First Steps on the Moon
On July 20, 1969, Apollo 11's Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first people to walk on the Moon. The initial Soviet reaction was that if they could not be first, they could still be best. Unfortunately, faced with a variety of challenges, they never were able to successfully land a man on the Moon.
The six Apollo landings which took place between 1969 and 1972, fulfilled the goals of establishing the United States' preeminence in space. Apollo also initiated scientific exploration of the Moon and began to develop and test the human capacity to work in the lunar environment.
The Dark Side
During Apollo 11's mission, Pink Floyd was inspired to perform "Moonhead" in a live broadcast. In 1972, Pink Floyd recorded their most successful album, "The Dark Side of the Moon," with uplifting themes such as conflict, greed, and mental illness.
The Moon in fact has no permanently dark side, just a far side.
- 1972 Cont.
Apollo Experiments studied the Moon's surface and environment, lunar quakes, the solar wind, and the Moon's magnetic field. Among other experiments, the astronauts deployed a laser reflector; measurements using it have shown that the Moon is moving away from Earth about 1.5 inches a year. Which means Earth is slowing down. Which means days are getting longer.
The Apollo landings provided scientists with huge amounts of lunar data in the form of photography and orbital experiment results, sample collections and surface operations. Altogether, the Apollo missions returned 842 pounds of lunar rock and soil.
Budget constraints ended the Apollo program in 1972. NASA's budget returned to 1% or less of the federal budget. Which is still a lot of money.
A Chip of the Old Block
One of the most widely distributed photographic images, this was the first clear image of an illuminated Earth. Taken by the crew of Apollo 17, the photo has been used to depict Earth's frail vulnerability, and became the poster-child for Earth Day.
Twists and Turns
Prior to the mid 1970's, competing hypotheses had the Moon forming by being "spun" off the Earth, Earth capturing a wandering Moon, Earth and Moon being "born" at the same time, in the same place. All of these theories had flaws. A new theory proposed that the Moon formed from the debris created by a collision between early Earth and smaller planetary body.
By 1984, enough data - in a large part provided by the Apollo rocks - existed for this theory that it replaced the earlier theories. Scientists still have unanswered questions and continue to test their findings against this model, so stay tuned for further tweaking!
Walking on the Moon
In 1979, The Police released "Walking on the Moon," filmed at the Kennedy Space Center. It appears to be about the reduced gravity on the Moon's surface (which allowed astronauts to jump high in spite of heavy spacesuits), but was actually about the feeling of being in love.
A Grand Day Out
A Grand Day Out: Wallace and Gromit travel to the Moon in a really cushy rocket, to have a picnic that includes lunar cheese.
The Great Debate: Water on the Moon?
The first evidence of water on the Moon came from the 1994 Clementine mission's radar observations of permanently dark craters near the Moon's south pole, suggesting icy surfaces. In 1998, NASA launched the Lunar Prospector to map the Moon's poles, gravity, and to search for ice deposits; data collected by Prospector suggested the Moon may have water ice.
Japan's 2007 Kaguya probe didn't find any signs of water ice at the poles, but in 2009, India's Chandrayaan-1 conclusively detected water on the Moon's surface! Its findings were confirmed by the NASA LCROSS mission in 2009 when the spacecraft impacted a polar crater, sending up a plume of ejecta that was analyzed by spectrometers aboard the shepherding spacecraft, LRO, and in telescopes on Earth.
Scientists, left with nothing to argue about, turned quickly to hotly debating the source and history of this water.
Water on the Moon may serve as a valuable resource to any future human stations on the Moon, removing the need to ship tons of water to the Moon.
Great Migrating Bodies, Batman!
Data from computer models suggest that some of the planets, and asteroids and planets have migrated, and even swapped places. The data suggestions that about 3.8 billion years ago the inner planets and moons, were bombarded, by comets or asteroids flung in by migrating planets. In some models, Jupiter migrated, but there are actually many different scenarios.
The debate continues, more samples from the Moon may hold the key to the answer to this interplanetary game of muiscal chairs.