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 2010/07/27 06:52 CDT
This news is no surprise, but I think it's the first such discovery I've heard of: the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) team has identified a new crater on the Moon, one that wasn't there when Apollo 15 flew over.
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
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2010/08/17 12:04 CDT
MESSENGER is in a unique position in the solar system, orbiting the Sun well within the orbit of Venus. From there, it can gaze outward from the Sun to search for tiny objects that may possibly be traveling in the same region, called vulcanoids.
Fifteen years ago, Society members and passionate space advocates like you helped save the Pluto mission. Now we can do the same for missions to Europa and Mars.
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