fun facts

lesser-known Moon trivia

As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apolo 11 and this days’ full moon phase, let me introduce you to 11 lesser-known Moon trivia.

Remember, deeply inhale the O2,  it’s just a phase.

1. The moon has its own time zone

You haven’t been exactly thinking about this in your (spare?) Instagram scrolling time, but — it’s possible to tell time on the moon. In fact, back in 1970, the company Helbros Watches asked Kenneth L. Franklin — who for many years was the chief astronomer at New York’s Hayden Planetarium — to design a watch for moonwalkers that measures time in what he called lunations.

A lunation was the period it takes the moon to rotate and revolve around the Earth; each one counts for exactly 29.530589 Earth days. A lunar hour was defined as a lunour, and decilunourscentilunours and millilunours were also introduced.

2. 2019 unmanned lunar missions: China, Israel, and India

Chang’e 4 is a robotic spacecraft mission, part of the second phase of the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program. It achieved the first soft landing on the far side of the Moon, on 3 January 2019. The mission is named after Chang’e, the Chinese Moon goddess. The robotic lander and Yutu 2 (Jade Rabbit No. 2) rover were launched on 7 December 2018 and entered lunar orbit on 12 December 2018, before landing on the Moon’s far side.

Baresheet was the first Israeli and first privately funded lunar lander mission and technology demonstration (Its aims included promoting careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) Instrumentation included a magnetometer and laser retroreflector. Spacecraft crashed on 22 February 2019 into the lunar surface after main engine failure during descent from lunar orbit phase.

Chandrayaan-2 is India’s second lunar exploration mission after Chandrayaan-1. Developed by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), the mission was launched from the second launch pad at Satish Dhawan Space Centre on 22 July 2019 to the Moon. It consists of a lunar orbiter, a lander, and a lunar rover named Pragyan, all of which were developed in India. The main scientific objective is to map the location and abundance of lunar water.

3. Space garbage

Not only do people litter our own planet home, but we do it even in space abundantly. For example, we left more than just a flagpole on the moon. Poop. We left poop. There is currently 96 bags of human waste on the Moon, left behind by Apollo astronauts.

This discarded junk included, among other things, two golf balls, 12 cameras, 12 pairs of boots, a gold-plated telescope, and a total of 96 bags of ‘human waste’. They threw out the garbage thinking everything would be sanitized by the solar radiation. Scientists don’t know if the microbes in the now sixty-year-old moon poop are still alive, but future moon missions will investigate that.

Neil Armstrong also left a golden olive branch on the Moon, an ancient Greek and Arabic symbol of peace and victory. And don’t forget his footprints are still there too. The Apollo astronauts’ footprints on the moon will probably stay there for at least 1 million years since there’s no wind or water to erode or wash away the Apollo astronauts’ mark on the moon, but erosion is still happening on the moon, just very slowly by “micrometeorites”. The challenge might be protecting those things from future souvenir hunters.

4. The Moon is drifting away from the Earth

The Moon is moving approximately 3.8 cm away from our home planet every year. It is estimated that it will continue to do so for around 50 billion years. By the time that happens, the Moon will be taking around 47 days to orbit the Earth instead of the current 27.3 days.

As it spins and orbits our planet, the moon is slowly drifting away from us. It moves about 3.8 centimeters away every year. That means the Moon used to be much closer to the Earth (and would’ve appeared much larger in the sky). Today, the moon is more than 450,500 kilometers from our planet. When it first formed, researchers estimate that Moon was just 22,000 kilometers away from Earth.

5. Moon weight goals

The Moon has much weaker gravity than Earth — due to its smaller mass — so you would weigh about one-sixth (16.5%) of your weight on Earth. This is why the lunar astronauts could leap and bound so high in the air — their muscles are still very much strong, but bodyweight is way, way lower.

6. 12 Angry Men (all American) — on the Moon

The first man to set foot on the Moon in 1969 was Neil Armstrong on the Apollo 11 mission, while the last man to walk on the Moon in 1972 was Gene Cernan with the Apollo 17.

