Moon Exploration

by Jeanette Cain

More articles in Solar System

Possibly for as long as humans have looked to the night sky they have wondered about the moon and dreamed of visiting, or living, there or other planets in the known solar system. Mankind's dreams were beginning to take shape in the mid 20th century. Luna 1 was the first spacecraft to ever leave the Earth's gravity. In 1959, it was sent in the direction of the moon. This began a ten year race between the Russians and the Americans to begin space exploration. This exploration began with probes, then robots, and finally a spacecraft carrying the first humans to the moon and then landing on the moon's surface. As mankind began to settle into a "What other planets can we visit?" attitude, a new space mission was begun. After returning to the moon in the 1990's, science has developed plans for constructing lunar bases on the moon's surface. This is when astronauts will begin to live and work on the moon's surface.

The United States began its Apollo Program in 1961. It was intended to send astronauts to the moon before the 1960's ended. In 1964, the United States Ranger 7 crashed to the Moon's surface and returned to Earth with 4,308 photographs. These were the first close-up photographs ever taken of Earth's moon. The Russian Luna 9 sent the first television pictures back to Earth in 1966. (Two Russian robot vehicles-Lunokhod 1 ∓mp; 2, explored the Moon from 1970 through 1973.) The first astronauts to make ten orbits around the Moon were on Apollo 8 in 1968. For astronauts to land on the surface, a specially designed rocket was built and constructed just for that event- the Saturn V. Apollo 11 - the starting point.

In 1969, Apollo 11 had sent six missions to land on the lunar surface. Neil Armstrong was the first person to set foot on the Moon and then walk upon its surface. Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the Moon's near-side at 102 hours 45 minutes after the Saturn V rocket had launched from Cape Canaveral. Mike Collins, the third astronaut, stayed in orbit, waiting for his two crew members to return before returning to Earth. This mission, in 1969, brought back to Earth samples of rock and soil. During these years 388 kg of rock and soil were brought back to the Earth and 12 astronauts had experienced space exploration on the Moon's surface.

Apollo missions had performed many scientific experiments while visiting, but some equipment was left to relay results back to Earth. These astronauts measured movements in the lunar crust, moonquakes, and solar particle amounts that reached the Moon. In 1970, the first robotic automated samplings of Moon rock and soil was accomplished by the Russian Luna 16 spacecraft.

Recently, Clementine and Prospector, lunar probes launched in 1994 and 1998, respectively, discovered possible evidence of ice water hiding in the craters of the lunar polar regions. It is believed that this may be the result of comets crashing into the Moon's surface. There are ideas of melting it to provide the personnel of a lunar base with water. It might be conceivable of breaking it down into oxygen, which would give astronauts air for breathing and hydrogen for rocket fuels.

Phases of Saturn V's Liftoff From Cape Canaveral:

After launching from Cape Canaveral, Saturn V's engines will fire sending the Apollo aircraft toward the Moon. Other parts of the rocket will be discarded, but the service, command, and lunar modules will continue traveling toward the Moon. Arriving in orbit, the lunar module will go to the Moon's surface, while the command and service modules stay in orbit waiting for the return of the lunar module. After the astronauts link, they abandon the lunar module. The closer to Earth they come will cause the command module to separate from the service module. The command module will enter the Earth's atmosphere at 120 km, before the parachute of the craft opens and then lands in the ocean.

1.Editors. Secrets of the Universe. International Master Publishing: US. 1999

2.Couper, Heather and Nigel Henbest. Space Encyclopedia DK Publishing, Inc.: NY 1999