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Artist’s concept of NASA’s LADEE spacecraft orbiting the moon.
On July 16, 1969, Commander Neil Armstrong, Lunar Module Pilot Buzz Aldrin and Command Module Pilot Michael Collins launched atop a Saturn V rocket toward the moon. The 8-day NASA mission captivated the planet as Armstrong and Aldrin explored the lunar surface on July 20, supported by Michael Collins who orbited overhead. 46 years after the first successful landing of the Apollo program, we\'ve dug into the NASA archives to find some familiar and some not-so-familiar views of the Apollo 11 mission. All photos and captions can be found in NASA\'s Human Spaceflight Gallery .
Neil Armstrong leads the way across Pad A, Launch Complex 39 at Kennedy Space Center, Fla., during the Apollo 11 prelaunch countdown on July 16, 1969. Michael Collins follows behind.
The massive 363-feet tall Apollo 11 launched at 9:32 a.m. (EDT) on July 16, 1969, carrying Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins into the history books.
This photo was taken from a door-mounted camera on a U.S. Air Force EC-135N aircraft shortly after launch. The Saturn V second and third stages separate from the spent first (S-1C) stage, which then dropped into the Atlantic Ocean. Recently, the first stage engines were retrieved from the ocean floor by Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos.
Earth is captured through the Apollo astronauts\' camera lens on the way to the moon.
Aldrin looks into the TV camera during the third broadcast from space on the way to the moon.
The Apollo 11 Command and Service Modules (CSM) are photographed from the Lunar Module (LM) in lunar orbit during the Apollo 11 lunar landing mission.
After descending from the lunar module after a successful landing on July 20, 1969, Armstrong makes a bootprint in the loose lunar regolith. The astronauts\' bootprints remain untouched on the dusty surface to this day.
Aldrin descends the steps of the Lunar Module ladder as he prepares to walk on the moon.
Armstrong and Aldrin deploy the American flag outside the lunar module "Eagle" at Tranquility Base in the Sea of Tranquility on July 20, 1969.
Aldrin prepares to deploy experiments on the lunar surface next to the large lunar module, "Eagle."
Aldrin oversees the deployment of the Early Apollo Scientific Experiments Package (EASEP), photographed by Armstrong during the crew extravehicular activity (EVA).
#14: Aldrin stands next to one of the lunar module legs.
Armstrong inside the lunar module just after his famous moonwalk.
Collins photographs the returning lunar module with Armstrong and Aldrin inside. Soon after, the lunar module docked with the orbiting Command and Services Modules to begin the journey back to Earth.
Aldrin illustrates the gyroscope principle under zero-gravity conditions using a can of food in front of the TV cameras as the crew travel back to Earth from the moon.
The three Apollo 11 crew men await pickup by a helicopter from the USS Hornet, prime recovery ship for the lunar landing mission, after a fiery reentry and splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.
Mission Operations Control Room in the Mission Control Center, Building 30, Manned Spacecraft Center (MSC), showing the flight controllers celebrating the successful conclusion of the Apollo 11 lunar landing mission.
The Apollo 11 spacecraft Command Module and the Mobile Quarantine Facility are photographed aboard the USS Hornet.
Left to right: Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins, in a 21-day quarantine, are greeted by their wives.
New York City welcomes Apollo 11 crewmen in a showering of ticker tape down Broadway and Park Avenue in a parade termed as the largest in the city\'s history on Aug. 13, 1969.
Finally, we have proof of the moon’s “noble” heritage! Measurements from NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer, aka LADEE (pronounced “laddie”) have confirmed the long-suspected presence of neon in its atmosphere (neon is one of the noble gases —
see what I did there?) along with isotopes of argon and helium. The relative concentrations of each of these elements also appears to depend on the time of day.
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“The presence of neon in the exosphere of the moon has been a subject of speculation since the Apollo missions, but no credible detections were made,” said Mehdi Benna of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, lead author of a paper describing the findings. “We were very pleased to not only finally confirm its presence, but to show that it is relatively abundant.”
Of course, this has nothing to do with the appearance of the moon from Earth. Despite its “relative abundance” the amount of neon in the lunar atmosphere is much too sparse to actually create any visible glow.
These elements in the lunar atmosphere have their source in the solar wind. As this constant stream of charged particles from the sun encounters the moon, heavier elements remain on the surface while lighter and more volatile elements like neon and argon return to space… except for the small portion that get trapped by gravity.
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While we say “atmosphere,” in realty what the moon has is an exosphere — an extremely diffuse cloud of atoms, ions, and fine dust particles held in place by the moon’s weak gravity. It’s nothing a human could breathe or even feel; it’s 100 trillion times less dense than air on Earth at sea level.
Still, it’s something that interacts with the solar wind environment and, possibly, whatever activities we may one day establish on the lunar surface. Such a thin and fragile exosphere could easily be disturbed by rocket exhaust or outgassing from a permanent base, for example.
“It’s critical to learn about the lunar exosphere before sustained human exploration substantially alters it,” said Benna.
The presence of the moon’s exosphere was famously hinted at in a series of sketches made by Apollo 17 astronaut Gene Cernan, who claimed to have witnessed a lunar horizon glow (referred to as LHG in true NASA form) as well as long “streamers” of light preceding a sunrise from lunar orbit. While LADEE could not observe this phenomenon with its star tracker cameras, its Neutral Mass Spectrometer did collect the numbers.
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Launched from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on Sept. 6, 2013, the 844-lb (383-kg) NASA Ames-built LADEE arrived in lunar orbit 30 days later and, after a month reviewing the functionality of its instruments, began its 100-day-long scientific investigation of the Moon’s atmosphere. LADEE’s mission came to an end when it impacted the surface of the moon as planned on the evening of April 17, 2014.
Learn more about the LADEE mission and its findings here.
Tags the moon Space Weather solar wind Solar System NASA moon ladee Current Events Space
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