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Planetary RadioNovember 14, 2018

Moon Mission 3D from Queen Guitarist Brian May and David Eicher

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On This Episode
David J. Eicher
David J. Eicher

Editor-in-Chief, Astronomy Magazine

Jason Davis headshot v.4
Jason Davis

Digital Editor, The Planetary Society

Headshot of Bruce Betts
Bruce Betts

Chief Scientist / LightSail Program Manager, The Planetary Society

Headshot of Mat Kaplan
Mat Kaplan

Planetary Radio Host and Producer

You haven’t seen the best pictures from the Apollo era and other great space achievements till you’ve seen them in 3D. Queen guitarist and astrophysicist Brian May is also mad about stereoscopic imagery. He worked with this week’s guest, Astronomy Magazine Editor-in-Chief David Eicher, to create this beautiful new book that contains 150 startling 3D images, along with clear 3D glasses. A copy of Moon Mission 3D will go to the winner of the new What’s Up space trivia contest. Also, Planetary Society Digital Editor Jason Davis introduces SpaceIL’s lunar lander, heading for the moon in 2019.

Moon Mission 3D: A New Perspective on the Space Race

Moon Mission 3D: A New Perspective on the Space Race
The book, authored by By David J. Eicher and Brian May, tells the story of the lunar landing and the events that led up to it, with visually stunning 3-D images.
Buzz Aldrin on the Moon

NASA

Buzz Aldrin on the Moon
Astronaut Buzz Aldrin walks on the surface of the moon near the leg of the lunar module Eagle during the Apollo 11 mission.

Trivia Contest

This Week’s Prizes:
A trendy Planetary Radio t-shirt from the Planetary Society Chop Shop store, a 200-point iTelescope.net astronomy account, and a copy of Moon Mission 3D: A New Perspective on the Space Race.

iTelescope.net
iTelescope.net

This week's question:

What were the most advanced creatures to fly around the Moon on the Soviet Zond 5 mission?

To submit your answer:

Complete the contest entry form at http://planetary.org/radiocontest or write to us at [email protected] no later than Wednesday, November 21st at 8am Pacific Time. Be sure to include your name and mailing address.

Last week's question:

What was the first spacecraft to employ ion thrusters beyond Earth orbit?

Answer:

The answer will be revealed next week.

Question from the October 31 space trivia contest question:

Before the Parker Solar Probe broke the records for closest spacecraft to approach the sun and fastest spacecraft relative to the sun, what spacecraft held both of those records?

Answer:

Before the Parker Solar Probe broke the record for closest spacecraft approach to the Sun and fastest spacecraft relative to the Sun, those records had been held since 1976 by Helios 2.

Parker Solar Probe and Helios

Planetary Radio listener Daniel Cazard

Parker Solar Probe and Helios
Artist's misconcept of the Parker Solar Probe and the Helios spacecraft of the '70s.

Transcript

[Mat Kaplan]: Moon Mission 3-D this week on Planetary Radio. Welcome. I'm Mat Kaplan of the Planetary Society with more of the human adventure across our solar system and beyond. Who knew, Queen guitarist and astrophysicists, Brian May, is also one of our planet's leading practitioners of 3-D imagery. May and astronomy magazine editor-in-chief David Eicher have teamed up to create a space book that will knock your eyes right out of your head. We'll explore it in-depth, and you'll get a chance to win Moon Mission 3-D in this week's What's Up? space trivia contest. Let's talk first with Planetary Society Digital Editor Jason Davis about a new mission to the Moon that is nearing launch, a mission from Israel and a nonprofit called SpaceIL. Jason what we have here, if it goes according to [00:01:00] plan, would be the winner of the Google Lunar XPRIZE if there was still a Google Lunar XPRIZE.

[Jason Davis]: Yeah, I guess technically the prize still exists. There's just no money behind it anymore. And if you go to the Google Lunar XPRIZE website, they're kind of saying like, "hey, we're looking for a new financial sponsor if anyone out there happens to be willing to put $30 million up for grabs." So it's all glory but no cash Rewards.

