September 13, 2015

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First on the Moon

Originally published September 12, 2004


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Image Credit: Apollo 15 AS15-1540 and NSSDC


First on the Moon

In January, 1959 the Soviet Union startled the world by launching a spacecraft towards the Moon. It missed by 6000 km but was the first object to escape Earth orbit and the first to pass near the Moon. Nine months later the Luna 2 probe, launched 45 years ago today, crashed into the Moon, as planned. This created a public sensation, for finally the science fiction dream of sending something from the Earth to the Moon was realized. The scientific discoveries - no magnetic field or radiation belts for the Moon - were minor compared to the feat itself. Following on Sputnik and Luna 1, this mission demonstrated that the Soviets were far ahead of America. Something had to be done! Recognizing that the space race would be a long-term endeavor, the US Congress passed the National Defense Student Loan Program, which I used to start college! Sometimes the benefits of space exploration are amorphous (understanding our universe), but I owe my college funding to Sputnik and the early Lunas! As an aside: in response to a national threat in 1958 the USA funded education; how different is our 9-11 response!

Chuck Wood

Related Links:
Luna 2 at NSSDC
Rukl Atlas of the Moon Sheet 12

Yesterday's LPOD: First on the Moon

Tomorrow's LPOD: Evocative Moon

 



Author & Editor:
Charles A. Wood


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