Since we’re going to the Moon together during the To The Moon Virtual Relay, we thought you might enjoy a few fun facts on our nearest Solar System neighbor and the journey between here and there. 3, 2, 1, liftoff!
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- The Moon is 2,158 miles (3,473 kilometers) in diameter, or about 27% of the Earth’s diameter.
- The Moon’s orbit is elliptical, so as it makes its journey around the Earth each month-ish, its distance from us varies. That’s why we say that the average distance between the Earth and Moon is 238,900 miles (384,400 kilometers).
- While the Moon is our nearest space neighbor, it’s still far enough that one could stack 30 Earths in the distance in between!
- Venus is the closest planet to the Earth, and on Solar System models it looks pretty close. In actuality, the closest the two planets come to each other is about 25,000,000 miles (40 million kilometers). If you’re keeping track, that’s about 105 times the distance between the Earth and Moon.
- Scientists believe the Moon is 4.51 billion years old and younger than the Solar System by about 60 million years. The current favored Moon formation theory is that it was created when a planetesimal crashed into a young Earth.
- The Moon’s craters are so recognizable, and there may be millions all over its surface. More than 300,000 large craters have been identified just on the near side of the Moon, the side which faces the Earth.
- It’s going to take a whole community of runners and walkers a week to travel the miles between the Earth and Moon, but it took the Apollo 11 astronauts a little over 3 days to make the journey there for the first time in 1969. The Apollo 11 mission was part of the Apollo Moon exploration program, which brought a total of 12 astronauts to walk on the Moon over its various missions from 1969 to 1972.
- While the USA’s Apollo 11 mission often rises to the top of historical memory because it was the first mission where humans landed and walked on the moon, Russia’s unoccupied Luna 2 spacecraft was the first craft to make a moon landing on September 14, 1959.
- Since the USA-Russia Space Race of the 1950s and 1960s, a number of additional countries have engaged in Moon exploration, including China, India, Israel, Japan, Israel, and Luxembourg, as well as the multi-national European Space Agency. However, no humans have visited the Moon since the Apollo 17 mission in 1972.
- Until soon, maybe? Artemis is the USA’s newest Moon exploration program, which started in 2017 with the goal of getting the first woman and the next man to the Moon by 2024. Currently more than a half-dozen missions have been proposed in this program. It’s named after the Greek goddess Artemis who was the twin sister of Apollo. In Greek mythology, Artemis is the goddess of the natural environment, including the Moon.
- Could we be entering a new space-race era? Entities from eight total countries–including both government organizations and private companies–are planning Moon explorations in the next half decade, though only a couple of the planned programs will have humans on board and no others besides Artemis seem to be working toward a lunar landing. The SpaceX program might be the flashiest of the other humans-on-board missions, and their #dearMoon project hopes to offer private space tourism.