[Mat Kaplan]: Especially now that it looks like SpaceIL is actually going to do this possibly as soon as early next year. I mean you would basically be know that you're going to be giving up the money. Whereas Google never had to.

[Jason Davis]: Yeah. Exactly. It does look like it's going to happen in early 2019. It was supposed to happen in the end of this year. But SpaceX delayed the flight a little bit, typical SpaceX flights they don't get more specific than that, but does look like it's gonna happen.

[Mat Kaplan]: Well, tell us about this Mission and this little spacecraft which to me looks a lot like a kettle drum. [00:02:00]

[Jason Davis]: Yeah. Yeah, it kind of has this circular deck. It's almost similar to if you remember the Phoenix Mission to Mars or even Insight Lander is going to be similar to this without the fold-out solar panels. So four legs, it's not very big just a couple meters wide, has some solar panels on top of it. They're going to land in the Sea of Serenity and it's one of those big dark moire (always pronounce it wrong), go out in the backyard you can see that on the Moon. It'll take two months to get to the Moon by raising its orbit and then eventually get captured by the Moon's gravity, make a couple more orbits there and then land. Send them high def videos and pictures, that was a requirement for the Google Lunar XPRIZE that they'd be able to show what they're doing, and then it'll actually try to make a hop. It'll little lift off using the same engine used to land, travel 500 meters—again that was a requirement from the Google Lunar XPRIZE—and land again, and that'll be it. It does have a science instrument, a magnetometer that NASA has partnered with SpaceIL on [00:03:00] to collect the data from that. Just kind of a fun little mission that was originally conceived, I guess it's been almost seven years ago, to do the Google Lunar XPRIZE.

[Mat Kaplan]: I like to think that that magnetometer is to discover TMA-1 the the monolith in the 2001 movie, but I guess it's actually to investigate the the interior of the Moon through its remaining magnetic field. You mentioned NASA's involvement with that instrument. I saw that NASA is also going to be providing some use of the the DSN, the Deep Space Network.

[Jason Davis]: Yeah, they're going to give him some DSN time. SpaceIL already had some ground stations, but of course with the DSN, you get full coverage no matter what the orientation of the Earth is at any time. NASA's also giving them a little retro reflector, so other spacecraft in orbit can shine a laser down that bounces back up and that gives you ranging distance. NASA's doing that kind of is this forward-looking thing with all this talk of going back to the Moon, there might be a bunch of small science landers on the Moon or [00:04:00] commercial landers, and they want to start sending these aboard spacecraft so that they can kind of have this built-in navigation system for spacecraft in orbit since they're expecting a lot more activity up there.

[Mat Kaplan]: Why is this relatively small team doing this? They're not going to get prize money.

[Jason Davis]: I guess the reason they continue they were far enough along that they decided why not push for the finish line. But when they created the non-profit back in 2011, it was just a couple Israeli engineers, three of them I think. Really they wanted to do the classic inspiring people to pursue STEM careers, you know something that NASA and a lot of other groups try to do—even the Planetary Society of course tries to do. They have this perceived gap that there's not enough Israeli engineers coming into the workplace. So they thought if they did this XPRIZE mission, they might get young people excited and want to pursue a career in this.

[Mat Kaplan]: Well, I will be inspired and not expecting too much since space is hard and landing something softly on something is even harder, [00:05:00] but it'll be something to watch for I guess next year.

[Jason Davis]: Yeah, it sounds good. I'll be watching it, too.

[Mat Kaplan]: Thanks Jason, 'preciate it

[Jason Davis]: Thank you Mat.

[Mat Kaplan]: That's Jason Davis, Digital Editor for the Planetary Society and he mentioned the Planetary Society also trying to provide inspiration. He follows that particular project—well, we do it in a lot of ways, but maybe the most prominent—is with LightSail 2 which we're also looking forward to seeing that happen sometime in 2019.

