I thought we could head back to the Moon for an updated visit and marvel at our first off-world landing site.
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We see it in our skies regularly and we forget what a momentous achievement it was for humanity to land on the Moon. As exciting as the planned Mars missions are, there is still so much to learn about our nearest neighbour.
Did you know?
- The Moon was probably formed when an object about the size of Mars collided with the Earth a long time ago. The debris from that collision formed what we now know as the Moon.
- Our rocky satellite orbits the Earth at a distance of roughly 384 thousand kilometers.
- It takes the Moon about 27 days to orbit the Earth. This is also about the length of a lunar day so we only ever see one side of the Moon from Earth.
- It has a very weak atmosphere called an exosphere. It is not enough to support human life so visitors to the Moon need to wear spacesuits.
- The Moon’s gravity is about 0.16 of the Earth’s gravity so objects on the lunar surface weigh about a sixteenth of what they would weigh on Earth.
There are many more facts about the Moon on the NASA page titled “Earth’s Moon – In Depth”.
The first Moon landing
Humans first landed on the Moon on
20 April 21 July 1969. The astronauts who took part in the Apollo 11 mission were Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin.
The mission to the Moon captivated the world. You can get a sense of how people must have felt as the astronauts headed to the Moon and eventually landed on the lunar surface from this CBS footage of that momentous day:
We’re so accustomed to seeing high quality images and video footage of modern space exploration that it’s easy to forget that the technology back then was not nearly as advanced. We’ve certainly come a long way since then.
What does the Moon look like?
Thanks to NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter mission, we have some incredible footage. Here are two videos of both hemispheres of the Moon, including the side we don’t see from Earth.
This video footage shows the Moon’s position throughout 2017 with a lot of useful data that includes the Sun’s relative position, the Earth’s relative position and the phases of the Moon in tremendous detail.
A virtual tour of the Moon
Have you ever wondered what all those features of our rocky satellite are? Here is a terrific tour of the Moon from NASA:
One of my favourite views from the Apollo missions is this iconic photograph of our home. It was taken by the Apollo 17 crew on their way to the Moon and it’s titled “Blue Marble”:
There is so much more for us to explore in our solar system. At the same time, we know so little about our own planet and have a lot of work to do to preserve it for new generations of explorers.
Header image credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, licensed CC BY 2.0