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The boulders litter the floor of an unnamed 3. On Earth, air scatters light and allows objects not in direct sunlight to be still well-lit.
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Rayleigh scattering is the reason why the sky is blue, and for the most part why you can still read a magazine perfectly well under an umbrella at the beach. On the Moon there is no air, no Rayleigh scattering. So shadows are very dark and, where sunlight hits, very bright. Lunar regolith is composed of fine, angular particles of very reflective dust. It tends to reflect light directly back at the source, and will illuminate objects within shadows as well — as seen in Apollo mission photographs. Astronauts within the shadow of the landing modules were still visible, and their suits were well illuminated by reflected light from the lunar surface.
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It gets dark — and quickly cold — in there! Stunning imaging from the LRO. LRO was launched in support of the Constellation program, which was unfairly killed by President Obama. I too decry the demise of this program. But politics is a strange animal. What one Administration cuts, another can reinstate. I personally believe that cuts to our space program in all areas are counter-productive. We as a People reap so much from the technical advances made by these programs it is silly from an economic standpoint to cut back on them when they are such a small part of the governments budget every year.
In these images we see the long shadows cast by the light of the Sun and Earth around the astronauts, the landing module, flag and other objects.
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The disposition of the shadows forms part of the corpus of conspiracy theories claiming the lunar landings were faked. Shadows conceal and obfuscate; they create illusions by distorting height and proportions, but Moon conspiracy theorists look to shadows to reveal the truth. The shadows are an imperfect and distorted reflection of the real form of the objects. In their own minds, the conspiracy theorists are like the escaped captive who emerges from the cave to perceive the true cause of the shadows.
The shadows are signs that can be read, and the LRO used them to locate the six Apollo landing sites. Orbiting as close as 50 kilometres from the surface, it could see the shadows cast by the landing modules, instrument packages and even the flags. The astronaut traverses and rover tracks from Apollo 15—17 were visible as dark wiggles, like the burrowings of an insect in tree bark. Although abandoned by humans, the shadows mean the sites are not still. It is their difference from Earthly shadows which makes them significant; they are the shadows of humans and human artefacts in the light of another world, and they bring novel geometries and textures to lunar shadow topography.
The chiaroscuro created by the actions of these first humans could also be destroyed. The shadows I find most compelling, though, are the shadow selfies of absent astronauts stalking on their long legs over the regolith, camera raised to their visor. But there is also a kind of peace.
The shadow of mining
For a few decades, the lunar sites were safe from disturbance. But now everyone wants to return to the Moon. Distance will no longer protect lunar heritage, if we think it is worth protecting. The Moon has resources that entrepreneurs on Earth would like to access. The water ice hidden in the permanently shadowed polar craters is a resource that could be used to make fuel, as well as for habitation.
People are going to be analysing the shadow landscape to locate resources for future industry. Private companies have been established to pursue lunar and asteroid mining. Countries like the US and Luxembourg have put in place legislation to support commercial ventures on the Moon and in the asteroid belt. People seem to accept that industry on the Moon is not a matter of if any more, but when.
And when it happens, there is going to be an almighty lot of abrasive, adhesive and corrosive lunar dust stirred up as rockets and rovers come and go. The future of lunar heritage is at risk. My years of working in the terrestrial mining industry have suddenly become relevant to the future of space exploration. I think off-Earth mining companies are overlooking some critical processes.
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Disturbing the surface of the Moon at an industrial level could have a negative impact on its cultural significance for the entire population of Earth. This is even before you consider possible damage to the lunar landing sites of many nations. There is an urgent need to develop an environmental management framework for space, and cultural heritage must be part of this.
Space archaeologists have an important role to play in the next phase of human engagement with the solar system. It clogged up their equipment seals and caused mechanical equipment to stop working properly. We think of the astronauts in blindingly white spacesuits, but they ended up covered in dirt, much like an archaeologist in the trenches. The dust contains tiny, sharp spicules of obsidian, a natural glass, that are very abrasive.
This makes it highly adhesive. This is a critical problem to solve before any industrial activity takes place. Naturally the dust problem has occupied the minds of scientists working on lunar mining systems a great deal. Some of these proposals will also minimise dust abrasion damage on historic lunar spacecraft. This is a rare occasion where the research needed to develop lunar resources also helps us protect some of the most significant sites of the 20th century. So there is some hope that we can ensure that the early history of human adaptation to space environments is not erased.
This still leaves the bigger question. What about the Moon itself? How will people feel if they look at the Moon in the night sky, and know that it is being mined before their eyes? The Moon is a universal cultural symbol that unites us from the earliest human ancestors millions of years ago into the deep future of humanity. So far, all lunar missions have been small-scale and scientific. But it might be different when we know that private corporations are making a profit from digging up the Moon. The Bingham Canyon copper mine, owned by Rio Tinto and located in Utah, is the largest open-cut mine pit in the world.
What started as a tiny pit is now four kilometres across, hectares in area, and 1. Imagine something like this — but on the Moon. How would we feel if we could see a similar human-made crater from Earth - whether through telescopes or satellite images? We should be prepared for changes to the Moon we think we know — to have to make new meanings for it, as we have had to for Earth and other places in the solar system, like Pluto.
If lunar mining goes ahead, there is going to be even more redistribution and exchange of terrestrial and lunar materials. The search for water ice on the Moon will be a journey into deep cold shadows at the poles which have lain undisturbed for as much as 3. Compared to this, the Apollo shadows are mere blips in lunar history. Shadows on the Moon create a symbolic landscape which can be read in many different ways.
For me, Japanese novelist Junichiro Tanizaki, in his work In Praise of Shadows , captures the essence of these otherworldly shadows perfectly:.
And yet, when we gaze into the darkness that gathers behind the crossbeam, around the flower vase, beneath the shelves, though we know perfectly well it is mere shadow, we are overcome with the feeling that in this small corner of the atmosphere there reigns complete and utter silence; that here in the darkness, immutable tranquillity holds sway.
Low pay, earnings mobility and policy — Manchester, Lancashire. Edition: Available editions United Kingdom. A large, sea jelly-like antenna shadow from the Apollo 14 mission in Alice Gorman , Flinders University. The Apollo 17 lunar rover and its shadows.
NASA And then some shadows left, never to return, and others stayed to be swallowed by the lunar night and emerge into day again. Read more: Humanity's next giant leap: our heritage in space is our future too In my quest for the meaning of lunar shadows, I first had to investigate what kind of thing a shadow actually was. NASA Around , he started working on a theme in which shadows figured prominently.
Piazza, by Giorgio de Chirico, Museo Nacional de Belles Artes, Argentina More than the physical perception, shadows are highly symbolic. The shadow of the vampire Nosferatu creeping up the stairs in the classic German silent film. Director F.
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Murnau used exaggerated shadows to evoke horror and suspense. Neil Armstrong working in the shadow of the Apollo 11 descent module. NASA Landing the Eagle safely meant learning how to interpret what the shadows said about the unevenness of the terrain. Armstrong commented: It does adhere in fine layers like powdered charcoal to the sole and sides of my boots.