I've been a fan of 3-D images for as long as I can remember. I'll usually pay the premium to watch a movie in 3-D even if it doesn't have much else to offer, and I love the stereo images that sometimes come from robotic space missions or from our own Emily Lakdawalla, another 3-D fan. Most of those require the red-blue [00:06:00] glasses that never render an image quite as well as you'd like, so I was blown away when a copy of David Eicher and Brian May's book arrived as you'll hear in my conversation with David, Moon Mission 3-D is a stunner. We talked a couple of weeks ago while Brian May was busy touring with Queen and promoting the new movie Bohemian Rhapsody. Dave, thanks so much for joining me on Planetary Radio to talk about this this terrific book, which I have enjoyed enormously. Thanks for doing this.

[David Eicher]: Well, thanks for having me Mat. It's really a pleasure to talk to you and to be with you today.

[Mat Kaplan]: There are, as I'm sure you know, going to be a library full of books released between now and at least July of 2019 marking the mission of Apollo 11 about the space race and the space program and the Apollo program in particular. Therefore you're in a pretty competitive market here, but [00:07:00] my impression, having read almost all of this book and looked at I think all of the images, is that you have a leg up because of this very special and rather startling feature that you and your co-author who we will talk about have added to enhance this book. But before we talk about those great 3-D images, I want to compliment you on the text because it I think it's outstanding.

[David Eicher]: Well, thank you. And of course there's been a mountain of stuff, of course on Apollo published since the the event and even before but the way this book sort of got started with a bunch of people who knew each other at the Starmus Festival enabled us to sort of come together and look at things and we think a bit of a unique way with from both sides from the United States side as well as the Soviet Union and presenting a bit of a social and political a little bit and even a little bit of a musical history because of Brian's influence. [00:08:00] Along with the pure science and the pure technology of the program itself.

[Mat Kaplan]: And I think that those different aspects of the Space Program, the Space Race, I hate to keep using that term, that you address here including the political, they had substantially to the value of the book and the fascination that the book had for me. Let's go back to what you mentioned about the Starmus Festival. Is that where you met your co-author, this fairly well-known guitarist, physicist, expert in 3-D photography.

[David Eicher]: Well it is I mean Brian May got involved in the Starmus Festival because he very successfully abandoned his PhD which believe it or not was focusing on the zodiacal light in the solar system, the dust in the solar system, in 1970 and and because he had a rather successful day job that got going at that point playing guitar and founding, along with the other three fellows, Queen, of course, the group. But he actually came back, urged [00:09:00] on by the famous astronomy writer and friend of his mentor Patrick Moore. He went back and finished his degree, his PhD in 2008 and it was his PhD adviser Garik Israelian, in Tenerife, they in the Canary Islands, who got him into this mode that there should be an international science and music festival. Thus, Starmus was born around the year 2010.

[Mat Kaplan]: That's where you met Brian May?

[David Eicher]: Yeah, there have been a few Starmuses now and I got to know Garik and I got to know Brian there and for inexplicable reasons they took a liking to me. Patrick was aging, unfortunately we lost Patrick a few years ago now, in 2012. And so they were sort of looking for a collaborator who is interested in all of this stuff and I've had a lot of experience of course with magazine writing. So it was sort of a marriage born in astronomy and rock and roll which all of these guys at Starmus are really [00:10:00] all into together.

[Mat Kaplan]: Talk a little bit about the 3-D images in this and and how Brian May has advanced this, if not science, art.

