Exploration of the moon has played an important part in both human history and space travel. And a recent film about Neil Armstrong’s mission to the moon as part of Apollo 11 has reignited interest in space travel, but also sparked a new fascination about the moon, and it’s been decades since the first moon landing took place in 1969.
Humans look up at the night sky and marvel at the moon, and although most people have a general understanding about it being the Earth’s only natural satellite, and that there is no atmosphere on the moon, there are many things about the moon that are lesser known, and completely fascinating. For example, the moon has become a proposed place for an alternative burial, where individuals are able to send a small number of their loved ones cremated remains to the moon. There is also a proposed project, which would cost billions of dollars, but could see a colony living on the moon as early as 2022.
Neil Armstrong’s famous quote about his moon landing being "one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind” still serves of a reminder of all that humans have achieved, and his footprints, and that of the other men who have walked the moon remain intact, decades later. But below are 25 little-known facts about the moon that people should know.
Neil Armstrong was the first man on the moon, and, along with fellow astronaut, Buzz Aldrin, made the first successful landing on the moon in 1969. Since this time, according to Space, there have been only 12 people who have set foot on the moon, and none of these individuals have been a woman.
The publication also notes that all of the individuals who have set foot on the moon have been American males, the last of which was Gene Cernan, back in 1972. Universe Today also notes that no one has ever walked on the moon twice.
There are many alternative burial options these days, including underwater, and perhaps even on the moon in the near-future. According to CBC, 450 people’s ashes have been shot into orbit since 1992, but there may be a future in which these ashes are also sent to the moon, and the moon is reported to become a future burial ground.
Company Elysium Space launched its "lunar memorial" service with the plans of sending the cremated remains (but only up to 1 gram of ashes) for a moon “burial.”
There is some ambiguity surrounding the idea to send remains to the moon, but we can say with certainty that there are one person’s ashes that have already been sent the moon. These ashes belong to the late astronomer and geologist, Dr. Eugene Shoemaker.
According to Atlas Obscura, NASA honored Shoemaker by sending his ashes to the moon’s surface with the Lunar Prospector in 1998. The spacecraft took off from the South Pole, and reached the moon on 1999, when according to the publication, NASA deliberately crashed it there.
Unfortunately, there is a lot of man-made debris that the moon has been collecting. According to Listverse, the astronauts who have visited the moon have left behind waste, and there are an estimated 181,437 kilograms of manmade material lying on the moon’s surface. That is quite a lot of trash, but the publication notes that most of it are the result of experiments, lunar rovers, and space probes.
But it’s not just equipment used during missions that can be found on the moon, as Reader’s Digest reports that objects like golf balls, a falcon feather, and a golden olive branch have also been left behind. And, less pleasant substances like containers of human feces, that didn’t make it on the trip back home.
There are even Pink Floyd lyrics about the dark side of the moon, but the entire concept of a “dark side” is inaccurate and just because the far side of the moon does not face Earth, does not mean that it is dark all the time.
In fact, according to Space, both sides of the moon see the same amount of sunlight, the only difference is that we only ever see one side of the moon from Earth because it rotates on its axis.
The moon is slowly moving away from Earth as a reaction to the earth’s tides, and according to BBC, scientist Dr. Maggie Aderin-Pocock claims that this could result in the earth becoming very unstable. It is moving away at a rate of 3.78cm per year, which the publication notes is about the same amount of speed that our fingernails grow (a strange comparison, but it puts things into perspective).
Right now, this distance is not going to have much of an effect, but over a lengthy period of time, this could have an effect on the earth, causing it to slow down.
We think of the moon as a perfect sphere and it appears as one when we view it in the night sky, but actually, the moon is far less perfect than it appears, and according to Metro, it's actually shaped more like an egg.
The moon's shape has been the subject of several studies, as scientists try to determine what forces were at play that molded its shape. Business Insider elaborates on this point, revealing the reason for the shape is “because the moon's center of mass is actually a few miles closer to Earth than its actual geometric center.”
