It may be our nearest celestial neighbour, and throughout history has been the subject of great intrigue, but how much do we really know about the Moon?
With renewed interest in lunar exploration following the news that an international competition is seeking to land a robot on its surface, and as the world speculates whether the Moon could one day be colonised, publisher Haynes has this month released a comprehensive guide to the Earth’s only natural satellite.
Featuring a wealth of illustrations and photographs, the Moon Owners’ Workshop Manual explains in simple and straightforward terms what has been discovered about the Moon over the centuries. It also explores the spacecraft used in more recent years that have revolutionised our understanding of its surface and structure.
A dedicated section of the manual focuses on the Moon’s surface, providing a detailed explanation of the origin of lunar craters, and examining the rocks and dusty material that give the Moon its distinctive appearance.
Authored by space historian David M. Harland, the manual explores how the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, sent to the Moon in 2009, confirmed the presence of water. A stage of the Orbiter’s launch rocket was deliberately crashed into the Moon’s surface, releasing a 1,000-tonne cloud of material that was analysed by sensors on spacecraft and on Earth.
The manual provides a comprehensive overview of each significant exploratory mission to the Moon and the discoveries they made, including an in-depth look at another major scientific discovery – the existence of the ‘Mountain of Eternal Light’. This elevated terrain close to the Moon’s south pole appears to be in almost continuous sunlight, meaning it could be used to harness solar power to assist future missions, and would not subject astronauts or equipment to the extremes of temperature that have caused serious operational problems on past missions.
The presence of water-ice in polar craters that are never lit by the Sun, and a nearby mountain that is always illuminated, will greatly assist the establishment of a base of operations for a renewal of human exploration of the Moon.
Examining the lead-up to the famous Apollo lunar landings of 1969 – the first manned operations to the Moon – and the discoveries made on the these first visits and subsequent Apollo missions, the manual concludes by looking ahead to the future of lunar exploration and argues that the Moon will serve as a ‘stepping stone’ to destinations beyond.
Author David Harland commented: “From ancient pagan rituals and classical philosophy to the Renaissance and modern scientific discovery, the Moon has played a pivotal role in shaping cultures throughout the history of mankind.
“Our understanding of the Moon accelerated rapidly from the 1960s onwards when lunar exploration usurped the traditional realm of telescopic astronomers, and we now know a great deal about the Moon’s surface and how its natural resources could one day support human occupation.
“This manual is aimed at providing an accessible and easy-to-understand explanation of complex topics, including how the Moon gives us insights into the force of gravity, to deepen readers’ understanding of the Moon and its impact on the Earth.”
About the author
David M. Harland has written extensively about space and astronautics with two dozen books to his name. These include the highly regarded Exploring the Moon: The Apollo Expeditions and Apollo 11: The First Men on the Moon. He also authored How NASA Learned to Fly in Space: An Exciting Account of the Gemini Missions, and co-authored the Haynes NASA Gemini Manual.
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