[David Eicher]: Brian has been interested in stereoscopy and stereo imaging since he was a child and in England back in the day in the 1950s when he was growing up you could get stereo cards that would come together—these are two images that are shot slightly differently, side by side and you can look at them and get a 3-D image either with a special viewer like those that Brian now has designed or just by relaxing your eyes in a certain way. This was of course a huge Victorian fad in England and an enormous thing about the time of the American Civil War here. It sort of came back in the 1950s as an insert in a cereal box, believe it or not when he was a child and Weetabix cereal and in England. And so this fascinated him and when [00:11:00] he's not playing rock and roll or looking at the skies or doing some animal welfare that he's very involved with he's been fascinated with the stereo photography for years and years and years. The good fortune that we had thinking about Apollo was that there were so many thousands of tens of thousands of images shot during the program and the astronauts were actually trained to some degree to shoot stereo images. They really didn't end up doing it so much but they shot enough images close by each other and of course spacecraft move over time. If you shoot an image and wait a few seconds the Moon other Moons, you know Earth rotates and so on. So if you troll through this enormous NASA archive, which is what Brian and his collaborators did, you can find some good stereo pairs that work pretty well if you match them up just just right

[Mat Kaplan]: And this was no small task of finding these stereo [00:12:00] pairs, some of them from motion picture film frames, but also apparently some that were synthesized that we're actually not originally, didn't lend themselves to a stereo viewing?

[David Eicher]: That's right. There are a few that are that are faked, if you will, you know that are synthesized from a mono image and among them are the fame... two of the most famous images of all,that boot print of Buzz Aldrin that is erroneously called, you know, the Neil's First Step sometimes and also the shot of Buzz that was taken by Neil in which you can see Neil reflected in Buzz's visor, that's sort of a very amazing. Those were faked to make stereo images. But they're only about half a dozen or a dozen images in the book that were synthesized in that way. Mostly Brian and his collaborator, who's an Italian photo researcher Claudia Manzoni, they spent in just [00:13:00] many many many hours going through the NASA archive and finding pairs that could be cleaned up a bit and would work without in stereo without giving the viewer a headache, if you will.

[Mat Kaplan]: Yeah, they did a heroic job. You've already mentioned two of my not surprisingly favorite images in the book, that footprint that Buzz Aldrin left on the Moon which probably is still up there. It's suddenly like so many of these 3-D images has depth in the most literal fashion, but it's startling how real it becomes when it is viewed, and I should add when it is viewed by the little stereo glasses that you guys have graciously included in a little inset in the back cover of the book and and that I guess Brian May calls OWL, or in this case Lite OWL?

[David Eicher]: Yes, Brian invented this OWL viewer. That's really sort of a modern version of what were the old stereo viewers a hundred and [00:14:00] fifty years ago. There's a small a light version that is smaller and lighter tucked into the book and that makes it easy to see these things. And yes, I mean as you say, you know, you really get that.. it was Charlie Duke who said that geez, you know, seeing these images in stereo really is the closest you get to being on the Moon. Because as you say like with Buzz's footprint, you can see how really sort of delicate and powdery that lunar regolith is and you can see the astronauts and Rovers and the LM, snd other objects scattered into the distance with also with foreground object sort of jutting out to you. So it really gives you, you can get lost in this and really gives you a feeling a little bit as to what it's really like to stand on the Moon surface.

[Mat Kaplan]: Like most people I bet who are going to either purchase or at least get a hold of this book on someone else's coffee table because it is sort [00:15:00] of that size, that format. The first thing they're going tp do hopefully they will come back and read the text probably going to do what I did which is go through each page of the book and look at not just the stereo images. But I mean, I have it open right now to this two-page spread of the Apollo 11 astronauts in their ticker-tape parade, which looks like it's right out of an old Life Magazine—I'm dating myself here, I could date myself further and talk about the old View Masters that we Americans of a certain age grew up with. There are so many images here, many of which I have seen before, Buzz's full footprint, and of course that shot that you mentioned of Buzz on the surface of the Moon with the horizon stretching behind him, Neil and the Eagle Lunar Module reflected in Buzz's visor. They suddenly become so much more real. Let me tell you about one that just struck me, I think from the first time I opened the book. It's not the obvious. It's a shot of Gemini 7 taken from Gemini [00:16:00] 6A during that first ever human rendezvous in space...

