Space Lunar Voyages: The Planet Mars Above The Moon

Published on March 9th, 2010 | by Yellow Magpie

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Lunar Voyages: Man’s Exploration, Strange Phenomena And The Moon’s Rewards

Lunar Voyages: The Moon

It has been over 40 years since the start of our lunar voyages with Neil Armstrong’s  famous 11 word utterance. Those seemingly innocuous words: ‘That’s One small step for man; one giant leap for mankind‘ have now become a fundamental cornerstone in human evolution as man explored the Moon.

For centuries, mankind has glanced upwards at the sky and contemplated what it would be like to walk on the Moon. It was  the during the later part of the 20th century, in fact mainly due to the Cold War, that we finally found answers to that millenia-old question.

Lunar Voyages: The Apollo 11 Landing Site On The Moon

Lunar Voyages: The Apollo 11 Landing Site On The Moon

Lunar Voyages: Unbridled Ambition

Two years after the launch of the world’s  first satellite, Sputnik, by the Soviets, the first lunar space probe left the Earth’s atmosphere on October 4, 1959.

These events, coupled with the fact that the Soviets had successfully launched the first manned orbit of Earth, meant that the race to the Moon was intensified through the lens of an increasingly turbulent relationship between the two Superpowers, the U.S. and the U.S.S.R.

Spurred on by American president, John F. Kennedy’s ambitious declaration that the U.S. would put a man on the Moon, the United States sped up its lunar programme. A series of probes launched by the U.S. mapped suitable sites in preparation for a Moon landing during the 1960s.

The Most Famous Landing Party In Human History

On July 21, 1969, Apollo 11, with a crew consisting of Neil Armstrong, Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldwin and Michael Collins, landed in Mare Tranquillitatis, The Sea of Tranquility, one of the Moon’s many lunar seas. Neil Armstrong’s seemingly simple single act of setting foot on the Moon’s surface belied not just decades of space research but encompassed centuries of technological development. It drew from the progress made by ballistics, the centuries old canon and the invention of fireworks which date back to over 2,000 years.

Neil Armstrong’s  placing of his left foot upon the Moon finally satiated man’s curiousity. The burning question that had been asked for thousands of years was now finally resolved. We had found our answer to the age-old puzzle of what would it be like to walk on the Moon.

Lunar Voyages: Buzz Aldrin's Footprint On The Surface Of The Moon

Lunar Voyages: Buzz Aldrin’s Footprint On The Surface Of The Moon

Lunar Voyages: The Apollo Missions

In all, there have been nine Apollo missions that have made the trip to the Moon and back. Of the nine, six landed, with a total of 12 American astronauts setting foot on lunar soil.

  • Apollo 12 landed in the Oceanus Procellarum, a sea that contained ejecta from several impact crater sites.
  • After the disasterous Apollo 13, Apollo 14 landed in the hilly region of the Fra Nauro.
  • Apollo 15 landed near Hadley Rille lava tube.
  • Apollo 16 landed in the highland area of the Descartes crater.
  • Apollo 17 landed in the Taurus-Littrow valley.
Lunar Voyages: Surveyor 3 And the Apollo 12 Lunar Module On The Moon

Lunar Voyages: Surveyor 3 And the Apollo 12 Lunar Module On The Moon

What Benefits Has Our Lunar Voyages Brought?

So what have we learned? What benefit has the Apollo missions brought to humanity? Apart from proving that man is capable of great actions, were the missions little more than vanity projects?

Some people are sceptical about the benefits of the lunar missions to our Moon. But there have been tangible advantages. The logistical nightmares and technical challenges of travelling over 363,000 kilometres (240,000 miles) from our home planet, the Earth, has meant that some very novel solutions had to be invented.

Construction methods have been rapidly advanced because of the Moon missions and Space Exploration. New insulation materials have been created that have resulted in much more energy efficient homes. Satellite communications, G.P.S. guidance systems, mobile or cellular phones, cordless tools, and water purification systems are just some of the technological benefits to space exploration.

However, one of the most important areas to most benefit from the lunar missions and Space Exploration has been medicine. As a result, new procedures and devices have been created which has been enormously beneficial to mankind. Artificial heart pumps, digital hearing aids, cancer-detecting machines, and laser eye surgery, amongst others, have dramatically increased quality of life for many people.

The Moon: Aiding Our Understanding Of Life And Earth

One of the less tangible benefits of our sejourns to the Moon has been an increase in human understanding. Thanks to the pioneering endeavours of the space industry we have a more complete understanding of how the Earth was formed and the exact and critical role the Moon played and continues to play in creating and sustaining life on our planet.

The Apollo missions have enormously aided our understanding of the Moon and the Earth. Scientific experiments such as placing reflectors on the surface of the Moon have been carried out with startling results. These reflectors have enabled us to calculate the precise distance the Earth is from the Moon by shining laser beams from Earth upon them. Because of these experiments, it is now known that the Moon is retreating from the Earth at a distance of three centimetres (one inch) per year.

One day, millions of years from now, the Moon will be so far away from Earth that it will break free of our planet’s gravitational field and stop orbiting the our planet, in all likelihood leaving the Solar System for good.

Moonquakes And A Strange Phenomena

The Moon missions also resulted in seismic recorders being placed upon the Moon to measure lunar quakes or moonquakes.

Since the seismic recorders were placed on the Moon, a number of moonquakes have been recorded. It is thought that the gravitational forces of the Earth, in particular tidal forces, together with minor impacts hitting the Moon’s surface are responsible for these moonquakes as the Moon is geologically inactive. Although there may be another mysterious factor at play too.

One of the strangest phenomena associated with the Moon is TLP. Transient Lunar Phenomena are ephemeral bright fogs that have been observed on the Moon’s surface. They emit an orange hue obscuring certain parts of the Moon. However, due to their short-lived nature, it is difficult for them to be studied.

Lunar Voyages: Map Of The Nearside Of The Moon

There is a prevailing theory among astronomers that the fog, which typically surrounds relatively young craters, is caused by pockets of gas escaping when lunar landslips occur. These unstable pockets of gas carry dust which, when lit by the sun’s rays, create the orange hue.

The Moon: A Possible Key To Our Future

Some people are questioning the role the Moon will play in our future and perhaps because of this and the huge cost the U.S. has decided to shelve lunar exploration for now.

However, once again the Moon may be key to progressing not only our knowledge but the future of the human race. The Moon harbours a scarcely known secret. It contains a substance, Helium-3, that may be the solution to our current energy crisis. Not only that but the Moon may also become a platform for future deep-space exploration.

It seems that our fascination with our large neighbour is not over yet.


Recommended Reading

Check out Yellow Magpie’s The Solar System And Beyond: A Guide To The Cosmos.

Giles Sparrow’s Cosmos is a wonderful book for anyone with any interest in Space and understanding the human context.

Amazon.co.uk
For people living in Ireland or the United Kingdom, you can access Cosmos from here.

Amazon.ca
For those who live in Canada, you can obtain Cosmos.

Amazon.de
For Germany: Cosmos.

Amazon.fr
For France: Cosmos.


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