"The Planets" Moon (TV Episode 1999) Poster

(TV Mini-Series)


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U.S. vs. USSR: achievements of each, and discoveries
worleythom28 February 2016
Warning: Spoilers

This 45-minute show offers insights not available in others of many hours. We learn details of the USSR's moon achievements, and of what scientists learned from the moon rocks. Both unique to this program.

This show makes clear that the entire purpose of the moon program on both sides was a game of one-upsmanship between the U.S. and USSR in the cold war. Yet it did bear scientific and technological fruit.

USSR: Not only did the USSR have the first satellite in orbit (Sputnik) and the first person in space (Yuri Gagarin, 3/12/1961), USSR also achieved:

USSR sent the first probe to the moon.

USSR sent back the first photos of the dark side of the moon (Lunik 3).

USSR landed the first probe safely on the surface of the moon, and sent the first photos from a probe on the surface of the moon (Luna 9, 1966).

USSR had the first probe to orbit the moon (Luna 10).

USSR robotically returned moon rocks to Earth.

USSR had a robotic rover roaming the moon and sending back photos for a year after the last U.S. astronaut left the moon for the last time.

Kennedy and Kruschev had agreed to cooperate on the moon program in autumn 1963. Then Kennedy was assassinated. James W. Douglass in JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters makes clear that John Kennedy was murdered in part because he would've ended the cold war. (my review of that book: https://www.worldcat.org/profiles/Tom2718/reviews/2784576? reviewaction=fetchfull)

In 1959, when the first probe was successfully sent to the moon by USSR, the only radio telescope on Earth capable of tracking the probe to the moon was one in England. The British verified USSR's achievements, and received faxed Soviet pictures from the surface of the moon.

What we learn from moon rocks:

There is not a single molecule of water in any rock returned from the moon. Earth rocks of the same kinds (basalt, orthosite, orange volcanic soil) do have water in them.

Orthosite rock from the moon is 4.5 billion years old--same age as Earth.

Oxygen isotopes in moon rocks have the exact same composition as those of Earth. Meteorite rock from elsewhere has different mixtures of oxygen isotopes.

From these facts, scientists believe that the moon was once completely molten. They believe it was formed in a collision between Earth and a Mars-sized object.

Men were on the moon only during the years 1969 through 1972. (The first person walked on the moon only 66 years after the Wright brothers' 1903 first sustained powered airplane flight.) It would certainly not have happened when it did were it not for the cold war competition.

At 45 minutes, this show is an amazing synopsis of the highlights of the moon program on both sides, US and USSR. It does not mention the many disasters on the U.S. side: the loss of life, and the many early rocket attempts that blew up.

A big plus are the interviews with NASA and USSR scientists.
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