[David Eicher]: Yes.

[Mat Kaplan]: And in in this side shot of Gemini 7, there are cables or filaments of some sort that are streaming out behind the capsule, and the Cloudy Earth of course is far below. I'd seen images like that before, but my jaw dropped when I saw this in 3-D.

[David Eicher]: Mmm. Yeah, Brian likes to call that shot the Tin Can, with a sort of a, you know, an homage back to David Bowie in Space Oddity, you know. But of course we see you see these delicate things that even before the Apollo program, of course, because the book really starts with Yuri Gagarin. And as you know Mat, I mean the Soviets until about the time of Apollo 8, they had a very robust program to land a man on the Moon themselves. Which of course didn't happen through a number of tragedies and some [00:17:00] deaths of Korolev, the lead engineer, and so on, but it is amazing to see these early bits of space flight in the first testing in Earth orbit of various things like Mercury and Gemini and leading up to Apollo and see all these little features, you know that you can see little bits of stereo camera in that were stored in some of the spacecraft. You can see the damage of course after it got back to Earth going around the Moon that happened to the Apollo 13 Command Service Module, of course, you know these things that really sort of jump out that you might not have noticed so much in a mono picture, really really having a pop in these stereos. And there are 150 of these stereo images in the book and most of the images in the book are these stereos.

[Mat Kaplan]: And I don't want to give the idea that this is just Apollo. I mean as you said it goes back to Yuri Gagarin and even earlier. I mean there was talk about Tsiolkovsky, that that wonderful [00:18:00] Russian pioneer who who came up with so much of what is becoming reality now, and there's a great stereo image of Sputnik 1. And then you take it right up through the New Horizons Pluto encounter in there, so beautiful 3-D shot of Comet 67P courtesy of Rosetta. And I don't want to say it's an exhaustive review of what has happened since the Apollo program, but the entire history of humans and robots in space is represented in the book. There's a fun stereo image of Sergei Korolev who you already referred to the so-called chief designer, that that Russian asset who is very well protected for so many years because he was so central to their program. There's one that of him holding two telephones his head that is really entertaining.

[David Eicher]: Thank goodness we finally were able to get images like that from the Russian state archive. But there's some crazy images sort of [00:19:00] punctuated all through the space programs on both sides of the coin, you know, both US and Soviet Union. It's about 50,000 words, it's a good solid history the the writing of the whole era but it's not tremendously detailed. Of course, they're much much more exhaustive histories, narrative histories of the era and of Apollo, but we talked to a number of astronauts though and you know Starmus really sort of became a bit of a catalyst for the Americans and the Soviets getting together and becoming friends long after the programs. And so talking to some of these guys for example, Alexey Leonov is on the board at Starmus and a bunch of Apollo astronauts, of course, are very involved. You know, we got some interesting stories from these guys like, you know, Jim Lovell talking about, you know, wanting to avoid becoming the first human popsicles in permanent orbit and some great stories of what it's like sort of to launch and to land and to spacewalk [00:20:00] and really put your life on the line from people like Rusty Schweickart. He got ill of course early on in Apollo 9 and had to take the risk because if you got sick to your stomach, of course, in a pressurized suit you were dead. And so there are lots and lots of critical moments that these guys talk about and what a what a really rough business it was both the training and the missions themselves and how heroic these guys were, you know on both sides of the coin.

[Mat Kaplan]: Charlie Duke who you mentioned earlier and Jim Lovell, of course Apollo 13, maybe what he is best known for, contributed to the book, foreword word from Charlie Duke, afterward by Jim Lovell and they seem to have had great fun going through this. There is an entire chapter, chapter 5, about the sacrifices that have been made and and it is the inevitable cost of exploring, of going where we have never gone before.

