Essay2 - ESSAY
2:
The
Legacy
of
Apollo
 


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Unformatted text preview: ESSAY
2:
The
Legacy
of
Apollo
 
 When
I
finally
had
made
my
way
to
the
Harry
Ransom
Center,
entering
 its
Other
Worlds
exhibition,
I
was
immediately
struck
by
the
large
 photograph
that
occupies
one
of
the
walls.
It
shows
a
mosaic
from
one
 of
the
Apollo
missions
to
the
Moon.
At
first,
you
only
see
the
barren,
 utterly
desolate
lunar
landscape,
but
upon
closer
inspection,
you
can
 also
behold
the
tiny
figure
of
a
lonely
astronaut.
I
found
this
scene
 deeply
moving.
What
terrifying
solitude!
Man
pitched
against
the
 vastness
of
empty
space.
I
felt
a
shudder
down
my
spine,
and
was
glad
 that
I
had
the
company
of
other
visitors
that
were
equally
engaged
in
 their
own
musings.


 
 In
my
case,
I
was
led
to
reflect
on
the
wonders
of
exploring
our
Solar
 System
during
the
space
age.
Since
its
beginning
half
a
century
ago,
 when
Sputnik
became
the
first
artificial
satellite
around
Earth,
we
have
 greatly
enhanced
our
understanding
of
the
planets
[1].
Most
people
 immediately
see
the
benefit
of
sending
robotic
missions
to
study
the
 Solar
System.
Who
could
forget
the
sheer
magic
of
following
the
 Huygens
probe
descending
onto
Titan,
Saturn’s
enigmatic
companion?
 Or
of
landing
small
vehicles
on
Mars?
Much
more
controversial,
 however,
is
the
ultimate
value
of
manned
space
flight.
Do
the
purported
 science
applications
really
justify
the
exorbitant
cost
of
the
International
 Space
Station?
Is
a
manned
mission
to
Mars
really
justifiable,
given
all
 the
unsolved
problems
on
our
home
planet
which
seem
in
desperate
 need
for
our
attention,
and
of
course
society’s
resources?
But
when
we
 go
back
to
the
Apollo
program,
there
are
some
undeniable
lessons
that
 forever
changed
the
way
we
look
at
ourselves.
 
 Firstly,
visiting
the
Moon
has
given
us
a
unique
perspective
on
 humanity’s
place
in
the
universe.
We
inhabit
a
singular
world,
Earth
as
a
 tiny
speck
in
an
otherwise
lifeless
cosmos.
Our
technology
might
have
 allowed
us
to
briefly
touch
a
different
world,
but
it
is
obvious
how
 thoroughly
alien
even
our
nearest
neighbor
is
to
us.
This
is
the
very
 message
that
is
conveyed
in
the
Apollo
photograph
mentioned
above.
 Carl
Sagan,
the
great
popularizer
of
planetary
science
during
the
1980s,
 expressed
the
same
sentiment
when
he
called
Earth
the
“pale
blue
dot”
 [2].
The
implication
for
us
today
is
that
we
have
nowhere
else
to
go,
at
 least
for
a
very
long
time
to
come,
and
that
we
therefore
need
to
 safeguard
Earth’s
fragile
biosphere.

 
 Secondly,
we
have
also
learned
vital
clues
to
one
of
the
great
 controversies
of
modern
astronomy:
How
did
the
Moon
form?
[3]
For
 over
a
century,
scientists
could
not
conclusively
answer
this
mystery.
All
 of
this
changed
with
Apollo.
The
astronauts
brought
back
samples
of
 lunar
rocks
that
could
be
analyzed
back
on
Earth,
in
great
detail,
and
 with
the
most
sophisticated
laboratory
equipment.
The
result
was
at
 first
puzzling.
The
chemical
structure
of
the
Moon
rocks
exhibited
clear
 similarities
to
terrestrial
geology,
but
in
addition
contained
compounds
 that
were
completely
absent
on
Earth.
Guided
by
computer
simulations,
 planetary
science
eventually
came
up
with
a
convincing
model
for
the
 origin
of
the
Moon
[4].
It
is
now
thought
that
a
Mars‐size
body
collided
 with
the
Earth,
early
in
the
history
of
the
Solar
System.
This
giant
impact
 severely
shattered
Earth’s
crust,
releasing
a
huge
mass
of
debris
into
a
 surrounding
orbit.
With
time,
gravity
reassembled
those
debris
 particles,
and
assembled
the
incipient
Moon.
This
model
naturally
 accounts
for
the
dual
nature
of
the
lunar
rocks,
half
terrestrial
and
half
 something
else.

