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Sol Journal – November 16th

November 16, 2016

Partners of the planets

by Anastasiya Stepanova

A few days ago, we watched the movie “Oblivion”. It started with a story that aliens destroyed the Moon and this caused catastrophes on Earth. On Monday it was a special day for those who love gazing at the night sky. The last time earthlings could see the Supermoon was in 1948. When the Moon is full, appearing 14 % bigger and up to 30 % brighter than usual it is called a Supermoon.  The full phase is taking place at the Moon’s closest point in its orbit around the Earth, a 221, 735 miles away from us! If you already missed it, well you have another chance in 2034.

Even though in simulation we don’t go on EVA’s at night, this day was exceptional. At 5 pm Yusuke and Claude-Michel went to the science dome to look at the rise of the Moon, since the dome has a wide window with an amazing view. Minutes were passing but no sign of it. Commander started to worry. “We couldn’t miss it! Only if a black hole ate the moon” – said Alexandre with a smile. And I imagined what would happen to us, if the Moon disappears? Why is our natural satellite so important?

Considering that the average distance to the Moon is 384, 400 km (238,900 mi), it has both directly and indirectly influenced the life on our planet. The Moon’s gravity pulls on Earth’s oceans and distorts them, which causes the tides. The tidal forces also affect the crust, which contributes to the heat of the magma underneath. The Moon also stabilized the obliquity of our planet, which keeps healthy and diverse climatic zones. The Moon shows the path on dark nights to humans for thousands of years. It inspired scientists, artists and writers. The Moon race in the 60-s affected our life now. We use the technological inventions, hardly knowing that they are the products of the Space race. 

If the Moon was destroyed, we will be in a big trouble! Earthquakes, agricultural disasters and many other consequences will follow us. The survival of humans will be under the question mark.   

As I walked out the airlock in the space suit, for the first time at night, I realized how lucky we are to have this partner. The Supermoon shown so bright that we didn’t need to use the torch. The red desert of Utah suddenly transformed into lunar base surrounded with grey hills and dunes. There was something magical and peaceful in this change of decorations. We took pictures, gazed at the beautiful sky and went to our cozy habitat thinking of what will enlighten our path at night on Mars?

Phobos and Deimos – the partners of red planet are too small and remind us of two wrongly shaped stones. The view of Deimos from Mars is the same as we see Venus, just a bright star. Like our Moon, Phobos and Deimos are always seen on Mars from one side. The orbit radius of Phobos decreases and in few centuries the satellite will be broken up due to its close approach to Mars. Maybe if Mars had a Moon similar to our natural satellite, it would have better chance to sustain life. But for now it is a planet inhabited by robots, which will someday lose Fear (Phobos, from Greek mythology) and keep Terror (Deimos, from Greek mythology).