[David Eicher]: That's right. We do have a chapter on that and of course there were [00:21:00] terrible events like the explosion very early on at Baikonur and and of course key deaths both from purely medical reasons and training, you know, aircraft crashes, you know that took the lives of Yuri Gagarin and others and of course tragedies in the United States like the Apollo 1 test pad fire of course, but but it was a very very dangerous business. And I think this brought the astronaut explores closer together even to some degree back in the day, because Apollo 15 snuck this sculpture on board, the crew there, and left Fallen Astronaut Memorial that memorialized both the US and the Soviet astronauts and cosmonauts who had died up to that point.

[Mat Kaplan]: And again, it is sitting somewhere on the surface of the Moon.

[David Eicher]: Yes.

[Mat Kaplan]: Hopefully not to be bothered by future Lunar tourists.

[David Eicher]: Yeah.

[Mat Kaplan]: Before we finish I want to talk about a couple of the other [00:22:00] images that were so striking and maybe one that I was surprised is not in the book at least as the stereo image Voskhod 1, the Voskhod capsule. You can look right through the hatch into this thing. And it is disturbing to think of three cosmonauts crammed into what looks like not much more than an old phone booth.

[David Eicher]: Yes. So so terribly cramped and so difficult and it's just incredible and even a roomy capsule that was much more luxurious than Voskhod 1, you know, even Rusty talking about an Apollo capsule, you know, there wasn't sufficient room when you were in a suit to put your arms down. The guy who is in the middle of an Apollo crew had to alternate who had the arm on top and on bottom occasionally so the arms wouldn't fall asleep. So even the most luxurious capsules, of course, we're pretty cramped and Voskhod [00:23:00] and and of course Mercury and even Gemini which was a little roomier were very cramped and Rusty talked about for example after ten days and on a mission, you know, you were dirty and stinky and the food was terrible and it was like camping at its absolute worst and rather than splashdown, you know, the showers and spaghetti and lobster and chocolate cake came to mind and in the minds of these guys after nine or ten days.

[Mat Kaplan]: And there is a shot of the Apollo 11 astronauts looking out the window of their little Airstream trailer that they had to stay in for a while while they were on the aircraft carrier after recovery. There is also a shot, it's a little blurry, but probably the best that I've ever seen. It's a stereo shot of the damage to the Apollo 13 service module after Jim Lovell and his colleagues were able to back away from it.

[David Eicher]: Yeah, that's really an incredible picture and the resolution [00:24:00] as you say is not very good, but that's the best that's available showing that this whole side panel had been blown off by the oxygen tank. You can believe either Jim level or even Tom Hanks about how tremendously dangerous this was, but it's hard for us ordinary folk to really realize that, that you know turning the Lunar Module into this sort of life boat, you know, it was very very... the odds were really against these guys getting back and they were so ill, especially Fred Hayes, you know, by the time they got back it was very perilous. They nearly perished on that mission and and thankfully did get back and were able to photograph that damage before they re-entered.

[Mat Kaplan]: My one beef with this otherwise terrific book that I highly recommend: why no stereo Apollo 8 Earthrise image.

[David Eicher]: I think we'd have to ask Brian, but that's a good, that's a good question. Perhaps a second [00:25:00] edition could ameliorate that that shortcoming.

[Mat Kaplan]: Well, please tell Brian next time you talk to him that he has given me a second reason to become a big fan of his and I look forward to the movie as well. Like so many people.

[David Eicher]: The movie is fantastic. Yes.

[Mat Kaplan]: Oh, you've seen it?

[David Eicher]: I'm not trying to you know bring here, but I happened to be in London for a book launch at the same time as the premiere. So we all went to the arena at Wembley and watched it...

[Mat Kaplan]: Wow

[David Eicher]: For the premiere and it was quite you know, I was on the outer orbit there of that and of course Brian and Roger were in the middle of it, but it was quite something to be there and it you'll love the movie if you're a Queen fan.

