Photo: Johan Clausen
40 years ago today, Dec. 7, 1972, the astronauts of the Apollo 17 mission became the last people to launch into space and land on the Moon three days later.Even though we haven’t sent any astronauts to the Moon since Apollo 17, the Earth’s only natural satellite is still revealing tons of new information.
NASA’s recent mission to map the Moon’s gravity field, for example, found hidden volcanoes on the Moon.
That’s not the only recent Moon finding or interesting fact — here are some you may have missed.
Shoemaker was a geologist and astronomer who worked on several U.S. space missions and discovered about 20 comets and 800 asteroids along with his wife. He longed to be an astronaut, but was rejected because of medical problems.
A polycarbonate vial carrying an ounce on Shoemaker's ashes slammed into a moon crater burying him in the place he so badly wanted to go.
According to research particles of Moon dust are so small and jagged that if they get into the lungs it is likely that moon dust would cause airway inflammation, at best.
Researchers think moon dust is even more dangerous and cancerous to humans than regular dust because it has been exposed to the harsh radiation in space.
Apollo 17 commander Eugene Cernan was so sure humans would continue their lunar travels that he left his camera up there, thinking one day someone would return to the moon, grab the camera, and the glass deteriorated would tell scientists about solar radiation.
Cernan's camera is just one piece of the junk humans have left on the Moon, which weighs about 200 tons. Some of the other junk is just garbage, including astronaut poop, commemorative plaques, and dead lunar rovers, but other remains are actually useful.
NASA uses mirrors left on the moon to measure the distance between the Earth and the Moon.
Luckily Apollo 11 was a success and Nixon never had to read the speech he had prepared if it was a tragic failure. Below is an excerpt from the moving speech, the complete transcript can be read on The Daily.
They will be mourned by their families and friends; they will be mourned by the nation; they will be mourned by the people of the world; they will be mourned by a Mother Earth that dared send two of her sons into the unknown.
In their exploration, they stirred the people of the world to feel as one; in their sacrifice, they bind more tightly the brotherhood of man.
In ancient days, men looked at stars and saw their heroes in the constellations. In modern times, we do much the same, but our heroes are epic men of flesh and blood.
The space suits worn by the astronauts weighed 180 pounds, but only 30 pounds on the Moon.
Even with their own body weight and pounds of equipment, they still had trouble walking on the Moon because they were so light. The astronauts describe the difficulty of walking saying they had to be careful of where their centre of mass was to make sure their feet were still underneath them.
They ended up having to bunny-walk or horsey dance to get around.
The Apollo mission have successfully sent 12 people to the Moon including:
- Apollo 11 Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin
- Apollo 12 Pete Conrad and Alan Bean
- Apollo 14 Alan B. Shepard and Edgar Mitchell
- Apollo 15 David Scott and James Irwin
- Apollo 16 John Young and Charles Duke
- Apollo 17 Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmidt
We only see one side of the moon. That's because the gravitational pull of the Earth has slowed down the Moon's rotation so much that it matches our planet's orbit of 29.5 days.
If the moon did not rotate at all we would eventually see the far side.
The famous words everyone heard Neil Armstrong say was, 'That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,' but he actually meant to say 'for a man'.
Armstrong claimed the 'a' had been unheard because of technical difficulties, but after hearing the recording he admitted he forgot to say the 'a.'
Apollo astronauts placed seismometers on the Moon that measure the movements of the ground. The data indicated that there are several types of moonquakes including ones from the impact of meteors, the expansion of ice, and tides from the Earth's gravity pulling on the Moon about 450 miles under the surface.
The gravitational pull of the Moon pulls the water in the oceans toward it. The Moon creates a water bulge on the Earth and is the reason for the tides.
Full moons make the tide even bigger, and the full moon on Oct. 29 contributed to Superstorm Sandy's record-setting storm surge in New York and New Jersey.
Popular myths say the moon makes people crazy, even the word 'lunatic' with 'Luna' meaning moon suggest the moon makes people crazy.
A 1996 study on 150,000 emergency rooms showed that full moons did not mean more craziness, or more hospital visits, which researchers use as evidence proving that the full moon doesn't make people crazy.
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