Last year (i.e. 2011) marked the completion of 42 years of the most significant event in the history of manned space flights. Forty-two years ago, Neil Armstrong had first landed on the Moon in July 1969 and his one small step had meant a giant leap for mankind. Neil Armstrong’s Apollo-11 was the first manned spacecraft to land on the Moon in July 1969—and Eugene Cernan’s Apollo-17 was the sixth (last) to visit the Moon in December 1972. During the six visits to the Moon, astronauts have brought on the Earth, nearly 2,200 Moon rocks whose aggregate weight is 382 kilograms. (The ‘return gifts’ also include the 300 grams of Moon rocks brought by the 3 robotic spacecrafts from Russia). A question definitely arises in the curious mind that if these astronauts have brought rocks as souvenirs from their trip to the Moon, what did they carry along with them and leave on the Moon as an insignia of their visit?
|Lunar Roving Vehicle/LRV|
Even after four decades, there is a list of things that still exists on the Moon which was left behind as a mark of mankind’s visit to the Moon. There are in all 23 vital mementoes left behind by the 12 expeditors who visited the Moon as a part of the Apollo project. These include the 3 Lunar Roving Vehicles/LRVs (photo, above) used to taxi around the surface of the Moon that were used during the mission Apollo-15, 16 and 17. These 3.1 meters long, 1.82 meters wide and 209.5 kilograms heavy (its weight on the Moon is just 35 kilograms) two-seater vehicles, capable of running at a maximum speed of 14 kilometers, were used by the astronauts to roam on the surface of the Moon. Not only these expensive vehicles were abandoned there but all the 6 lunar modules which were used for the purpose of landing on the Moon are also left there. The other things, scattered across on the Moon, include the bags used to carry the life support systems, Neil Armstrong’s as well as other astronauts’ shoes, a device to measure the earthquake-like tremors on the Moon, a laser reflector which is used to measure the distance between the Earth and the Moon, the golf stick along and a golf ball that was struck by Alan Shepard, the national fldg of the USA, the urine collection bags of the astronauts, tools used to break the rocks, etc. Personal belongings like the astronauts’ family photographs are also included in the list. Every spot of human landing on the Moon includes some or the other thing to mark his visit on that spot.
Apart from human landings, there are also the insignias that mark the virtual landings of mankind on the Moon. Luna-2, the 390 kilograms first spacecraft sent to the Moon by Russia in 1959 is still lying on the Moon’s land. The three surveyor spaceships of the USA are also lying there in the form of junk, while the first robotic spaceship,‘Lunokhod’ sent by Russia in 1973 is also in the same state. Analysing the statistics since 1969 till date, it is evident that 40 spacecrafts have landed on the Moon, be it softly or recklessly. These mementoes that have left a mailft of mankind on the Moon will definitely not leave its surface for at least the next millions of years. Mementos include the first footprint of Neil Armstrong, the first man to land on the Moon as well.