A quick tour of the solar systemBack to previous page
The first stop would have to be our Moon. At a million miles an hour it only takes us a quarter of an hour to get there. But back in 1969, the first Moon explorers took three days to reach the Moon, and no one has been there since 1972.
You can see at a glance that the Moon is very different from the Earth. There are just millions of craters of all sizes, plus some darker areas that are called seas – but they are really seas of volcanic lava, solid rock that was once molten and poured out from the interior of the Moon when the largest craters were formed billions of years ago. They were created when the solar system was still young and there were huge numbers of asteroids whizzing about. Some of these were hundreds of miles across, and hit the Moon with such force that the explosion released the molten rock that was still inside the Moon at the time.
By the way, Earth was also bombarded at the same time, but billions of years of rain and wind and earth movements have got rid of almost all of them. But the Moon has no air, so no wind and no rain or seas. And it is too small (about a quarter of the diameter of the Earth) to have things like volcanoes and big moonquakes to destroy the craters.
Down on the surface, we can see that things are different from Earth. Even during the day, the sky is black. The stars are visible, but they don’t show up in photos because they are so much fainter than the landscape. There are hills and mountains, and craters of all sizes. Because there is no air or water there is no life, so it is a grey airless desert with rocks as far as the eye can see.
One fun thing about being on the Moon is that you weigh very much less. Your weight is caused by the size of the body you are on, so in space you have no weight at all. On the Moon you weigh about a sixth what you do on Earth. So even though your spacesuit weighs much as you do, and would make it very hard to walk around on Earth, on the Moon you can get around quite easily and even jump much higher off the ground. If you fall, you have much longer to regain your balance because you fall much more slowly.
We don’t really know if there are any useful materials on the Moon. It’s possible that there are deposits of some useful minerals, but so far only six sites have been explored, between 1969 and 1972. NASA have announced plans to go back there by 2018, and explore the Moon much more thoroughly.
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The Moon from orbit
Surface of the Moon
Astronaut jumping and saluting
Orange soil on the Moon