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Entries in Moon (6)

Thursday
May242012

Neil Armstrong Recalls Apollo Moon Landing in Rare Interview

Astronaut Neil Armstrong, commander of Apollo 11, in the Lunar Module Eagle after finishing mankind's first walk on the moon, July 21, 1969. (NASA/Newsmakers)(MELBOURNE, Australia) -- Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon 43 years ago, has tried to live a private life since Apollo 11 came back to Earth, but he did agree to give a rare interview -- to the head of an Australian accounting group.

In an hour-long conversation with Alex Malley of CPA Australia, Armstrong retold the story of his life as an astronaut, culminating in the 1969 landing, with his crewmate Buzz Aldrin, on the lunar plain they called Tranquility Base.

"I should say I thought we had a 90 percent chance of getting back to Earth on that flight," Armstrong said in this rare interview, "but only a 50-50 chance of making a successful landing on the first attempt."

The landing was so complicated, and their lunar landing ship Eagle so low on fuel that Armstrong touched down less than 30 seconds before Mission Control would have told them to give up and try to come home. Eagle's computer, overloaded with data as it tried to steer the ship to the surface, was trying to put them down in a crater full of boulders.

"Those slopes are steep, the rocks are very large -- the size of automobiles," he said. He took over manual control, skittering over the lunar surface in search of a safe place to land.

"There's so many unknowns in that descending from lunar orbit down to the surface that hadn't been demonstrated by testing," Armstrong said in the interview, "and there was a big chance that we didn't understand something in there properly, and we had to abort and come back to Earth without landing."

Armstrong, now 81, has spent the years since Apollo 11 as an engineering professor, a member of corporate boards and an occasional public advocate for continued space exploration. He said he thought it a pity that the Obama administration and Congress today disagreed on America's future in space, with NASA caught as a "shuttlecock" between them.

"NASA has been one of the most successful public investments in motivating students to do well and achieve all they can achieve," said Armstrong. "It's sad that we are turning the program in a direction where it will reduce the amount of motivation and stimulation it provides to young people. And that's a major concern to me."

In the interview Armstrong is characteristically soft-spoken, choosing his words slowly, often fending off questions by repeating things he said in the years after his return from the moon. Has made occasional public appearances in recent years to testify before Congress or mark major anniversaries of the space effort. He has declined most other requests for interviews, and stopped giving autographs when people sold them for thousands of dollars.

So why did he agree to talk to a CPA? Malley, quoted by Australian media, said, "I know something not a lot of people know about Neil Armstrong -- his dad was an auditor."

Armstrong was asked about the rumors over the years that the moon landings were faked, and he chuckled. "It was never a concern to me because I know that one day, somebody's going to go fly back up there and pick up the camera that I left."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Dec092011

Lunar Eclipse 2011: Will You See Moon Disappear on Saturday?

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Look in the western sky Saturday morning before dawn, and if the weather is clear and you're in the right place, you will be rewarded with the last lunar eclipse of 2011.

For just under an hour, the disk of the full moon will almost disappear, turning a dark, rusty red.  The catch for Americans is that you'll miss almost everything unless you're west of the Mississippi.  Totality -- when the moon is completely consumed by Earth's shadow -- begins at 6:06 a.m. Pacific time on Saturday, and ends at 6:57 a.m.  Even on the Pacific coast, dawn will start to brighten the sky before the eclipse is over.

Depending on the atmospheric conditions where you are, the moon may turn a rich orange, or it may become hard to pick out in the sky.  The reddish hue comes from sunlight that is bent by Earth's atmosphere.

From the Rocky Mountain states or the West Coast, the moon may seem larger than usual, since it will loom close to the western horizon, creating a common optical illusion, since you'll have trees or buildings to which you can compare it.

Clearer views will be from places like Hawaii, Alaska and Guam, where it will be the middle of the night, and from Eastern Asia and Australia, where it will be Saturday evening.  Earth's shadow will start to slide across the moon's face about an hour and 20 minutes before the moon becomes totally covered.

A lunar eclipse takes place when the moon, following its orbit around us, passes directly behind Earth as seen from the sun.  It is the opposite of a solar eclipse, when the moon passes between the sun and Earth.  Since the moon's orbit is slightly tilted, the bodies do not align perfectly during most months -- but the rules of orbital mechanics are such that in any given year, there will be at least two and no more than seven solar or lunar eclipses.

If you miss Saturday's eclipse, there will be a partial one on June 4, 2012.  There will not be a total lunar eclipse again until April 15, 2014.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Nov092011

Large Asteroid Zips by Earth and Misses

File photo. (Hemera/Thinkstock)(HOUSTON) -- As predicted, an asteroid larger than the size of an aircraft carrier buzzed by Earth Tuesday evening, coming closer to the planet than the moon.

