Category Archives: The Moon
From July 1969 to December 1972, 12 American astronauts landed in six different locations on the lunar surface as part of NASA’s Apollo program, leaving their footprints and taking samples and data that are still being used today to learn about the Moon. The Apollo landing sites remain exactly as they were left over four decades ago—footprints, rover tracks, discarded equipment and all—and with a new generation of space explorers around the world setting their sights on the Moon it’s important that we make sure these six off-world locations are preserved, just as would be done with any historic artifact.
“President Donald Trump on Tuesday, March 21 signed the NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017, which includes a section [Sec. 831] directing the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) [a position yet to be filled] to assess the issues that relate to “protecting and preserving historically important Apollo program lunar landing sites and Apollo program artifacts residing on the lunar surface, including those pertaining to Apollo 11 and Apollo 17,” the first and last missions to land astronauts on the [M]oon.” (via CollectSpace)
While this is only a plan for an assessment to take place, it’s a(nother) first step in making sure our first footprints on another world aren’t lost to careless or malicious future lunar visitors, whether human or robotic.
Read the full story on CollectSpace: White House to look at how best to ‘protect and preserve’ Apollo moon landing sites
One of my all-time favorite space images is this little gem from the Clementine mission to the Moon, launched January 25, 1994. It features a view from beyond the far side of the Moon, illuminated by reflected light off the Earth off frame to the left. The Moon is blocking the disc of the Sun with the glow of the solar corona and an overexposed Venus shining brightly in front of a background of stars. It may have been taken on April 1 but this picture is no joke—it’s absolutely beautiful!
On Feb. 9, 1971, Apollo 14 astronauts Alan Shepard, Jr., Stuart Roosa, and Edgar Mitchell returned to Earth, their command module Kitty Hawk splashing down in the Pacific Ocean at 21:05 UT (4:05 p.m. EST). They were recovered by the USS New Orleans (LPH-11) and returned to the U.S. by way of American Samoa. But the three men weren’t the only living creatures to return from space that day… in fact, human astronauts were in the minority.
Al, Stu, and Ed also shared their lunar voyage with nearly 500 trees.
On Feb. 3, 1966 the Soviet Luna 9 spacecraft made the first successful robotic soft landing on the Moon. Seven hours later it transmitted its first images of the lunar surface back to Earth. The image above is Luna 9 lander’s first view—the first time humans had ever seen a picture from the surface of another world.
Today marks the 50th anniversary of one of the worst tragedies to befall NASA: the fire that ignited inside the Apollo 1 (Apollo 204) command module during a test at Kennedy Space Center, claiming the lives of primary crew astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee.
The event is solemnly remembered every January 27.
“We didn’t only lose fellow astronauts. We lost friends. Ed White was my best friend.”
— Buzz Aldrin on Twitter, Jan. 27, 2017
While it’s certainly not a pleasant thing to think about the Apollo 1 disaster had an undeniable impact on NASA’s lunar mission. Although it resulted in the death of three talented young men in the prime of their careers, it demanded engineers redesign the Apollo spacecraft with more safety in mind—features which, ultimately, contributed to the success of the entire program. Without these redesigns, the Apollo 11 Moon landing may not have been a success just a couple of years later. Despite the horror of the event and the tragic loss of lives, Grissom, White and Chaffee’s deaths were not in vain.
To learn what exactly occurred at Cape Canaveral on January 27, 1967, the following is an account of the Apollo 1 fire excerpted from a report on the NASA history site, and watch a CBS Special Report film that aired the day of the event:
Turns out the Moon is even older than we thought—if just by a few dozen million years. Using samples of lunar material collected by Apollo 14 astronauts Alan Shepard and Ed Mitchell in February 1971, a team of researchers from UCLA, the University of Chicago, and Princeton have determined that the Moon must have formed within the first 60 million years after the birth of the Solar System, based on dating of uranium-lead isotopes inside fragments of lunar zircons. Their findings put the age of our Moon at at least 4.51 billion years old (give or take a few million years)…about 40-50 million years older than even some of the oldest previous estimates. That’s a lot more candles for Luna’s birthday cake!