Leibnitz. There is a central peak at the location where the midpoint of the original Von Kármán was formed, which joins with the rougher surface in the northern part of the crater.

In addition to Leibnitz to the north, the crater Oresme is located to the west-northwest, and Finsen lies to the northeast on the edge of Leibnitz's rim. Nearly attached to the southeast rim is the unusual figure-eight-shaped Von Kármán L formation. Directly to the east of this is the crater Alder.

Prior to formal naming in 1970 by the IAU,[2] the crater was known as Crater 434.[3]


On 3 January 2019, the Chinese spacecraft Chang'e 4 landed inside the Von Kármán crater, becoming the first spacecraft to soft-land on the far side of the Moon.[4] The site has symbolic as well as scientific value. Theodore von Kármán (1881-1963) was the PhD advisor of Qian Xuesen, the founder of the Chinese space program.[5]

Satellite craters[edit]

By convention these features are identified on lunar maps by placing the letter on the side of the crater midpoint that is closest to Von Kármán.

Von Kármán Latitude Longitude Diameter
L 47.7° S 177.9° E 29 km
M 47.2° S 176.2° E 225 km
R 45.8° S 170.8° E 28 km


  1. ^ Petro, Noah E.; Pieters, Carle M. (2004-05-05), "Surviving the heavy bombardment: Ancient material at the surface of South Pole-Aitken Basin" (PDF), Journal of Geophysical Research, 109, Bibcode:2004JGRE..109.6004P, doi:10.1029/2003je002182
  2. ^ Von Kármán, Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature, International Astronomical Union (IAU) Working Group for Planetary System Nomenclature (WGPSN)
  3. ^ Lunar Farside Chart (LFC-1A)
  4. ^ Lyons, Kate. "Chang'e 4 landing: China probe makes historic touchdown on far side of the moon". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 January 2019.
  5. ^ "Hsue-Shen Tsien". Mathematics Genealogy Project. Retrieved 7 December 2018.