Saturday, July 20, 2024

# How long does it take to take a full moon walk?

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At the end of the summer of 1519, the Portuguese explorer Ferdinando Maglano set out on his expedition of something no one had done before: wandering the Earth on a ship. After crossing the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, Magellan died in the Philippines, but the voyage continued and was completed in 1522. Since then travel on Earth has been carried out by all means, although no one will be able to make a full circle on foot because it is from the exhausting existence of the oceans . However, there is a scientist close to us that could provide this opportunity, if anyone ever thought of trying: Colors.

The Moon, our only natural satellite, has an equatorial circumference of 10,917 kilometers, about one-fourth of the Earth’s circumference of just over 40,000 kilometers. It would take about 65 days to walk its entire length, if we could walk on the moon at 6-7 kilometers per hour, which is the speed at which we move on average here on Earth at a rapid pace. As we learned from observing the embarrassing movements of the few humans who set foot there, moving to the moon isn’t as simple as doing it here.

Since its existence, and since our existence as humans, the Moon has been visited by only 12 people: American astronauts in The Apollo Space Program, Which was operated in the 1960s and early 1970s by NASA, which made some elevations around the Lunar Module (LEM) but did not go very far and was mostly hopping on the surface rather than an actual walk.

Moreover, the astronauts’ suits on the Apollo missions were very bulky and designed primarily to protect their contents, humans, from the lunar environment, from radiation and from sudden changes in temperature between areas exposed to the sun and those in the shade. .

Once they got to know a little bit about the moon, the astronauts realized that the best way to move was to make small jumps, taking advantage of the moon’s gravitational pull, which is equal to one-sixth of the Earth’s gravity.

Buzz Aldrin, on the moon in July 1969 (NASA)

Come Says Location Living SciencesDuring the lunar explorations, members of the Apollo missions jumped across the surface at an average speed of about 2.2 kilometers per hour, less than half the average walking speed here on Earth. According to many experts, if they could count on more flexible and versatile suits, they could have moved more easily, despite the lunar gravitational pull.

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A few years ago, some NASA researchers conducted experiments to understand the speed at which a person could walk and run on the moon. The tests were conducted with a proven system to get astronauts to experience weightlessness during their training sessions, here on Earth: a plane quickly reached a certain altitude and then set off on a rapid descent, simulating a few tens of partial or total seconds. weight loss.

The experience is fun, but it always makes you so nauseous, that it’s informally called the “vomit guilty”.

The eight participants in the experiment were asked to use A. Belt conveyor, Similar to the one in the gym, as the plane maneuvers mimics lunar gravity. The participants were able to maintain a distance of 5 kilometers per hour from walking, which indicates that they can move around the moon at twice the speed of the Apollo astronauts and similar to what has been achieved on average here on Earth.

NASA researchers note that the result was achieved in part thanks to the volunteers’ ability to easily move their arms and legs, enabling them to achieve a better balance in their gait. The astronauts who discovered the moon already wore suits that prevented them from making such smooth movements with their arms, which did not allow them to achieve greater speed.

Assuming they could count on a more comfortable suit, it might take an astronaut 91 days to make a full rotation of the moon, covering its circumference at the equator and without stopping at all. To do the same on Earth – in theory, given the oceans – it would take 334 days.

Walking 91 days in a row without stopping and sleeping would be impossible of course, so walking around the moon would take longer. There will be several other obstacles.

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The Moon is a somewhat deserted, rocky world with an extremely thin atmosphere, almost absent when compared to the Earth’s mantle. The astronaut must have an adequate supply of oxygen, water, and food with them. He couldn’t keep enough in his luggage, and therefore must have needed a small support cart, a kind of space cart, which could also perform the task of the shelter to spend hours resting between walking and another.

Activities on the Moon during the 1971 Apollo 15 mission (NASA)

The idea of ​​a spaceship isn’t extravagant: NASA plans to return to the moon within a few years with the space program ArtemisIt is for this reason that they, together with some private companies, are experimenting with different solutions to provide assistance to those undertaking the exploration operations. A small craft carrying oxygen, supplies, and equipment could be useful on trips that last several hours, some distance from the lunar base. The Apollo missions used rovers, such as the one pictured above, to move faster and transport samples of lunar rocks to take to Earth.

However, moon walking cannot take place exactly beyond the equatorial ocean. If there are oceans on Earth, then on the surface of the moon there are large and deep craters that it is advisable to stay away from: some of them are several kilometers deep and have steep depressions that are difficult to climb. Moreover, the innermost portion of the pits often freezes because it always remains in the shade.

(Gaston de Cardenas / AFP / Getty Images)

Temperature changes could be another serious problem for a long lunar flight. Depending on points along the lunar equator, there are areas exposed to the sun up to 100 ° C and others as high as -180 ° C at night. The lunar cycle also means that there are days when the sun never shines, or for a few minutes, and that will involve doing a good part of walking in very deep darkness.

A well-designed suit can help overcome temperature issues, but the temperature range can also affect the minerals that make up lunar soil (“regolith”) in unexpected ways, making movement less comfortable. The suit must also be shielded from radiation, especially from the sun and not as effectively shielded as it is on Earth thanks to its magnetic field.

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Finally, great athletic training would be required to engage in a mission of this nature. Over thousands of years, we have evolved to adapt to the properties of the Earth, starting with its gravity, which is why our organism tends not to respond well when we are in a state of weightlessness. The Astronauts who spend months on the International Space Station (ISS) know well And they have to deal with reduced muscle tension, bone density, and some vision problems.

ISS crews undergo long gymnastics sessions with specially designed tools to make efforts even in weightless situations in order to stay healthy. On the surface of the moon, astronauts will face similar difficulties, although slightly contained due to the presence of lunar gravity. Under these conditions, training and staying there for several days for a full tour of the moon wouldn’t be easy.

Assuming he is able to overcome all these difficulties, the astronaut can walk about 4 hours per day on the surface of the moon, without suffering any particular consequences. So, it would take about a year and a half to complete a full circuit of our satellite, as long as we don’t have to make many turns to avoid the deepest and most dangerous pits.

Calculating and estimating the time taken to complete a full moon walk may seem like an exercise in itself, but in reality, from simulations and hypotheses of this kind, interesting insights for further practical applications can be obtained, also in light of future lunar missions. NASA will hardly organize a mission to cross our natural satellite on foot, but studies on the most efficient and safe way to go to the moon have been underway for some time and will prove to be central not only to discovering new things about our natural satellite, but in perspective to exploring other worlds in our solar system, including On that mars.

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