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

In the late summer of 1519, Portuguese explorer Ferdinando Maglano set out on his expedition of something no one had done before: traveling the Earth in a ship. After crossing the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, Magellan died in the Philippines, but the journey continued and ended in 1522. Since then, the journey to Earth has been carried out by all means, although no one will be able to make a full turn. on foot because it is from the exhausting existence of the oceans. However, there is one scientist close to us who could offer this opportunity, if anyone has ever thought of trying: colors.

The Moon, our only natural satellite, has an equatorial circumference of 10,917 kilometers, or about a quarter of the Earth’s circumference of just over 40,000 kilometers. It would take about 65 days to walk its full 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’ve learned from watching the awkward movements of the few humans who set foot there, moving to the moon isn’t as easy 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 did some elevations around the Lunar Module (LEM) but didn’t go very far and mostly jumped to the surface rather than a real walk.

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

Once they learned a little more about the moon, the astronauts realized that the best way to get around was by doing small jumps, taking advantage of the moon’s gravitational pull, which is equal to one sixth of earth’s gravity.

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

Come says location Life sciencesDuring 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 rely on more flexible and versatile combinations, they could have moved more easily, despite the lunar gravitational pull.

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 carried out with a proven system to bring astronauts to experience weightlessness during their training, here on Earth: an airplane quickly reached a certain altitude then launched into a rapid descent, simulating a few tens of seconds partial or total. weightloss.

The experience is fun, but it still makes you nauseous, unofficially called “guilty vomit.”

The eight participants in the experiment were asked to use A. Conveyor, Similar to that of the gymnasium, as the aircraft’s maneuvers mimic lunar gravity. Participants were able to maintain a walking distance of 5 kilometers per hour, indicating that they can move around the Moon at twice the speed of Apollo astronauts and similar to what was achieved on average here on Earth.

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

Assuming they can count on a more comfortable suit, it might take 91 days for an astronaut to complete a full rotation of the moon, covering its circumference at the equator and not 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 of course be impossible, so walking around the moon would take longer. There will be several other obstacles.

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

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

The idea of ​​a spaceship is not extravagant: NASA plans to return to the Moon in a few years with the Artemis space program It is for this reason that it is experimenting, with some private companies, different solutions to assist those who undertake exploration operations. A small boat carrying oxygen, supplies and equipment could be useful on trips of several hours, some distance from the moon base. The Apollo missions used rovers, such as the one pictured above, to move faster and carry samples of moon rocks to take to Earth.

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

(Gaston de Cardenas / AFP / Getty Images)

Temperature changes could be another serious issue for a long lunar flight. Depending on the points along the lunar equator, there are areas exposed to the sun up to 100 ° C and others down to -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 deal of the walking in very deep darkness.

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

Finally, excellent athletic training would be necessary 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 bodies tend not to respond well when we are in zero gravity. Astronauts who spend months on the International Space Station (ISS) know this well and they have to deal with reduced muscle tension, bone density and certain vision problems.

The crews of the ISS endure long gymnastics sessions with tools specially designed to exert efforts even in a situation of weightlessness in order to stay in good health. On the surface of the Moon, astronauts will face similar, albeit slightly contained, difficulties due to the presence of lunar gravity. Under these conditions, training and staying there for several days for a full moon tour would not be easy.

Assuming he is able to overcome all these difficulties, the astronaut can walk about 4 hours a 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 do a lot of turns to avoid the deepest and most dangerous pits.

Calculating and estimating the time required to complete a full moon walk may seem like an exercise in itself, but in reality, from simulations and assumptions of this type, interesting information for other 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 safest way to get to the moon have been underway for some time and will prove essential not only to discover new things about our natural satellite. , but with the prospect of exploring other worlds in our solar system, including On this March.

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