Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Moon missions

Wikipedia indicates that the manned U.S. flights to the Moon all took place from 1969-1972. First of all, it really is very politically incorrect that we refer to "manned" missions.  Even though it happened that all the astronauts who went to the Moon were men, the term "personned" really would have been much more enlightened. I had been under the impression that there were something like 2-3 trips; apparently, there were six. I believed that the Soviets had landed on the Moon several times, but apparently, they never did. It seems a bit perplexing that so many missions were done in such a short time period with none to follow afterward.  Wouldn't NASA have wanted to spend more time between missions to make improvements based on what had been learned on previous trips and technological advances that had taken place?  Please don't get me wrong--I am not suggesting another personned Moon trip now or in the near future; there probably isn't all that much that could be gained for such an expensive endeavor, but it really seems a bit wasteful to run six missions so close in time.

In July of 1975, the Apollo–Soyuz Test Project took place--a trip that involved some cooperation between the U.S. and the Soviet Union with simultaneous space missions.  I had thought this was a Moon mission--at the time, when I was something like eleven years old, I probably could not have imagined any other reason for going up into space.  I certainly would not have understood the idea of going into orbit of the Earth or any other body.  I could not understand why so many people seemed to be so excited about another Moon trip since we had been there before. It all seemed rather routine. And it turned out that they had actually been excited about something even less eventful!  How pathetic!  In any event, this may be why I thought the Soviets had landed on the Moon.

Sadly, this is not the first time my beliefs about astronomy have proven erroneous.  At one point, I believed that aside from the Sun, the star closest to the Earth was some twenty-six light years away.  The closest one is actually "only" 4.22 light years away.  Fortunately, I don't teach astronomy, and I hope my students have not lost too much confidence in me.