02 Sep Knock the Moon Dust Off of Your Lunar Facts
NASA’s Artemis program is ultimately paving the road to Mars, but the first few steps along the way end up at our own little orbiting body, The Moon. In honor of the Artemis 1 mission launch (re)scheduled for this Saturday, we thought it appropriate to let our resident Subset space nerd throw a few fun facts at your terrestrial faces.
1. It’s not “THE” Moon, it’s “A” moon… sort of.
The term “moon” didn’t always carry the same satellite meaning it does today. For most of human history we were only aware of a single shining orb in the night sky, so it didn’t need to be differentiated from the rest of the more than 200 moons in our solar system. The word moon comes from the old English term mōna, which basically means month. In many cultures it took on the name of the mythological being(s) living on it like Cynthia or Selene. The Latin term for moon, Luna, is the most accepted when speaking scientifically. Hence the term Lunar. I’m that lame guy at parties who refers to the Sun and the Moon as Sol and Luna.
2. Our Moon is larger than Pluto.
The recently downgraded dwarf planet is only about 2/3 the size of Earth’s moon. So stop complaining that it’s not a planet anymore.
3. The Moon (Luna) has relatively high gravity
Of the more than 200 moons in our solar system, our moon has the second highest surface gravity at 1.62 m/s². Io (one of Jupiter’s moons) has the highest surface gravity at 1.796 m/s². For comparison Earth’s gravity is 9.807 m/s², as you may remember from high school.
4. Our Moon has atmosphere.
It’s often believed that the Moon is a baron rock of dust and craters, but it does in fact have a very thin layer of gasses called an exosphere. This mini-atmosphere contains elements like argon, helium, methane, sodium and potassium, in quantities so small and spread out that they almost never run into each-other.
5. Single Stage to Orbit.
Launching spacecraft from the surface of the Earth into orbit takes a massive amount of energy. This is why rockets drop parts off of them as they go. This helps shed weight as they climb higher. Currently there has not been a spacecraft designed that can achieve orbit without leaving most of itself behind. The moon is a different story. Because of its low gravity and lack of atmospheric resistance the Lunar Landers of the Apollo program were able to launch and achieve Lunar orbit without shedding layers during ascent. These Lunar landers hold the record for being the only manned SSTO (single stage to orbit) vehicles (so far).