On March 9, I was headed east around 9 p.m. and saw a spectacular sight — a supermoon. It appeared huge on the horizon with an orange hue and wisps of clouds. Beautiful.
This year, supermoons have occurred in three consecutive months — in March, last month and this month. I did catch the April event, but it was a different sight. The moon was not as big, was a bright white and not a wisp of cloud was in sight.
With these back-to-back occurrences on my mind, I checked out “The Moon” to learn more about what I saw.
OLIVER MORTON’s “THE MOON: A HISTORY FOR THE FUTURE” is much more than just a book to answer my simple questions about full moon events. He does explain about all phases of the moon and the moon’s orbit. So, periodically, some of the full moons that occur every 29 days happen when the moon’s orbit is closer to the earth (perigee), and we get to experience supermoons.
From the content of the book, I surmise that Morton has read almost everything there is to read on the moon. He employs both fact and fiction in this study of Earth’s natural satellite. He intersperses chapters of factual information on the moon with chapters exploring the perception of the moon in history, literature and art.
The author reflects on the moon as seen through artists — such as Jan Van Eyck and Leonardo da Vinci — and through history, starting with Galileo Galilei. This is not a chronological history but a contemplation of the people and ideas that advanced our understanding.
Of course, there cannot be a book about the moon without something about Project Apollo. This section starts long before the actual missions with the technological advances that occurred to make space travel possible. Morton goes from gunpowder to World War II rockets to the Saturn V rocket. He also relates how science fiction authors influenced the interest in space travel.
From the engines to the space suits, Morton details the work that went into sending men to the moon not once but several times. He includes the transcripts of the communications between people on Earth and the astronauts on the moon for Apollo 11, 12, 14, 15, 16, and 17 — from “That’s one small step for man” to “as I take man’s last step from the surface.”
From the great achievement of the Apollo missions he moves on to how the race to the moon lost momentum. Even though the focus moved to other areas of space, the significance of the Apollo mission cannot be discounted. Morton explains the different thoughts on the earth’s geologic age and one of those is that when Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon it began a new age. The technology that made that step possible is significant on a planetary scale.
The remainder of the book speculates on why the promise of Apollo came to nothing and the reason why we will and should go back. He explores mining, tourism and colonies on the moon. He also touches on ongoing programs in China, India and other countries, including the U.S.
He devotes some pages to Elon Musk and SpaceX and to Jeff Bezos’ (Amazon) commitment to Blue Origin. Morton also touches on the issues that need to be resolved, especially for plans to stay on the moon. Where do you land and how will space on the moon be allocated?
My initial interest in this book was for a simple question, and I got so much more. It did answer my question but also provided a great philosophical look at an object that we take for granted.
The library only has this title in paper form. My wish is that by the time you read this review, the library will have reopened. If not, and you want to read about the moon, try the Ebsco Ebook collection. You can find the link on the library website at www.joplinpubliclibrary.org.
You’ll find titles for both adults and juveniles and access is unlimited, so you never have to wait to read the title you choose. You might try “The Book of the Moon: A Guide to Our Closest Neighbor” by Maggie Aderin or “Moon” by Lynn Stone.
Patty Crane is the reference librarian at the Joplin Public Library.