 
 The
inferred
giant
impact
that
gave
rise
to
the
formation
of
the
Moon,
 together
with
the
ubiquitous
craters
that
are
still
visible
on
its
surface,
 lead
us
to
another
crucial
consideration:
Cosmic
catastrophes
have
 played
an
important
part
in
shaping
our
Solar
System.
Collisions
were
 very
frequent
in
the
past.
The
most
famous
of
these
cataclysmic
events
 happened
65
million
years
ago,
when
a
roughly
10
km‐sized
asteroid
hit
 the
Yucatan
peninsula,
triggering
the
sequence
of
global
conflagrations
 that
killed
the
dinosaurs
[5].
Astronomers
have
carried
out
a
statistical
 analysis
of
the
frequency
of
such
impacts,
and
they
have
come
up
with
a
 dire
warning.
The
probability
that
we
get
hit
by
another
large
asteroid
is
 uncomfortably
high,
even
today,
where
the
overall
rate
of
collisions
and
 cratering
is
much
reduced.
A
few
brave
astronomers
have
therefore
 initiated
a
program
to
systematically
monitor
the
smaller
bodies
in
the
 Solar
System.
Unfortunately,
even
if
we
received
due
warning,
we
might
 not
yet
have
the
technology
to
do
anything
to
divert
a
possible
intruder
 on
a
collision
course
with
Earth,
despite
of
what
Hollywood
might
want
 us
to
believe.
 
 The
Moon
thus
holds
important
lessons
for
our
present
and
our
future.
 In
addition,
the
realization
that
it
is
another
world
with
its
unique
 features,
such
as
craters
and
mountain
ranges,
profoundly
influenced
 the
history
of
astronomy.
After
all,
according
to
Aristotelian
philosophy
 [6],
the
Moon
was
supposed
to
mark
the
boundary
between
the
chaotic,
 sub‐lunar
realm
of
Earth,
and
the
eternal,
perfect
realm
of
the
heavens.
 Indeed,
within
this
framework,
the
Moon
was
already
part
of
the
latter.
 It
was
then
argued
that
all
objects
in
the
celestial
domain,
composed
of
a
 “fifth
element”
(quintessence
or
ether),
must
exhibit
a
high
degree
of
 perfection
and
are
not
experiencing
any
change.
When
Galileo
trained
 his
telescope
at
the
Moon,
recording
all
the
irregular
structures
on
its
 surface,
the
old
Aristotelian
dogma
was
irrevocably
shattered
[7].
 
 In
concluding,
one
can
but
wonder
at
how
far
we
have
come.
It
is
 tempting
to
think
how
deeply
satisfying
it
would
have
been
for
some
of
 the
pioneers
in
the
history
of
astronomy
to
look
at
images
from
the
 Apollo
missions.
For
Johannes
Kepler,
who
wrote
an
early
Science
 Fiction
story,
imagining
a
journey
to
the
Moon
(his
“Somnium”,
or
 “Dream”).
His
mind
managed
to
escape,
for
a
fleeting
moment,
the
 limitations
of
the
17th
century,
boldly
leaping
ahead
to
our
owntime.
Or
 even
for
Giordano
Bruno,
who
was
burned
at
the
stake
for
arguing
that
 the
universe
contains
an
infinitude
of
other
worlds.
On
a
personal
note:
 What
would
I
give
for
the
chance
to
return
a
hundred
years
from
now
to
 find
out
where
our
curious
species
has
gone
by
then!
What
discoveries
 will
we
have
made,
and
how
will
we
look
back
at
our
present
time?





 
 
 
 
 
 REFERENCES
 
 [1]
Peter
Aughton,
The
Story
of
Astronomy,
Chapter
20
(London:
Quercus,
2008)
 [2]
Carl
Sagan,
Pale
Blue
Dot
(New
York:
Random
House,
1997)
 [3]
Jeffrey
Bennett
et
al.,
The
Cosmic
Perspective
(San
Francisco:
Pearson,
2007)
 [4]
The
Story
of
Astronomy,
Chapter
23
 [5]
Carl
Sagan
and
Ann
Druyan,
Comet
(New
York:
Random
House,
1985)
 [6]
Thomas
S.
Kuhn,
The
Copernican
Revolution
(Cambridge:
Harvard
Univ.
Press,
 1957)
 [7]
The
Story
of
Astronomy,
Chapter
7
 ...
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