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I’ll see you on the far side of the Moon

The far side of the Moon as seen by the Luna 3 robotic probe in 1959. [Credit: NASA History Office]

The far side of the Moon as seen by the Luna 3 robotic probe in 1959. [Credit: NASA History Office]

Modern humans have been around roughly 100,000 years, but until 55 years ago, none of us knew what the far side of our own Moon looked like. That changed in 1959 with the Soviet Union’s Luna 3 robotic probe, the first spaceship to travel around the Moon and return photos to Earth. My latest column for The Daily Beast commemorates that anniversary, and how the radical difference between the near and far sides is still somewhat mysterious. Along the way, I explain just how complicated it was in 1959 to take pictures automatically and get them back to people for viewing.

The first photos from the far side of the Moon are singularly unimpressive to modern eyes. They are grainy, low-resolution black-and-white pictures, more scruff than science. However, when you realize how difficult it was to take those photos in 1959 and how new the images were to audiences on Earth, they become more moving. And not least, they were the first glimpse at a Moon mystery we still haven’t fully solved: Why is the far side so different from the side we see from Earth? [Read more…]

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1 Response to “I’ll see you on the far side of the Moon”


  1. 1 Joseph Nebus October 17, 2014 at 02:58

    I think I’m just old enough, even though I was born after most of the Apollo moon landings, to still feel like the first far side pictures are impressive. That may reflect the books I read as a kid, which, begin a couple years old when I was born, were still presenting this as a fresh breakthrough.

    But then I still think of Mercury as a planet we have only three-eighths mapped, with big swaths of Unknown Land.


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