You might have heard about Apollo-11; it was, you know, the “giant leap for mankind.” It also taught us a lot in just over four hours. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin traveled hundreds of meters in the dusty lunar soil, collected more than 20 kilograms (44 pounds) of samples, and installed equipment that we are still using today.
So in honor of that incredible mission, here are just four of its most important discoveries.
1. There is no life on the Moon.
Remember this was back in 1969; we'd never been anywhere else but Earth, so we truly had no idea of what awaited us, and we didn't even know for some time after the Apollo crew returned home that they didn't bring back any tiny hitchhikers. Just to be safe, they were bathed in a solution of sodium hypochlorite and then quarantined for twenty-one days. Their command module was sanitized, and the raft with all the cleanup supplies was intentionally sunk to the bottom of the ocean.
But after extensive testing of the soil and rock samples the astronauts brought back, it turned out that there was no sign of life. All the materials were totally inorganic, and at the time, it seemed like there wasn’t even any water.
2. The Moon is actually a lot like Earth.
Before Apollo-11, we had no idea what the Moon even was. Could it be a chunk of space rock that had been captured by Earth's gravity, a piece of Earth that had broken off, or a giant ball of cheese? The truth is that we're still not totally sure, but we've learned how to read the clues thanks to Buzz and Neil.
Among the equipment they planted on the Moon was a seismometer which measured moonquakes by studying their seismic waves. What we discovered is that the Moon has layers much like Earth - there is a crust, a mantle, and a core, composed of materials much like Earth’s, but depleted in iron. The rocks and dirt that Apollo brought back also told us about the Moon's geologic history, particularly, the distinct ratios of oxygen isotopes similar to Earth rocks, which suggests they have a common origin.
3. Einstein was right.
Early in the twentieth century, Albert Einstein proposed the Strong Equivalence Principle: all forms of matter accelerate at the same rate in response to gravity. To prove this, Einstein calculated the exact orbit of the Moon, but from Earth, we weren't able to measure it precisely enough.
Then, Apollo-11 installed the lunar laser ranging array - a panel of a hundred small mirrors. By aiming a laser from Earth at this array and recording the time it took to reflect back, astronomers were able to measure for the first time the exact distance between the Earth and the Moon. It turned out that the Moon's orbit was the same shape and size predicted by Einstein to within one millimeter. And to this day, we still use that array to study the Moon's orbit
4. We are capable of amazing things.
Perhaps the most inspiring feat Apollo-11 brought back was that humankind can accomplish some amazing things. Whether we need to invent things like the first computer for large-scale integrated circuits or chips, develop a renewable efficient fuel source, or manufacture products like heat shields, dehydrated foods, and cordless tools. If there’s a will, there’s a way - this is something we have proven, time and time again.
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Source: This story was originally published on SciShow Space. I am republishing a lightly edited version on SkyFeed in light of interest on the subject. Green, Hank. "4 Important Lessons from the Apollo Moon Landing." SciShow Space, YouTube. 17 July 2014. Web video.
Citation: Rovira, Lia N. "Four Important Lessons from the Apollo Moon Landing." SkyFeed. 15 Aug, 2018. Web article.