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…]