Had asteroid 2005 YU55 landed on Earth, there's no telling what damage might have occurred.

The 1,300-foot wide asteroid came a little too close for comfort, relatively speaking.  The speedy rock going at 29,000 mph was just 201,700 miles away from Earth on Tuesday -- a distance shorter than that between the planet and its moon.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jul202011

New Moon Discovered Orbiting Pluto

Illustration. Jason Reed/Photodisc(MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif.) -- Just seeing it was an accomplishment.  The Hubble Space Telescope has spotted a tiny new moon, somewhere between 8 and 21 miles in diameter, in orbit around Pluto.  

Pluto was already known to have three other moons, named Charon, Nix, and Hydra; this newest one is, for now, designated P4.

"I find it remarkable that Hubble's cameras enabled us to see such a tiny object so clearly from a distance of more than 3 billion miles (5 billion km)," said Mark Showalter of the SETI Institute in Mountain View, Calif., who led the observing program with Hubble.  NASA's New Horizons spacecraft is set to fly past Pluto in July 2015, and mission organizers want to know before then just what they should look for.

P4 first showed up in an image shot by the Hubble on June 28.  Its presence was confirmed by follow-up pictures shot on July 2 and July 18, according to the Space Telescope Science Institute.

What might it be like on P4?  Dark and cold, but beyond that it's too small to have much gravitational pull, almost undoubtedly too small for its gravity to have pulled it into a spherical shape.  But does it have ice or rock, a shiny surface or a dark one?  Now begin the calculations so that New Horizons, as it races through the Pluto-Charon system, can shoot images of P4 on the way.

The new moon will need a more evocative name.  Pluto and its other moons have, by tradition, been named for mythological figures from the underworld.  P4's discoverers get the honor of picking a permanent name for their find; they may welcome ideas.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Mar102011

Biggest Full Moon Possible Will Be Visible Next Week

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Get ready for a close encounter with the moon.

Next week, on March 19, the moon won't just be at its closest approach to Earth in its elliptical orbit, but enthusiasts say it will be closer to Earth than it's been in 18 years.

The moon's orbit around us is slightly elliptical, and when the moon is at the near point it is known as a lunar perigee.  But on the Internet, astronomy and astrology fans are calling this upcoming lunar event a "supermoon."

For the past few days, they've not only been buzzing about the mega moon, but the meteorological mayhem they expect it to cause.  But no need to grab your survival kit just yet -- scientists say it just isn't so.

In a blog post earlier this month, AccuWeather blogger Mark Paquette said a new or full moon at 90 percent or more of its closest perigee qualifies as a "supermoon."  Next weekend's full moon won't just be a supermoon but an extreme supermoon, he said, because the moon will be almost precisely at its closest distance to Earth.

According to "new age" forecasts, he said, the supermoon is expected to bring strong earthquakes, storms or unusual climate patterns.

"There were supermoons in 1955, 1974, 1992 and 2005.  These years had their share of extreme weather and other natural events.  Is the Super Moon and these natural occurrences a coincidence?" he wrote.  "Some would say yes; some would say no.  I'm not here to pick sides and say I'm a believer or non-believer in subjects like this, but as a scientist I know enough to ask questions and try to find answers."

Paquette told ABCNews that he wants to remain "neutral" on the topic but said, "I do think it's possible that it could bring earthquakes, volcanic eruptions or anything weather-related as well."

But NASA astronomer Dave Williams said there's no reason to believe that anything out of the ordinary -- aside from an especially big and bright full moon -- will take place next week.

"There's nothing really special about this," he said.

For starters, although the moon will be closer than it's been for 18 or 19 years, it will only be one or two percent closer.

"It's nothing you could notice unless you made really accurate measurements," he said.  "It's a few thousand miles closer, but as far as the moon's orbit is considered, that's nothing."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Oct212010

NASA Reports Water on Moon

Photo Courtesy - NASA dot gov(WASHINGTON) -- Water has been discovered at the bottom of a crater near the Moon’s south pole, according to NASA officials.

The discovery was made after a rocket crashed -- by design -- into a 60-mile-wide, two-mile-deep crater named Cabeus, uncovering an area wetter than the Sahara Desert.

“That is a very valuable resource,” said Anthony Colaprete, principal investigator of NASA’s Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite. “This is wetter than some places on Earth.”

The water, if purified, could be used by astronauts for drinking, or broken apart into hydrogen and oxygen for rocket fuel.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio







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