This coming Saturday marks the fiftieth anniversary of the one of the most iconic events of the twentieth century- the lunar landing of the Apollo 11, where the American astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first person to walk on the surface of the moon. This amazing feat was an incredible testament to human ingenuity, determination, and willingness to reach for seemingly impossible dreams.
Long before this event, humans have been fascinated by our closest neighbor in the sky, and have used it as a source of inspiration and superstition. Here are a few of the more interesting stories our ancestors have told to explain the existence of this celestial body:
- Many cultures worshipped the moon as a goddess. The Greeks and Romans even had three separate goddesses to describe the phases of the moon; Artemis as the new moon, Selene as the full moon, and Hecate as the dark side of the moon.
- The ancient Chinese explained lunar eclipses as being caused by an enormous dragon that swallowed the sun, and so they made as much noise as possible to scare the dragon away.
- Multiple cultures have told stories about the “man in the moon.” Most of these variations say that he was put there as punishment for stealing, some even for the attempted theft of the moon itself.
- The moon’s phases have historically been linked with madness, and the word “lunatic” comes from this belief. Ancient philosophers such as Aristotle and Pliny the Elder believed that a full moon affected the water in a person’s brain, causing irrational behavior or insanity.
- Our modern holiday Easter is actually calculated by the moon. We celebrate on the first Sunday following the first Saturday after the first full moon after the spring equinox. This tradition has its roots in archetypal symbols involving femininity, fertility, rebirth and the lunar cycle.
And a few interesting facts:
- Humans have attempted to track the phases of the moon for at least 13,000 years, based on an eagle bone artifact found in France that appears to have been used as a counting stick.
- The oldest known map of the moon was found carved into a rock in a prehistoric tomb in Knowth, County Meath, in Ireland. It is estimated to be about 5000 years old.
- A full day on the moon, from one sunrise to the next, lasts an average of twenty-nine Earth days.
- Common cell phones today are 400 times more powerful than the computers used to guide humans to the moon in the 1960s and 70s.
- There is an Outer Space Treaty in affect that gives the moon the same jurisdiction as international waters. The treaty allows the moon to be used for peaceful purposes by all nations, and prohibits military bases and weapons of mass destruction from being placed on the moon.
For more interesting facts about the moon, you can find plenty of resources such as this one.