The prospect of when, or even if, NASA astronauts will return to the Moon has been a subject of much debate in recent years. Some experts see it as a necessary stepping stone before future Mars missions. Others see it as a case of “been there, done that.”
Images taken by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter have helped to answer a long-standing question about the old Apollo landing sites on the Moon – are any of the flags planted there by the astronauts still standing today? It turns out that yes, almost all of them are.
For hundreds of years, people have seen tiny flashes of light on the surface of the Moon. Very brief, but bright enough to be seen from Earth, these odd flashes still hadn’t been adequately explained up until now. Also known as Transient Lunar Phenomena (TLPs), they’ve been observed on many occasions, but rarely photographed. On Earth, meteorites burning up in the atmosphere can produce similar flashes, but the Moon has no atmosphere for anything to burn up in, so what could be causing them? As it turns out, according to a new study, the answer is still meteorites, but for a slightly different reason…
Two researchers at Arizona State University (ASU) have made a rather controversial proposal: have the public and other researchers study the high-resolution photographs of the Moon already being taken by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), to look foranomalies that may possibly be evidence of artifacts leftover from previous alien visitation. The theory is that if our solar system had been visited in the past, the Moon would have made an ideal base from which to study the Earth. The paper has just been recently published in the journal Acta Astronautica…
The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter is the “twin” of the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, taking the highest resolution images ever from orbit of the Moon and Mars. There are some differences of course, but both spacecraft are revolutionizing our understanding of these worlds. Tomorrow, the GRAIL spacecraft will be launched to the Moon. These two probes, even more like actual twins, will both orbit the Moon in tandem to study its interior and thermal history.
Will these new images finally satisfy those who insist the moon landings were faked? Probably not. All of the anomalies cited in the photos and videos taken by the astronauts have been found to have prosaic explanations, even if some were not widely known or initially understood (and that is an entire subject in itself). We did go to the moon, and these images are a record of that achievement, even after so many years later.
The spacecraft Juno, now enroute to Jupiter, took a photo looking back at the Earth and Moon as it speeds away. It was about 9.66 million kilometers (6 million miles) away at the time, and will take another five years to get to Jupiter. In the image below, Earth is on the left and the moon is on the right. There have been pictures like this taken by other spacecraft before, but this reminds us again that everything in Earth’s history has occurred on that tiny “pale blue dot” floating in the infinite blackness of space.
On a side note, I’ve been wondering why we always tend to refer to the Moon as just “the moon” when its name is Luna. I mean, we call all of the other planets, moons, etc. by their proper names. Just a random thought!
This is interesting; the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has photographed the first known naturally forming bridges on the moon. Natural bridges on Earth usually result from wind and water erosion, so just how these ones formed on the airless moon isn’t clear yet, but a collapsed lava tube is thought to be the most likely answer.