Monday, July 15, 2024

Going to the Moon!

July 31, 2009 by  
Filed under Featured

Melbourne, Fl- Jul 2009 earthmoonRobots, rovers, and landers went to the moon in the late 1960s and will start returning in numbers through the next 10 years. They will prepare the way for man’s return in the 2020s.  Besides nations such as Russia, the United States, Japan, and India funding Lunar missions, there are several private enterprises seeking to land a rover on the moon. You have to get to the moon to do business there.

We have several methods to reach the moon, with the differences being in how much energy you can afford.  On one extreme, brute force will get you to the moon in about a day and a half. The former Soviet Union had this capability. On the other end, the journey could take over a year by using the attractive pull of celestial bodies. This is very efficient but tricky to get exactly right,  and risky because the time in space is long. We will explain a less risky and more moderate energy model to reach the moon. This was the method used for the US moon landings.

Going to the moon is an interesting problem in hitting a moving target.  First your lift rocket with payload leaves Earth and then orbits until it is at the right time and place.  When you are ready to send it off to the moon, you fire your lunar rocket and leave your lift rocket behind to eventually reenter the atmosphere and burn up.  You have now entered the Translunar phase of the journey. See figure 1, steps 1, 2. and 3.

Figure 1

8 steps to reach the moon

(figure 1 adapted from

When we are about half way to the moon, you fire little rockets to correct our course so that we enter an orbit around the moon. See figure 1, steps 4 & 5

At just the right time and place we need to turn around and fire the rocket again to slow our speed enough to cause us to spiral down to the moon’s surface.  At about 3 kilometers (1.86 miles) above the moon you discard the spent rocket so it will not be in the way of your landing rocket.  The spent rocket will crash into the moon, harmlessly we hope.  See figure 1, steps 6, 7, & 8.

When about 2 kilometers (1.24 miles) from the moon’s surface you need to slow us down more to land,  so you fire our landing rocket and control our descent until we softly touch down.

Figure 2

Figure 2

The Atlas-Centaur 10, shown in figure 2,  carried the Surveyor 1 spacecraft. It lifted off from Pad 36A on May 30, 1966. The purpose of the Surveyor 1 mission was to scout the lunar surface for future Apollo manned lunar landing sites.

In figure 3, Conrad examines Surveyor III  on November 20, 1969.

Figure 3

Figure 3

Our cross destined for the moon will ride on a robot inside a lunar Lander aboard a private lift vehicle.  The robot will look entirely different from the Surveyor (above) because the robot will be a “Rover” , using wheels so it can roam around.  TV cameras will transmit pictures to Earth, including pictures of the cross placed by the Rover.

All pictures referenced here are from the Wikimedia Commons.  Commons is a freely licensed media file repository. For more info visit Wikipedia-Surveyor

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