Earth's companion is so large and fascinating that geologists count the Moon as one of the solar system's "terrestrial planets." In fact, it was probably born from Earth, after a Mars-sized body collided with the proto-Earth, in a collision so violent that the Moon that coalesced from the leftover fragments was entirely (or almost entirely) molten. We can tell this story of Earth and the Moon's creation thanks to our analysis of the rocks returned to Earth by the Apollo astronauts, Luna landers, and chance discoveries of lunar meteorites. New laboratory techniques yield new discoveries every year even though no samples have been collected from the surface of the Moon since 1972.
In the years since the end of the space race between the United States and Russia, many other nations have sent robotic spacecraft to orbit the Moon as a first step in their planetary exploration: Japan, the European Space Agency, India, and China. Likewise, many people see a staging station on the Moon as a necessary first stepping stone toward sending humans on missions to asteroids or Mars. Thanks to the combined data from lunar orbiters from all nations we know that there is water stored in lunar soil and that there are permanently sunlit peaks at the lunar poles, providing for two basic needs of human settlements: water and power. We can go back to the Moon; but who will make the effort?
Recent Blog Articles About the Moon
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2003/11/14 12:00 CST
New observations reported this week in the journal Nature have cast doubt on the theory that thick deposits of ground ice lie conveniently close to the surface in permanently shadowed crater floors at the lunar poles.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/03/14 08:47 CDT
It is always thrilling to see relics of human exploration out there on other worlds. Today, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera team posted some new photos of two defunct spacecraft: the Luna 17 lander and the Lunokhod 1 rover. I've posted images of the two craft before, but the ones released today are much better.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/01/21 05:02 CST
A higher-resolution version of the Chang'e 3 lander's panoramic view of the lunar surface has appeared on the Web, and artist Don Davis has cleaned it of artifacts to make a beautiful, seamless view. In other news, the mission has been reorganized to accommodate a possibly year-long adventure on the lunar surface.
Posted by Jason Davis on 2011/09/08 11:58 CDT
On September 6, NASA released new high-resolution photos from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) showing the Apollo 12, 14 and 17 landing sites from vantage points as close as 21 kilometers.
Neil Armstrong changed the world. He was an excellent engineer and an outstanding pilot. He got the assignment to land a completely novel rocket machine on the Earth’s Moon, because he was the perfect man for the job: He could really fly; he had excellent judgment about the capabilities of his ship; and above all, he had a remarkable ability to keep his wits about him in extraordinarily dangerous situations.
LADEE, NASA's latest robotic lunar spacecraft, will reach its planned end-of-mission on April 21st, when it will crash on the far side of the Moon.
If there's one thing I've learned after decades of studying the first human voyages to another world, it's that there is always more to discover about Apollo. Case in point: The Apollo 8 Earthrise photo that became one of the iconic images of the 20th century.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2010/04/02 02:41 CDT
My arduous journey to the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera images
In 2016, The Planetary Society’s LightSail program will take the technology a step further.