NASA Astronaut Talks the Mind-Blowing Views on the Far Side of the Moon

Monday, 24 October 2016 - 3:44PM
NASA
Space
Moon
Monday, 24 October 2016 - 3:44PM
NASA Astronaut Talks the Mind-Blowing Views on the Far Side of the Moon
Apollo 11 gets a lot of credit (and rightly so) for being the first space mission to land humans on the moon, but not so many people remember the amazing journeys the later missions made, especially Apollo 15. In fact, it was the Apollo 15 mission that pushed the boundaries of lunar exploration, and at the time NASA even called it " the most successful manned flight ever achieved." At the heart of all this was a man named Al Worden.

In a piece published on Medium, Worden, the astronaut who served as the Command Module Pilot on the mission, gives an interview with Avi Solomon about his experience orbiting around the moon while his two crewmates, David Scott and James Erwin, walked around the surface. It seems like a missed opportunity for Al, but in reality, Worden ended up seeing some of the most awe-inspiring views of the cosmos ever witnessed by an astronaut. Here's what he had to say about the experience:

Opening quote
...there are two things that are important to understand: there's the far side of the Moon and then there's the dark side of the Moon. They are two different things. The far side is the side away from the Earth and the dark side is the side away from the Sun. On our flight the Moon was about half lit, so there was about half a Moon.
Closing quote

Taking notes, future astronauts? The dark side of the moon changes, but the far side of the moon doesn't. Sorry, Pink Floyd fans. Here's an image of what the Earth looked like from Worden's spot above the moon's surface:

Apollo 15 Earthrise

Worden says it's his favorite photo from the mission:

Opening quote
The Sun was around behind the Earth, and that's why you see a crescent. The crescent part of the Earth you see in the photo is covered with clouds. The photo is actually a composite I made for the cover of my book of poetry.
Closing quote


But it's when Worden was on the far side of the moon that the view blew his mind (and ours):

Opening quote
So there was a little space around the far side of the Moon where I was shadowed from both the Earth and the Sun and that was pretty amazing. I could see more stars than I could possibly imagine. It really makes you wonder about our place in the Universe and what we're all about. When you see that many stars out there you realize that those are really suns and those suns could have planets around them...

The sky is just awash with stars when you're on the far side of the Moon, and you don't have any sunlight to cut down on the lower intensity, dimmer stars. You see them all, and it's all just a sheet of white.
Closing quote


To get an idea of what Al was seeing, take a look at this image from the Hubble telescope:



Now we know why Arthur C. Clarke wrote that famous line in 2001: A Space Odyssey—"My God, it's full of stars!"

You can visit Worden's website here and check out his book, Falling to Earth.

Science
Science News
NASA
Space
Moon