The moon has long been a fascination of mankind, and although there have only been several men who have walked on the moon, the future looks bright with regards to moon travel. At least, according to Bustle, because the publication claims that there was a proposal by NASA to colonize the moon.
The publication claims that NASA managed to get their proposal costs down to $10 billion and reported that their project could become a reality as early as 2022. The base would start small, with just ten people, but is estimated to grow up to 100 within 10 years.
The Earth and the moon have a fascinating relationship, but perhaps one of the more interesting facts is that during lunar eclipses the moon appears to be a reddish or brown color, and this is because of the Earth’s atmosphere, World Science Festival reports. According to the publication, during this time, the sunlight that is reaching the moon is being passed through the Earth, which filters and refracts the sunlight creating the reddish hue.
What the publication teaches us is that were it not for Earth’s atmosphere, then a lunar eclipse would be blackened out and dark.
As previously mentioned, there is no “dark side” of the moon but there is a far side, and this myth was caused because on Earth we are only able to see one side of the moon. The reason for this is because, as mentioned, the moon rotates on its axis, but according to Metro, the percentage of the lunar surface that humans are able to see is 59 percent.
Space expanded on this point, noting that the 59 percent is seen because of the phenomenon referred to as libration, which allows humans to see slightly over the edge of the moon and into the far side.
The shadows on the moon are darker than on the earth, according to Reader’s Digest. This is something astronauts found out when walking the moon, and the publication claims the reason for this is because on earth we have an atmosphere which scatters light, thus making the shadows harder to see. But on the moon, this is absent.
According to Listverse, on the moon, everything that the sun didn’t shine directly on was completely black, and when astronauts stepped into shadows they couldn’t see anything.
The moon has become the subject of many stories, fables, and songs, and according to Futurism, the first-ever recorded song actually had mention of the moon. This is 1860, by French bookseller and inventor, Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville, who recorded a ten-second phonautograph clip of the French folk song, “Au Claire de la Lune” (the English translation, according to Thought.Co is “In the light of the moon.”
This fact is obviously less about the moon itself, but more about the feelings and creative inspiration it appears to give humans.
The moon's dust clings to everything because of the low gravity and texture, Listverse reports, and it has caused a number of problems for NASA. The publication notes that moon dust has eroded astronauts boots and affected their visors, but it is also hazardous to human health.
When astronaut Harrison Schmitt accidentally breathed in moon dust once back on board the Challenger, he suffered from "lunar hay fever," LiveScience reports. Scientists have since discovered that these particles are harmful to humans, in part because it’s so sharp, but also because it can kill the lung and brain cells that are exposed to it -- as proven in a lab study using replica moon dust.
In what is by far the most disturbing fact involving the moon, there was once a time when the United States considered destroying it with a nuclear explosion.
We know that the United States dropped two nuclear bombs on Japan in 1945, on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, History reports. But we haven’t heard much about this secret project referred to as Project A119.
According to Space, it was during the 1950s Cold War period, and the United States proposed the idea as an attempt to prove strength while lagging behind in the space race. Forbes has also reported on this project and notes it was nothing more than a “detailed thought experiment.”
The moon has mountains, and the tallest one (measured from base to top), according to Science Kids, is Mons Huygens, which measures 4700 meters tall. The publication notes that this is around half the height of the tallest mountain on Earth, Mt. Everest, located in the Himalayan mountain range.
According to Space, unlike the mountains on earth which have been formed by magma or tectonic action, almost all of the mountains on the moon are the result of asteroids impacts in the past.
The Earth experiences quakes, and so does the moon, and according to Space, these quakes are caused by the Earth’s gravitational pull. The publication notes that small moonquakes have occurred several kilometers below the surface, resulting in cracks and ruptures. This evidence was recorded with seismographs and has led scientists to believe that, like the Earth, the moon could also have a molten core.
