Chapter 9 Cratered Worlds
Collaborative Group Activities
- We mentioned that no nation on Earth now has the capability to send a human being to the Moon, even though the United States once sent 12 astronauts to land there. What does your group think about this? Should we continue the exploration of space with human beings? Should we put habitats on the Moon? Should we go to Mars? Does humanity have a “destiny in space?” Whatever your answer to these questions, make a list of the arguments and facts that support your position.
- When they hear about the giant impact hypothesis for the origin of the Moon, many students are intrigued and wonder why we can’t cite more evidence for it. In your group, make a list of reasons we cannot find any traces on Earth of the great impact that formed the Moon?
- We discussed that the ice (mixed into the soil) that is found on the Moon was most likely delivered by comets. Have your group make a list of all the reasons the Moon would not have any ice of its own left over from its early days.
- Can your group make a list of all the things that would be different if Earth had no Moon? Don’t restrict your answer to astronomy and geology. Think about our calendars and moonlit romantic strolls, for example. (You may want to review Earth, Moon, and Sky.)
- If, one day, humanity decides to establish a colony on the Moon, where should we put it? Make a list of the advantages and disadvantages of locating such a human habitat on the near side, the far side, or at the poles. What site would be best for doing visible-light and radio astronomy from observatories on the Moon?
- A member of the class (but luckily, not a member of your group) suggests that he has always dreamed of building a vacation home on the planet Mercury. Can your group make a list of all reasons such a house would be hard to build and keep in good repair?
- As you’ve read in this chapter, craters on the Moon are (mostly) named after scientists. (See the official list at: http://planetarynames.wr.usgs.gov/SearchResults?target=MOON&featureType=Crater,%20craters). The craters on Mercury, on the other hand, are named for writers, artists, composers, and others in the humanities. See the official list at: http://planetarynames.wr.usgs.gov/SearchResults?target=MERCURY&featureType=Crater,%20craters). Living persons are not eligible. Can each person in your group think of a scientist or someone in the arts whom they especially respect? Now check to see if they are listed. Are there scientists or people in the arts who should have their names on the Moon or Mercury and do not?
- Imagine that a distant relative, hearing you are taking an astronomy course, calls you up and tells you that NASA faked the Moon landings. His most significant argument is that all the photos of the Moon show black skies, but none of them have any stars showing. This proves that the photos were taken against a black backdrop in a studio and not on the Moon. Based on your reading in this chapter, what arguments can your group come up with to rebut this idea?