Why does the moon constantly captivate us?
Why does the moon constantly captivate us? Humanity has been enthralled with its celestial friend for millennia. Space.com is looking at what we know about the moon and why it’s important as NASA’s Artemis 1 mission prepares to launch to the moon this month. Join us for our special Moon Week update as Artemis 1 approaches.
Theia was a Mars-sized astronomical entity that collided with a young, molten Earth some 4.5 billion years ago, nearly destroying it. But from the rubble left behind by this catastrophe, a new Earth and moon emerged. (Or at least that is how the dominant hypothesis of lunar origin puts it.
When humanity eventually arrived, we developed a deep fascination with the moon. It is not surprising that ancient societies all over the world were interested in the moon and included it in a variety of myths and stories because the moon is a constantly visible but always changing object in the sky. Lunar goddesses have been prevalent throughout human history, from the Greek goddess Selene to the Chinese goddess Chang’e.
But ancient societies also saw the moon as a useful instrument. The moon’s cycle lasts 29.5 days, or roughly one month, whereas the rising and setting of the sun signify the passage of a single day. Naturally, it’s a useful technique to determine how much time has passed. For example, many indigenous peoples of North America gave each full moon a name based on the seasonal occurrences it was linked with, such as floral blooms and harvests, as well as animal behavior. And such names are still in use today.
Although there is evidence that early astronomers thought about the moon, in the fifth century B.C., the Greek philosopher Anaxagoras proposed the theory that the moon was rocky and Earth-like.
Galileo’s first telescope had a 3x magnification, making it one of the less effective early telescopes. The moon was a key focus for astronomers from the 17th to the early 20th century, who created maps of its surface and finally even took photographs of it since it is the closest celestial body to us and therefore the simplest to study with less powerful telescopes.
Science fiction even participated in some lunar fun around this time. A sort of early science fiction story called “Somnium,” written by Johannes Kepler in the 16th century, imagined what the Earth would have looked like from the moon. The main character, also named Cyrano, tries to fly to the moon to meet its inhabitants in Cyrano de Bergerac’s “The Other World: The Comical History of the States and Empires of the World of the Moon.” With Georges Méliès’ “Le voyage dans la lune,” also known as “a trip to the moon,” science fiction made the transition from the written word to the motion picture in 1902.
During the space race, fiction turned into reality. Despite the fact that the then-hostile rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union had its origins in nuclear warfare based on ballistic missiles, the ambitions soon shifted to spaceflight, culminating in Sputnik becoming the first artificial satellite in history in 1957, and eventually to the American moon landing in 1969. During this time, the moon was a source of both national pride and human progress.
The Apollo program of NASA became a worldwide phenomenon. According to NASA, 650 million people watched the television broadcast of Apollo 11’s lunar landing in 1969. The five subsequent Apollo flights that came afterward sparked a fresh interest in the moon and made it possible for new research by delivering moon rocks to Earth-based labs. Some of those pebbles have experienced more exciting journeys.
According to Joseph Gutheinz, an attorney who formerly worked undercover for NASA to recover stolen moon rocks, some people are so fascinated by owning something that humanity has brought back from space that they are prepared to steal it or possess it. Gutheinz made this statement to Space.com
As NASA concentrated on other areas of space exploration and study, such as the International Space Station (ISS) and Mars rovers, the fixation with the moon began to fade after the Apollo era.
But now, not just in the United States but also in other nations, there is a resurgence of interest in the moon. Currently, two countries operate spacecraft on the lunar surface or in orbit: China is in charge of two landers and the Yutu-2 rover on the moon’s far side, and India is in charge of the Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft in orbit. Other countries, including Japan, Russia, and the United Arab Emirates, plan to launch moon missions in the coming years.South Korea’s Danuri orbiter is now traveling to the moon.
Even NASA is going back to the location of one of its greatest accomplishments.
The Lunar Gateway, an orbiting station that will serve as the launch pad for future crewed expeditions to deep space, including Mars, is something that NASA plans to construct in addition to a permanent facility on the moon. “It’s a harsh, lifeless world like a blank canvas that is just out of reach for most of us, save for a select few. A blank canvas awaits the artist’s creativity. “