Space The Moon Photo By Gregory H. Revera Creative Commons ShareAlike Licence

Published on February 18th, 2010 | by Yellow Magpie


The Moon: Our Lunar Fascination And A Future Gateway To The Stars

Lunar Fascination: The Moon Photo By Gregory H. Revera Creative Commons ShareAlike Licence

We have a close relationship with the Moon. It still remains the only place that humans have visited outside of the Earth. Not only is it responsible for life on Earth but it still holds our lunar fascination. Our senses are stirred as we gaze upon its unknowable history and serene beauty.

Pock-marked and scarred from vicious previous skirmishes, the Moon is still going strong. As we delve deeper into its past and subsequently our own, we are beginning to learn just how remarkable our lunar satellite truly is.

Not only has the Moon, unbeknownst to many of us, gravely affected our past, it may change our futures too, offering hope of further Space exploration mainly due to a potentially buried secret.

Lunar Fascination: Tsoilkovsky Crater On The Moon

Lunar Fascination: Tsoilkovsky Crater On The Moon

Our Disproportionate Moon

With a diameter of 3,476 kilometres (2,159 miles), the Moon is enormous in proportion to the planet it orbits – the Earth. It takes the Moon roughly 27 days to orbit around the blue planet rotating only once during this period due to the effects of the Earth’s gravity. As a result, only one side of the Moon is visible from the vantage point of the Earth.

The Moon is thought to consist of a thin crust resting atop of solidified rock. There may even be a small inner core of metal residing in its centre.

The Largest Crater In The Solar System

Lunar Fascination: The Moon's South Pole-Aitken Basin

Lunar Fascination: The Moon’s South Pole-Aitken Basin

The Moon is home to the largest-known impact crater in the Solar System. The South Pole-Aitken Basin, measures 2,500 kilometres (1,500 miles) across and 13 kilometres (8 miles) deep. It is so deep, in fact, that it is permanently bathed in darkness and never experiences sunlight.

Our Lunar Fascination: The Two-Faced Moon

The surface of the Moon is composed of two different types of terrain.The visibly bright areas of the Moon are cratered highland areas. These areas are the oldest part of the Moon. After being dated by scientists, many of the craters have been found to be over four billion years old.

Much of the Moon’s craters occurred around 3.9 billion years ago in a period known as the ‘Late Heavy Bombardment’. It has been suggested that this period caused the occurrence of the visibly dark areas of the Moon. The dark areas or maria are basaltic lava which are thought to have welled up from below the surface because of the huge impacts from debris crashing onto the Moon’s surface.

The Moon Of Differing Sides

Some may comment on the strangeness of the other side of the Moon. It doesn’t have the dark maria areas that the side facing the Earth has. This was due to the tremendous gravitational forces that the Earth exerted on the Moon. These forces caused the Moon’s core to become off-centre and closer to the Earth. Therefore, the lava, travelling through an area of least resistance, took the easier and shorter route to the near side of the Moon.

Lunar Fascination: Far Side Of The Moon

Lunar Fascination: Far Side Of The Moon

The Moon’s craters are mostly the result of constant bombardment. Although the Earth was subjected to an even greater degree of bombardment, our atmosphere and tectonic movement reduced cratering immensely.

The Moon is a wonderful example of preservation. Because there is no lunar atmosphere and no geological activity of any kind everything is preserved in time. That is why debris that struck billions of years ago has left immaculately preserved craters. The Moon has furthered our own understanding of the Earth and Solar System greatly as a result of its intact nature.

A Lunar Base For Deep Space Exploration

Although it was only given brief mention earlier, the South Pole-Aitken Basin may be of utmost importance to human development and may become a watershed moment in history. For it may contain one of the most precious substances in the Solar System. That substance being water.

Having water present, apart from sustaining long-term lunar habitation, would allow us to obtain hydrogen, a fuel which can power spacecraft. Having a source of fuel on the Moon’s surface would pave the way for deep space-travel. At present, our main stumbling block to further space-travel is the huge cost, both in economic and physical terms, of propelling a spacecraft in order to break through the Earth’s atmosphere.

Lunar Fascination: Artist's Impression Of A Future Moon Colony By Dennis M. Davidson NASA

Lunar Fascination: Artist’s Impression Of A Future Moon Colony By Dennis M. Davidson NASA

However, on the Moon we would have no such problems. With gravity one-sixth that of what it is here on Earth. Spacecraft could launch from the Moon at a fraction of the cost and a fraction of the difficulty it takes to launch from our planet. The weight limitations would be greatly reduced and we could carry much more materials with us than we are currently able to on Earth.

The presence of what we would regard as an ubiquitous resource could be one of the Moon’s greatest gifts to the inhabitants of Earth. With the availability of water we could seal the survival of our own species and species yet to come.

The Moon once aided the creation of life on Earth now it may aid life once more.

Recommended Reading

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

Cosmos by Giles Sparrow, as mentioned elsewhere on this site, is highly recommended for those who want to learn more about the subject. Its large format is filled with wonderfully vivid pictures and it contains some of the best written writing on all aspects of Space. Almost uniquely, it is both comprehensive and accessible on the subject of Space.
For people living in Ireland or the United Kingdom, you can access Cosmos here.
For those who live in Canada, you can obtain Cosmos from here.
For Germany: Cosmos.
For France: Cosmos.

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6 Responses to The Moon: Our Lunar Fascination And A Future Gateway To The Stars

  1. stuart says:

    “”…Moon roughly 27 days to orbit around the blue planet. As a result, only one side of the Moon is visible from the vantage point of the Earth.””
    That’s a strange thing to say – the Same side facing us has nothing to do with it’s Orbit of 27 days!?

    It’s due to a core that is Off-centre, exactly why it’s off-centre there are theories, molten and the surrounding substance was soft enough for it to be pulled off centre by gravity of the earth – or other planet prior to it slipping into earth orbit – or the core may have been smacked off-centre by the strike of a very large object hitting so hard and fast that it partially penetrated the surface – and with sufficient force to knock the core off-centre!

    Gravity between earth and moon causes the moon’s Core to be tugged in our direction, whatever it’s position in orbit, the off-centre core is always pulled toward us, resulting in the same side of the moon to always facing us.

  2. Yellow Magpie says:

    Thanks for your comment, Stuart, it was very interesting and you alerted us to an omission that we have now corrected.

    It is misconception that the Moon never rotates. It rotates very slowly once every 27 days or so. This is because of the Earth’s gravity. It if for this reason that we never see the other side – because the Moon is in its New phase and not visible from the Earth.

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