Exploring the Lunar Surface

With a complicated launch manifest on the range in Florida, LRO/LCROSS has already had to wait its turn behind other launches. The latest space shuttle mission to the International Space Station delayed LRO and LCROSS launch once more with a leaking hydrogen valve. Summer weather at Cape Canaveral is fraught with thunderstorms that could challenge a launch, but with any luck, technology and weather will cooperate and the lunar missions will get to take off just a couple of days behind schedule.

Even so the moon is back in our sights. We know many facts about the moon, more than we know about any world beyond our own except perhaps Mars, yet we have barely begun to solve its countless mysteries. Our nearest neighbor is a witness to 4.5 billion years of solar system history, and it has recorded that history more completely than any other planetary body. Nowhere else can we see back with such clarity to the time when Earth and other terrestrial planets were formed and life emerged. Since we’ve already been to the moon, why go back? Most don’t realize that we’ve only scratched the surface as far as our closest celestial neighbor is concerned.

Whatever happens with launch this week, there is high anticipation for these first NASA steps back to the moon in many years. They are the precursors to a much broader knowledge of our neighbor and a potential human return to the moon. It won’t be long before we can look up at the moon, and who doesn’t nearly every day, and know that LRO is bathing the companion of our night sky with its laser altimeter and opening the wide eyes of its cameras for what are sure to be astounding views. And we can look forward to an October fireworks show as LCROSS impacts the moon and exposes minerals that have been hiding for billions of years. Even if you don’t live in an area where the impact is visible, the streaming images online are going to be amazing.

Only by returning to the moon to carry out new scientific explorations and prepare for a potential human return can we hope to narrow the gaps in understanding and learn the secrets that the moon has kept for eons.

7 thoughts on “Exploring the Lunar Surface”


  2. The mars spacecraft MRO could take a picture of the rover on the planet. Do you know if the lunar spacecraft LRO can be able to see the lem and the car that apollo mission let on the moon.

  3. From what I heard from the podcasts is that the LRO will be taking pictures of all the Apollo landing sites (the entire moon actually). They are hopeful to get Apollo 11 before July in time for the 40th anniversary!

  4. The Moon is much smaller (~38 km) in diameter and much closer (about 64,000 miles) than NASA teaches.

    When is the Truth going to come up, anyway? Are we ALL STUPID?


  5. When I REFRESH, all I get is errors, and my honest reply not only doesn’t appear, nothing moves forward.

    This is SILENT CENSORSHIP, the sign of Fascist NOT-SEE intrusion into free speech.

    You shall not prevail.

  6. No Emily, we’re not all stupid. First off, you talk about what “NASA teaches” when NASA is primarily a research organization and any teaching it does is peripheral to its main public mission. Many of the people who teach about the Moon’s dimensions and average distance from Earth are professors at private universities independent of the government and those professors have no motivation to misinform their students. In fact, if they were misinforming students, they would likely lose their positions as they would be diminishing those schools’ reputations by doing so. Second, the average distance to the Moon is calculated using parallax, the same way the distance to many other celestial bodies is calculated, and this distance can be (and has been) verified independently without expensive observing equipment. You could even verify it yourself if you were so inclined. The Moon’s diameter can then be extrapolated using this average distance value and the number of degrees of arc of the celestial sphere it occupies as seen from Earth. Scientists first made these measurements a long time before NASA even existed.

    I appreciate your critical spirit, and I think we would all be better off if everyone were a little more skeptical about the “official line”, but it’s also important to follow up your initial questioning with reason and independent research to get to the truth.

    Paul Kotlar, Ph.D.

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