Fly me to the Moon

With President Obama’s new NASA budget proposals to slash the Constellation programme, it might be a while longer before someone adds their footprints to the last left on the lunar surface by Gene Cernan in 1972. But in the meantime, here’s a virtual journey to the Moon, via our collections.

Galileo's maps of the Moon from Sidereus Nuncius (The Starry Messenger), 1610.

The 28 day lunar cycle, from Kircher's Ars Magna Lucis Et Umbrae (The Great Art of Light and Shadow), 1646

Pastel drawing of the Moon by John Russell, 1796

Plaster model of the lunar crater Archimedes, by James Nasmyth, 1850-1871

One of the reasons given for cancelling Constellation was lack of design innovation. Perhaps NASA’s engineers should take inspiration from this ingenious method of transport from 1648:

'The Man in the Moon', 1648

However and whenever they get there, the next visitors to the Moon are unlikely to encounter scenes like those in this lithograph, inspired by the Great Moon Hoax of 1835. In a series of increasingly outlandish articles, thought to have been written by reporter Richard Adams Locke in an attempt to boost circulation, The New York Sun reported that astronomer John Herschel had turned his powerful new telescope to the Moon and discovered lush vegetation, beavers walking on two legs, and bat-people. There was even a temple made of sapphire, which might have gone some way towards balancing NASA’s budget…

New discoveries on the Moon, c. 1838

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