The Earth and the Moon, as seen from Saturn. This image was taken yesterday by the Cassini Spacecraft. At the time, the spacecraft was about 1.44 billion km away from the Earth.
A fantastic time to remember Carl Sagan’s words:
That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives.
“I think we’re going to the moon because it’s in the nature of the human being to face challenges. It’s by the nature of his deep inner soul … we’re required to do these things just as salmon swim upstream.”
– Neil Armstrong
Neil Armstrong in the Lunar Module after having completed the first moonwalk. The picture was taken by Buzz Aldrin.
I just love that combined look of satisfaction, happiness, and excitement.
Neil Armstrong was a quiet self-described nerdy engineer who became a global hero when as a steely-nerved pilot he made “one giant leap for mankind” with a small step on to the moon. The modest man who had people on Earth entranced and awed from almost a quarter million miles away has died. He was 82.
Thank you Neil for inspiring me to look up at the Moon and to dream about the cosmos.
Really amazing to learn about how close the Apollo 11 landing was to failure.
I ventured outside to admire the supermoon.
Campanile and the Moon (Taken with instagram)
I wrote a new post over at MyMoon talking about the potential implications of Planetary Resources and their plans to mine asteroids. I am at the same time excited and hesitant about their purposes, and I am interested in learning about how other people feel about the ownership of objects in space. If you have any opinions about this, head over to MyMoon and write a comment.
For the past few weeks, I’ve been working with MyMoon as part of their Street Team. MyMoon is a website designed to promote the importance of the Moon, from art to science to human exploration. I’m incredibly excited to be a part of the team and am looking forward to celebrating and discussing the Moon on the website.
So far, I have a couple of blog posts up on MyMoon (here and here). There are also a great number of other interesting posts on the blog. Besides the blog, MyMoon also has occasional video webcasts, such as one by Dr. Brent Garry on Lunar Volcanism on April 18. Overall, the website is not just a source of content, but a community. You can contribute and discuss with others about Lunar science and exploration, and the role of the Moon in society in general.
The Moon occupies a special place in my life. Growing up, I would dream of working on space missions that would eventually reach the Moon. I voraciously read through everything I could find about the Apollo missions and the astronauts’ first hand accounts of the glorious landscape there. When my family got our first telescope, the Moon was the easiest and first target. The Moon essentially represented everything that existed beyond, the unknown waiting to be explored.
Most importantly, though, it taught me to look up more, to care about the rest of the universe beyond the Earth. Once I started to care about the Moon, the rest of the Solar System began to become an easier target to focus on. I wanted to know about Mars, or strange and giant planets like Jupiter and Uranus. Other planets also had moons, I found out, stranger than our own, each with their own unique characteristics. Our moon was just one of the many fantastic places beyond our planet, and as I slowly began to comprehend the vastness of the universe, I realized that the Earth was just one of those places, a tiny portion of the entire, grander cosmos.
Now, as I study bigger and much further away things, like pulsars and galaxies, I still remember my first stepping stone into the universe. It is still every bit as glorious and even more interesting than in my own first explorations. There is a lot that the Moon can teach us about our own planet and the Solar System. And as my story relates, the Moon can serve as a huge source of inspiration and discovery. I hope by contributing to MyMoon, I can help spread my same wonder and excitement about the universe beyond the planet.
The Ebb spacecraft of the NASA GRAIL mission recently returned the first video of the far side of the Moon. Something interesting to note about the video is the large number of craters marking up the far side, much more than we see on the side of the Moon facing the Earth. This is because the far side of the Moon is always facing away from the Earth so that asteroids and other objects are far more likely to impact the Moon on that side.
The GRAIL mission consists of two spacecrafts, named Ebb and Flow, orbiting around the Moon. Their main mission is to map the gravitational field of the Moon, which can subsequently help us better understand the Moon’s inner structure and composition.
Each spacecraft also has a camera, called the MoonKAM, and the above video captured on January 19 helped test this camera aboard Ebb. Ultimately, these cameras are intended to be used in a project that will let middle school students study particularly interesting features on the Moon.
Amy Teitel writes an overview of the realities of Newt Gingrich’s plans for the Moon. Despite the difficulties of Gingrich’s plans coming to reality, she draws attention to the underlying feeling of competition:
That statement evoked cheers from the crowd and sent shivers down my spine. The way forward is cooperation in space, not competition; the research station at the South Pole should be our model.
Lunar research, and space research in general, should not be carried out in international competition. Science should be the ultimate goal, not beating the other guys.