Forty years ago today, two explorers set foot onto the surface of the Moon. It was perhaps the boldest journey ever undertaken by our species, the culmination of a phenomenal amount of energy and labor invested over a shockingly brief nine year period. Our knowledge of the Moon was still so poor that the astronauts held some trepidation about stepping down from the vessel that brought them to the Moon, for fear that the lunar surface might not support their weight. But we as humans did, as we must, take that giant leap.
Back on our mother planet, billions of people eagerly followed the mission of Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins. Those with televisions crowded around their sets, holding their breath in anticipation. The pictures were grainy and dark, but eager audiences happily took them in, amazed to have the privilege to bear witness to this historic moment.
Today, an even larger audience has an unprecedented opportunity to personally explore the Moon. This morning, our friends at Google have released Moon in Google Earth, a free and intuitive piece of software that allows users to see stunning data from five decades of lunar missions in context and in the highest qualities possible. More than ever before, the rest of us will be able to recreate the experiences of the 24 men who orbited around or landed on the surface of our celestial neighbor.
click to download Google Lunar X PRIZE tour for Google Earth
The addition of Moon into Google Earth – a program that already boasted Mars and Sky — is a fitting tribute to the men and women who made the first era of lunar exploration possible. Yet it also typifies the spirit of a new era of lunar exploration, ‘Moon 2.0.’ This new era of lunar exploration will have a broader reaching impact, as a much larger range of people and nations are involved both in conducting lunar missions and in benefiting from the discoveries and technologies that will result. Online technologies such as a Moon in Google Earth will provide us all with an opportunity to ride along with lunar missions as we have never been able to do before.
As you explore this new software package, we hope you’ll also take the Google Lunar X PRIZE tour. Simply download this file to your computer and open it the new Google Earth, and you’ll be whisked away on a tour of the lunar surface with X PRIZE Founder Peter Diamandis and with X PRIZE Trustee and second generation astronaut Richard Garriott. They will use the software to imagine what we’ll all be watching in the near future, projecting the preliminary designs published by our teams onto the lunar surface. This tour is a rough draft, and will be revised and updated as often as possible to give you the best information about this new race back to the Moon.
As has been proven time and time again, exploration pays enormous dividends, often in ways completely unanticipated by the original explorers themselves. The exploration of the Moon will prove no different than earlier journeys made by land bridge, boat, or submersible. With Moon 2.0, these will spread further and faster and will be easier to sustain. We hope that you will join us in using the Moon in Google Earth to begin this exploration today.