Monday, January 10, 2011

A bit of space

Let's go on a rocket trip to the moon!
We take out own air and water.
We need special suits, too.
In the sunlight, the moon is hotter than boiling water.
In the shade, it is very cold.
From the moon, the sky looks black.
We cannon hear any sound.
The mountains stand sharp and clear.
There are no plants or animals.
Jumping on the moon is fun.
We can jump six times as far as on earth!

- from Sun, Moon and Stars, 1950 by Jeanette Smith

How our understanding of things change with time is always interesting. It was once believed (before telescopes) that the moon as a perfectly smooth heavenly body. By 1609, Galileo Galilei looked through one of his homemade telescopes at the moon and saw that it was not smooth. Over the next century the craters were mapped and named.

One of the motivations for William Herschel (1738-1822) for making bigger, better telescopes was to observe life on the moon - at one point he believed the moon teemed with life. Eventually, with one of his better telescopes, he discovered the moon wasn't inhabited - at least no cities were to be seen.

The above poem is from a children's book written back in 1950, before anyone set foot on the moon. This poem got it right. Within twenty years of its publication astronauts landed on the moon and found it to be a dusty airless place.

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