Today marks the 50th anniversary of the lunar landing dress rehearsal flight Apollo 10.
Astronauts Tom Stafford, John Young and Gene Cernan took their lunar module nicknamed ‘Snoopy’ (the command module was nicknamed ‘Charlie Brown’)down to within 50,000 feet of the lunar surface, testing every aspect of performance of the craft especially the descent engine and rendezvous capability. The actual landing came just two months later with Apollo 11.
Flight management provided only enough fuel in the Lunar Module to fly down to 50,000 ft and back to the command module. Why? They felt that Cernan and Young – both military test pilots – would probably try to reach the surface if they’d had enough fuel !
Young and Cernan flew on subsequent missions to the moon; Stafford flew on Apollo Soyuz.
Blue Moon’ is the latest entry into the lunar race. It’s a 7,000-lb., 14ft tall landing vehicle designed by engineers at Blue origin space group.
Currently, such a lander doesn’t exist but Blue Origin believes it’s already solved most of the challenges involved in assembling a workable lunar lander system.
NASA names new missions to the moon after Apollo’s twin sister Artemis (Greek mythology’s goddess of the moon and the hunt. Orion was her hunting buddy). Cites the new diversity in the program and indicates that the 2024 return to the moon will include women.
But we’d better go soon because the moon is shrinking! Not quickly by any means and not so as to change in any major observable way. Scientists looking at seismic data from sensors placed on the moon by Apollo 11, 12, 14, 15, 16 have determined that the moon is still shrinking as its interior cools from its creation 4.4 billion years ago. A re-analysis of data collected from the seismometers from 1968- 1977 combined with images from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, a lunar orbiting satellite that’s been imaging the surface of the moon for more than 5 years, shows co-location between moonquake epicenters and thrust scarps on the lunar surface. As the interior cools and shrinks, the brittle outer crust squeezes, then throws one section over another section, creating stair-shaped cliffs.
Mars is still hanging in the west sky at 9:00pm almost an hour after sunset. Jupiter rises now around midnight and Tuesday morning the moon and Jupiter rise together. Between 4:42am and 4:47am, International Space Station flies past the moon AND Jupiter. If the sky is clear, it will be a very cool sight! Stay up a few more minutes and see Saturn to the left of Jupiter.