[Mat Kaplan]: Can't wait, big fan, and the movie of course is Bohemian Rhapsody. I want to leave you with a look toward the future which really takes me into the past back to Sergei Korolev because you mentioned something I was not aware of that Korolev, the chief designer, as he was thinking toward the Moon was already considering far beyond [00:26:00] that, the red planet, Mars. And interested in things like ion engines, electric engines that are just now getting us to places like asteroids and comets and probably will be the way we reached which Mars. Any comments that you want to make about, you know, how this book and really out of your own personal outlook looking toward the future.

[David Eicher]: I would and you're absolutely right about him, of course and he was visionary in that way and really was focused on Mars ultimately and I think that one thing we are really taught of studying the history here and also talking to the living survivors who experienced it who are still around thank goodness. Going back to the Moon, going to Mars certainly, which will be orders of magnitude more dangerous and difficult and expensive, the future of manned space exploration is going to have to rely on international cooperation. This was a race, it was a [00:27:00] political race originally 50 years ago. It can't really be a binary political race in the future because the ambition is so great to do what ought to be done next. We really need an international cooperation between governments and private Industry all together to do, to accomplish the next big step in human exploration of the solar system.

[Mat Kaplan]: Well said David, thank you very much for this conversation. And for this great book.

[David Eicher]: Thank you so much for having me. It's really been a pleasure to be with you.

[Mat Kaplan]: The book is Mission Moon 3-D: A New Perspective on the Space Race by Brian May and David Eicher, we've been talking to over the last few minutes. It is from the MIT Press and is co-published by the London Stereoscopic Company, another work by Brian May. Time for What's Up? on Planetary Radio. Bruce Betts is the Chief Scientist for the Planetary Society. He is back to tell us about the night [00:28:00] sky and we'll have some fun along the way. Hey.

[Bruce Betts]: Hey, I ... Ho ... Hey ...

[Mat Kaplan]: I guess I'm not talking well today. You can though go ahead tell us, What's Up?

[Bruce Betts]: Evening sky got a nice lineup of planets, but she got to go early really low on the Western horizon shortly after sunset is Mercury. To its upper left is Saturn looking yellowish and to its upper left is Mars which continues to fade but still looking like a bright reddish star. Morning skies dominated by Venus looking super bright in the East and it is hanging out quite close to the bluish star Spica for the next couple weeks.

We move on to This Week In Space History. 1969, Apollo 12 landed on the Moon, second set of humans down on the Moon. About a year later Lunokhod 1 of the Soviet program became the first wheeled vehicle on the Moon. We move on [00:29:00] to Random Space Fact.

[Mat Kaplan]: That was nice, kind of operatic.

[Bruce Betts]: Kind of. So speaking of the Moon Zond 5, the Soviet Zond 5 was the first spacecraft to ever circle the Moon and return to land on Earth, that was in September of 1968. Flew around the Moon, closest distance was about a little less than 2,000 kilometers.

[Mat Kaplan]: I had no idea.

[Bruce Betts]: We'll come back to that in the trivia contest because there's more fun trivia having to do with Zond 5. Off to the trivia contest. I asked you, I said, before the Parker Solar Probe just broke the records for the closest spacecraft approach to the Sun and fastest spacecraft relative to the Sun, what spacecraft held those records? How'd we do Mat?

[Mat Kaplan]: People had some fun with this. A guy who's been entering for pretty much the last year, in fact almost exactly a [00:30:00] year just about every week, but here is his first win. It's John Rumph from Merritt Island, Florida. He says that that previous sun-grazer Was Helios 2, is he correct?

[Bruce Betts]: That is correct.

[Mat Kaplan]: John, congratulations. It was worth the wait I hope. You're going to get a Planetary Radio t-shirt a 200-point iTelescope.net account, more about those in a moment, and a signed copy of Bruce Betts new book Astronomy For Kids. Which when does it, when does the hardcover come out?

[Bruce Betts]: Whenever you make me a hardcover...

[Mat Kaplan]: Sorry

[Bruce Betts]: But the paperback version is out, is out. It came out November 13th.