Since then, the Moon has only been visited by unmanned vehicles.

As we celebrate these days’ full moon, and of course the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission, it’s the perfect time to remember or get to know, the only 12 people who ever walked on a body other than planet Earth: Neil Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, Charles “Pete” Conrad, Alan L. Bean, Alan Shepard, Edgar D. Mitchel, David Scott, James B. Erwin, John Watts Young, Charles M. Duke Jr., Harrison “Jack” Schmitt, and again, Eugene E. Cernan.

7. Moon burial for geologist

Eugene “Gene” Shoemaker, a famous astronomer and geologist, was something of a legend in his field. He invented the scientific research of cosmic impacts and came up with the methods and techniques that Apollo astronauts used to research the Moon. The fun fact is that Shoemaker wanted to be an astronaut himself, but was turned down because of a minor medical issue. Throughout his life, this remained his biggest disappointment. Still, hoping against hope, Shoemaker kept on dreaming that he would someday visit the Moon. When he died, NASA fulfilled his most precious wish and sent his ashes to the Moon with the Lunar Prospector in 1998. His ashes remain there, scattered among moon dust.

8. The Moon has an atmosphere, but…

Until recently, almost everyone accepted the conventional wisdom that the moon has virtually no atmosphere.

Well, nope.

Just as the discovery of water on the moon transformed our textbook knowledge of Earth’s nearest celestial neighbor, recent studies confirm that our moon does indeed have an atmosphere consisting of some unusual gases, including sodium and potassium, which are not found in the atmospheres of Earth, Mars or Venus.

It’s an extremely small amount of air — when compared to Earth’s atmosphere. At sea level on Earth, we breathe in an atmosphere where each cubic centimeter contains 10,000,000,000,000,000,000 molecules; by comparison, the lunar atmosphere has less than 1,000,000 molecules in the same volume. That still sounds like a lot, but it is what we consider to be a very good vacuum on Earth.

9. Russians on the Moon — The first spacecraft to reach the Moon was Luna 1 in 1959

Luna 1, also known as Mechta (Russian: Dream), E-1 No.4, and First Lunar Rover, was the first spacecraft to reach the vicinity of the Earth’s Moon, and the first spacecraft to be placed in heliocentric orbit. Intended as an impactor, Luna 1 was launched as part of the Soviet Luna program in 1959, however, due to an incorrectly timed upper stage burn during its launch, it missed the Moon, in the process becoming the first spacecraft to leave geocentric orbit.

10. Moon, we’ll meet again. In 2024.

When Eugene Cernan stepped off the moon in 1972 with Apolo 17 mission, he left his footprints and his daughter’s initials in the lunar dust. He was the eleventh man and the last man on the Moon. Since then, 47 years and counting passed, and no human has reached the surface of the Earth’s satellite. But, here comes NASA. The agency is committed to landing American astronauts, including the first woman and the next man, on the Moon *again* by 2024. Through the agency’s Artemis lunar exploration program (named after the mythological twin sister of Apollo), NASA will use innovative new technologies and systems to explore more of the Moon than ever before.

11. During the 1950s the USA considered detonating a nuclear bomb on the Moon

The secret project was during the height cold war was known as “A Study of Lunar Research Flights” or “Project A119” and meant as a show of strength at a time they were lagging behind in the space race.

12. “Lucky” number 13

Apollo Lunar Mission number 13, which was aborted while en route to the moon in 1970 because of an explosion of a fuel cell in the service module, left the launch pad at 13:13 (CST) hours military time and the accident occurred on April 13.

13. Made of green cheese?

As of 1988, the U.S. census bureau determined that a stunning 13% of the population believe that some portion of the earth’s moon is actually comprised of cheese. Even NASA couldn’t resist getting in on the fun. On April Fool’s Day 2002, the administration claimed to have “proven” once and for all that the moon was made of cheese by releasing a photoshopped image with an expiration date printed on one of its craters.

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