Taxonomy term


Down to Earth With: Planetary geologist James W. Head III

In the late 1960s, as James W. Head III was finishing his graduate degree in geology at Brown University in Providence, R.I., he decided one day to take a look at a college placement annual, a phone book-like publication that listed prospective employers according to the types of jobs they had available. When Head looked up geology in the index, he saw several consecutive pages of related listings, as well as one separate page number. Curious about the outlier, Head flipped to it — and never looked back. Covering that entire page was a photo of the moon, a D.C.-area phone number, and a single line of text: “Our job is to think our way to the moon and back.”

29 Mar 2017

Down to Earth With: Neil Armstrong: First astrogeologist on the moon

One year ago this month, Neil Armstrong died in Cincinnati, Ohio, at the age of 82. Armstrong will be forever remembered for that historic first step he took on the moon on July 20, 1969, but he also held another distinction: He was the first person to explore the geology of another planetary body.

President John F. Kennedy mandated in his famous 1961 speech at Rice Stadium in Texas that the primary goal of the Apollo program was to land humans on the moon and return them safely to Earth before the end of the decade. The science mission was an important, but secondary, goal.

04 Aug 2013

Apollo science, 40 years later: Scientists reopen a lunar cold case

Today’s lunar scientists are like detectives who reopen old criminal cases and examine them anew with modern instruments and techniques like DNA analysis. Armed with data and analytical techniques not available in the 1970s, scientists are re-examining Apollo moon rocks and learning more than ever before about our nearest celestial neighbor.

24 Mar 2013

A memoir: A decade-plus of tracking lunar larceny

In the back alleys of the world’s capitals and in the ballrooms of presidential palaces exists a black market that preys on the imagination of some and the greed of others. These black-market items were neither carved nor painted; in fact, they are not of this Earth. They traveled 400,000 kilometers via six Apollo missions and three unmanned Soviet missions to and from the moon.

22 Feb 2011

Moonquake mystery deepens

Between 1969 and 1972, five Apollo missions installed seismic stations at their landing sites on the nearside of the moon. Because the moon was thought to be seismically dead, the instruments were left almost as an afterthought to detect meteor strikes. But from the time the stations were switched on until they were decommissioned in 1977, they recorded hundreds of internally generated moonquakes, some as strong as magnitude 5.5 on the Richter scale.

19 Aug 2009

The Moon Men: "Rocket Men" and "Voices from the Moon"

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the first step taken on the moon on July 20, 1969. Since that historic small step — which 600 million people around the world watched breathlessly — other space missions have captured headlines: NASA’s Space Shuttle program, the International Space Station, the intrepid Mars rovers. But none, perhaps, has had quite the impact on our imagination as the giant leap that Neil Armstrong took for mankind.

16 Jul 2009