When the Apollo astronauts landed on the Moon, they had to perform tasks in 1/6th of Earth’s gravity. At first, walking and working in this low gravity environment posed some challenges. However, the astronauts soon adapted and figured out that hopping like a bunny made it easier to get around.
The Artemis astronauts will also need to adapt to life on the Moon, and to that end, ESA has built a unique facility in a 17-meter (55 ft.) refurbished ventilation shaft.
NASA’s Apollo program most notably explored the Moon. But it also helped us study the Earth as well, as it provided some of the first high-resolution images of our whole planet, like the famous “Blue Marble” photo taken by the Apollo 17 astronauts.
However, these full-Earth photos revealed a mystery. Scientists expected that Earth’s two hemispheres, the north and south, would have different albedos, a difference in the amount of light they reflect. This is because Earth’s northern and southern hemispheres of Earth are quite different from each other. The southern hemisphere is mostly covered with dark oceans, while the northern hemisphere contains vast land areas that are much brighter than the oceans
Yet, when observing Earth from space, the two hemispheres appear equally bright.
This symmetry in brightness has been a puzzle for over 50 years. But now, a new study shows that the albedos are roughly the same because of the increased clouds and storms in the southern hemisphere.
Before going to the Moon, the Apollo astronauts trained at various sites on Earth that best approximated the lunar surface, such as the volcanic regions Iceland and Hawaii and deserts in the US Southwest. To help prepare for upcoming robotic and human Artemis missions, a newly upgraded “mini-Moon” lunar testbed will allow astronauts and robots to test out realistic conditions on the Moon including rough terrain and unusual sunlight.
Former NASA astronaut Jim McDivitt, who commanded the important Gemini IV and Apollo 9 missions – both crucial for NASA’s ability to reach the Moon — has died at age 93. His family said he passed away peacefully in his sleep on October 13, 2022.
Ever wonder what happened to all those collections of rocks and dust the Apollo astronauts brought back from the Moon? Some of those lunar samples were studied right away. Others made their way into a few museums and science centers and the desks of world leaders. Still others landed in storage at NASA Johnson’s Space Center in Houston. Some got stored at room temperature while others were put into a deep freeze. The idea was to preserve any traces of gases or water or possibly organic materials on them. Now, some of these lunar samples are at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, where they’re under examination for the first time in 50 years using new techniques not available during the Apollo years.
NASA’s Apollo missions to the Moon brought back about 382 kilograms (842 pounds) of samples, including rocks, rock cores, rock, pebbles, sand, and dust. Scientists have studied those samples intently over the decades and have learned a lot. But they haven’t studied all of the samples.
In an impressive act of foresight, NASA left some of the samples unopened and in pristine condition. Why? Because they knew the technology used to study the samples would only improve over the decades.
Jerry Woodfill, an engineer who worked diligently behind the scenes during NASA’s Apollo program, has passed away at age 79. Jerry was still employed by the Johnson Space Center (JSC) at the time of his death, working there for over 57 years. Most notably, Jerry worked as the lead engineer behind the Caution and Warning System on the Apollo spacecraft, which alerted astronauts to issues such as Apollo 11’s computer problems during the first Moon landing, and the explosion of Apollo 13’s oxygen tanks.
While continuing his work as an engineer at JSC, Jerry’s infectious enthusiasm for spaceflight led him to also be part of NASA’s public and educational outreach, where he spearheaded programs for children, teachers and adults about science and space flight. He routinely gave over 40 lectures a year, both in person and online to listeners around the world. His unique sense of humor and sometimes unabashed showmanship could hold even the shortest of young attention spans. Jerry usually had his audiences either in stitches or fully captivated by his stories.
Internal geological processes on the moon are almost non-existent. However, when it gets smacked by a space rock, its surface can change dramatically. Debris from that impact can also travel over large distances, transplanting material from one impact site hundreds of kilometers away, where it can remain untouched in its inert environment for billions of years.
So when Apollo 17 astronauts took regolith samples at their landing site near Serenitatis Basin, they collected not only rocks from the basin itself, but from other impacts that had happened billions of years ago. Differentiating material that actually formed part of the Basin from material that landed their after an impact has proven difficult.
We bid a reluctant but truly fond farewell today to Michael Collins. The NASA astronaut passed away at the age of 90 on April 28, 2021. Collins flew on the historic Apollo 11 mission in 1969, and also on Gemini 10 in 1966.
As Command Module Pilot, Collins was the lone member of the Apollo 11 crew who remained in orbit while his fellow astronauts became the first to land and walk on the Moon. But his endearing nature means he will be most remembered for his wit and humor, his passion and humbleness, his unflappable demeanor, his thoughtful contemplations, and the inspiring words he left behind as a writer of several books.
Legendary NASA flight director Glynn Lunney has passed away at age 84. Lunney played a key role in the early days of NASA, helping to create the concept and operation of what we now reverently know as Mission Control. His calm decisiveness was lauded during the Gemini and Apollo missions he guided as flight director, and his leadership was especially pivotal in bringing the crew of Apollo 13 safely back to Earth.