[Mat Kaplan]: I thought it was about now. Okay, very good. Congratulations.

[Bruce Betts]: Thank you very much.

[Mat Kaplan]: It's a terrific book as people I'm sure if heard me say before if you've heard this program in the last few weeks. John we're going to send that your way. It's a signed copy by the way, signed by Bruce Betts best we could do. [00:31:00]

[Bruce Betts]: Sorry.

[Mat Kaplan]: Jordan Tipton in San Obispo, California. There were really two or two spacecraft, I guess Helios A and B, first spacecraft built outside the USA or USSR to leave Earth orbit. It was mostly a German project like 70% German 30% USA.

[Bruce Betts]: Yeah. It was a German-American couple of spacecraft and set the record in 1976,

[Mat Kaplan]: Mel Powell, a bunch of Californians today, Sherman Oaks, California, he somehow got access to the final transmission from Helios 2 and it...

[Bruce Betts]: Really?

[Mat Kaplan]: Yeah and it goes something like this, "I knew I should have slathered on more SPF 1 billion before I got this close to the ... " [fake static]. That was, that was static.

[Bruce Betts]: Remember, spacecraft, wear your sunscreen.

[Mat Kaplan]: Anna Madewell, not in California, in fact pretty far away in Wembley [00:32:00] Downs Australia. She said, "this week I have a bad cold, but Parker Space Probe facts keep my brain toasty warm."

[Bruce Betts]: I hope she's over her called now,

[Mat Kaplan]: Brian Morton in Bangor, not where you're thinking, Bangor, United Kingdom. He simply said, "Whoosh." And that's it.

[Bruce Betts]: All right. Well, it's time to go back to Zond 5. Not sure I quite asked this right biologically, but you'll get the idea. What were the most advanced creatures to fly around the Moon on Zond 5? They had various microorganisms, tiny little things. But what were the bigger critters that flew around the Moon and came back successfully alive? Go to planetary.org/radiocontest.

[Mat Kaplan]: Yes, and you have until the 21st. That's November 21st at 8 a.m. Pacific Time to get us this answer. Shades of the Planetary Society life [00:33:00] experiments ascending living things out and bringing them back.

[Bruce Betts]: Indeed it is. Theirs actually worked.

[Mat Kaplan]: Here are the prizes this time: a Planetary Radio t-shirt, no surprise there, you can have a look at it at chopshopstore.com in the Planetary Society store; a 200-point iTelescope.net astronomy account for that world-wide network of telescopes that you can operate from any place with an internet connection, pretty cool; and, from our guest this week David Eicher of Astronomy Magazine, Editor In Chief of Astronomy Magazine, and co-author of Mission Moon 3-D with Brian May as we were just talking with him about moments ago on the show. It is a copy of this beautiful hardcover book, with the 3-D glasses in this little clever in set in the on the inside back cover and it really [00:34:00] as people have already heard me say it's a terrific book. We will send it your way if you win the contest, in a couple of weeks. And I think that's it.

[Bruce Betts]: All right, everybody go out there look up the night sky and think about how much better paperbacks are than hardbacks. Thank you and good night.

[Mat Kaplan]: Well, they're much easier to put in your pocket, that's for sure. He is Bruce Betts, the Chief Scientist for the Planetary Society and the author of Astronomy With Kids. One of the finest paperbacks I have ever read, although I read it electronically.

[Bruce Betts]: But you won't... one of the finest electronically, nodule paperba... whatever. Thanks Mat.

[Mat Kaplan]: Thank you. And you join us every week here, you know on What's Up? Planetary Radio is produced by the Planetary Society in Pasadena, California and is made possible by its three-dimensional members, maybe four dimensional, eleven. MaryLiz Bender our Associate Producer. Josh Doyle composed our theme which was arranged and performed [00:35:00] by Pieter Schlosser. I'm Mat Kaplan, Ad Astra.

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