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Half a century after the Apollo 11 moon landing, the mission and its successors have led to significant insights for understanding not only the moon, but also Earth and the rest of the solar system.
But a single step — or rather, a series of them, since the Apollo program carried a dozen astronauts to the lunar surface over four years — is not enough to fully comprehend the nature of our lunar neighbor. Scientists, engineers and explorers around the world are looking forward to returning to the moon.
Week - Journal - Science - Issue - Backward
This week, the journal Science published a special commemorative issue that looks both backward and forward in time to see what we have learned from exploring the moon, and how much more it has to offer.
Humans - Surface - Moon - Dawn - Space
Humans have always looked to the surface of the moon, but not until the dawn of space exploration could satellites and astronauts see the lunar surface up close. The samples carried home by Apollo astronauts were even more astounding, examined by scientists at the time and later re-examined with newer, more powerful instruments long after the Apollo program closed.
One of the biggest changes that the Apollo program brought to our understanding of the moon came from insights into the birth of Earth's sibling. Prior to Apollo, scientists thought that planets grew by gentle accretion at low temperatures, giving them a relatively cold start. Lunar samples quickly revealed that a large portion of the lunar surface was once molten, leading to what would become known as the magma ocean model, to explain how the lunar layers solidified.
Mysteries - Signature - Elements - Magma - Ocean
Mysteries remain, such as why some of the signature elements are unevenly distributed, but a lunar magma ocean answered many questions about the rocks returned by Apollo astronauts. "The basic magma ocean model explains many characteristics of the lunar samples," Richard...
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