Google Goes to the Moon With the Apollo Astronauts

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Last month, I wrote an article describing how Google has taken cameras under the sea, allowing anyone with internet access to take a look at some of the most famous coral reefs on the planet. This time, Google is taking a detour off planet to bring more information to their Google Moon Maps.
Although I know that there are still some people who believe that the moon landing never happened and was a hoax created by the government, Google has provided definitive proof of the Apollo moon landings, along with interactive maps that feature narration by actual astronauts. In the footage, taken from a satellite orbiting the moon, you can see the flags that mark each of the Apollo landing fields.
The Apollo moon missions, 11, 12, 14, 15 and 16, which took place between 1963 and 1972 mark the first and last times that man has stepped foot on another world. When you think about it, it's actually mind-blowing. Google Maps is now allowing everyone to take a look at the surface of the moon and paying tribute to these amazing space missions.
The new content includes virtual tours of the lunar landing sites accompanied by narration from Apollo astronauts, 3D models of lunar landers and rovers, 360 degree panoramic views and rare TV footage of Apollo missions. In order to accomplish this, Google worked in partnership with NASA Ames Research Center. Together, they have produced a huge collection of lunar maps and charts, making it fun and easy to explore and learn about the Apollo missions. On the site, you can view composite image of the moon's surface that was taken by the Clementine mission and compiled by the USGS.
In addition to the lunar charts and maps, there is also an elevation map created by the Unified Lunar Control Network. The maps are shaded and have a key that shows the hills and valleys on the lunar surface.
Although Google Moon was launched on July 20, 2005, the anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing, much of the content is new. So, if you looked years ago, maybe it's time to start moon gazing again.
This interest in the moon is nothing new for the search giant. Google has created Google Lunar X Prize that offers a $30 million prize for the first privately funded team to send a robot to the moon. The competition has been heating up over the last few months and it's not just open to Americans. In fact, people all over the planet have been thinking and trying to come up with a way to meet the challenge. Currently, there are 25 teams across the world that are fundraising, planning their missions and building their robots. In order to win the prize, these teams have to successfully land a robot on the moon, have it travel 500 meters over the surface and send video, images and other data back to Earth. The teams have until the end of 2015 to reach the moon and win the prize.
According to the site, the Google Lunar X Prize Foundation is an “... educational organization whose mission is to bring about radical breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity, thereby inspiring the formation of new industries...” Although the prize is primarily for moon exploration, the foundation also offers other prizes and incentives for breakthroughs in many other fields other than space exploration and technology.
Even though I'm not much of a space enthusiast, I think that the Google Moon maps are simply fascinating. It's amazing to think that when my parents were young, they could only dream of what the moon's surface would be like, while our children are able to use a computer to see it for themselves.
What do you think about the Google Moon Map and the Google Lunar X Prize? Please share your thoughts in the comments.
Image Source: Google Moon

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