Reader’s Digest also reported on moonquakes, noting that the moon has a crust which shifts and changes, and when it heats up or is affected by meteorites, these small seismic vibrations are triggered.
You’ve heard the term "lunatics," but did you ever associate it with the moon? Probably not, but according to Reader’s Digest, scientists and philosophers from the Middle Ages believed that the moon had an effect on individuals health and that seizures, fever, and rheumatism seemed to coincide with the full moon.
The publication also notes that because of this connection, those who were affected were referred to as “lunatics.” The Merriam Webster dictionary also expands on this point, revealing that the term was first used in the 14th century to describe those experiencing “a severely disordered state of mind.”
According to World Science Festival, during the Apollo 14 mission, astronaut Stuart Roosa decided to take seeds of trees (400-500 seeds) up to space with him and his two fellow astronauts. According to Business Insider, these seeds were from a variety of different trees, including Loblolly Pine, Sycamore, Redwood, Douglas Fir, and Sweetgum, and when the astronauts returned to Earth, these “moon trees” were planted all across the United States.
These trees thrived, suggesting that there was no effect from their trip to the moon.
There is no wind on the moon, and this is a well-known fact, but because of this, the footprints of the astronauts who have walked on the moon’s surface remain perfectly intact. According to Business Insider, although it’s been decades since the last person walked on the moon, the moon’s lack of atmosphere, and the fact that space has no breezes has left these footprints intact, and they now serve as a memory of the astronauts who once walked there.
On the Earth, there are multiple different time zones, and the moon has its own time zone called Lunar Standard Time, which started running when Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon, Reader’s Digest reports.
And the fact that Earth and the moon have a time zone is pretty much where the similarity stops, because according to the publication, for every year on the moon there are 12 lunar days, named after the 12 astronauts who have walked on its surface. Each lunar day is then divided into 30 lunar cycles (according to World Science Festival, one cycle is roughly the same as 23 hours and 37 minutes on Earth).
The majority of humans tend to sleep at night and function during the day, and for this reason, we often associate the moon with sleep. But is there a direct correlation between these two?
According to Listverse, the topic of the moon and human sleep cycles has been much debated. However, an experiment by the University of Basel in Switzerland found that there was a link between sleep cycles and the phases of the moon, and in summary, the results concluded that the participants had a poorer quality of sleep during the full moon.
Not only do you weigh much less on the moon because it has less gravity than Earth, Planets reports, but the Earth is also much heavier than the moon.
According to Metro, the Earth is 81 times heavier than the moon. This should not come as much of a surprise considering the moon is only one-fourth the size of Earth, and according to Space, NASA used a nickel (Earth) and a coffee bean (the moon) as an example of the size difference.
Space also notes that the moon’s mass is 1.2 percent of the Earth’s and it is around 60 percent of the Earth’s density.
The moon is believed to be between 4.4 billion and 4.45 billion years old, according to the Huffington Post, however, there is some confusion and many different theories as to how it came to be in existence in the first place. Some scientists believe that when an object the size of Mars collided with Earth in its infancy, the material in space fused to form the moon, Business Insider reports. Others feel it was already formed and was moving through the solar system until it was seized by Earth’s gravitational pull.
There is also the theory that Earth and the moon were once formed, and separated at the beginning of the solar system.
You probably already know that the moon is covered in craters, but you may not have known that it requires a special process to name these craters. According to Futurism, there are strict rules in place when it comes to naming lunar landmarks, and these are controlled by the International Astronomical Union, which is responsible for the lunar names.
The publication also notes that when it comes to naming lunar things, the moon’s theme is after great people who have accomplished a lot in their lifetimes.
Many countries have signed treaties to prevent future wars, but you may not have known that the moon also has a treaty. The treaty is known as The Outer Space Treaty and was put in place to prevent possible damage to the moon by preventing military use, State reports.
The treaty was agreed upon by both the United States and Russia in 1967, with the purpose of the “moon and other celestial bodies” being used only for peaceful purposes. According to Futurism, 97 other countries also agreed to the treaty.