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Europeans in Apollo: First flag on the Moon?

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Aldrin organising the Photo voltaic Wind Composition Experiment

Europeans in Apollo: First flag on the Moon?

19 July 2019

The flag-like Photo voltaic Wind Composition Experiment was the primary experiment arrange by the Apollo 11 astronauts on the lunar floor, and its Principal Investigator was Johannes Geiss, the world-leading Swiss physicist.

Manufactured by the College of Bern and the Swiss Nationwide Science Basis, this experiment was each easy and of nice scientific worth. It was one of many solely experiments to be carried on each lunar touchdown mission, and it was the one non-American experiment to be a part of the Apollo landings. It consisted of an aluminium foil sheet, 1.four m by zero.three m, mounted to a pole going through the Solar.

By combining scientific arguments and diplomacy, Johannes Geiss even succeeded in convincing NASA to deploy the Swiss photo voltaic sail earlier than unfurling the US flag, to be able to maximise the foil’s publicity time. Earlier than launch, somebody had playfully instructed attaching a Swiss flag contained in the roll of foil, in order that it could be the primary flag positioned by man on the Moon!

Geiss had devised this experiment to review the Solar’s steady flux of charged particles, referred to as the ‘photo voltaic wind’. His crew’s experiment allowed the primary measurements of the composition of the photo voltaic wind’s noble gases. These information would assist to resolve the competing theories in regards to the origins of the Photo voltaic System, planetary atmospheres and photo voltaic wind dynamics. The foil was uncovered to the Solar for 77 minutes on Apollo 11, permitting photo voltaic wind particles to embed themselves into the foil. The foil was then returned to Earth for laboratory evaluation.

We’re grateful to Prof. Geiss for giving his time this week to answering our questions!

Prof. Geiss and Apollo 16 photo voltaic wind experiment

What was the method for choice on your experiment on Apollo 11?

Our experiment was chosen due to the anticipated vital scientific information and due to technical causes: it was gentle (430 g), it didn’t want electrical energy and was straightforward to deploy for the astronauts.
How did you and your crew really feel as soon as the experiment was on the Moon?

I used to be very relieved that the touchdown went nicely for the astronauts and was excited to see Buzz Aldrin deploy the foil. After all I used to be extraordinarily nervous that the astronauts might return protected and sound and that they may safely deliver again the SWC experiment.

What was the response of the broader neighborhood in work or at residence?

The joy of the general public within the US, the place I used to be staying at the moment, and in Europe was overwhelming. I might by no means have imagined such enthusiasm.

What did the experiment uncover in regards to the Photo voltaic Wind?

The purpose of the experiment was the measurement of photo voltaic wind ion composition, which isn’t potential on Earth, due to the environment. With the foil of the photo voltaic wind experiment it was potential to catch these particles after which measure them on Earth, particularly the isotopes of the sunshine noble gases, which means helium, neon and argon. This gave vital details about the previous of the Universe and the ‘Large Bang’.

Did extra variations of the experiment fly, both on the remaining Apollo missions or to Earth orbit?

Sure, it was a giant success and we had the chance for the experiment to fly on 4 of the subsequent Apollo missions (12, 14, 15 and 16) and the publicity time of the experiment on the Moon was significantly prolonged to a number of hours within the later flights.

Given the function you might have had in shaping house science analysis already, what are the large questions on house or the Photo voltaic System you’d nonetheless wish to know the solutions to?

The extra analysis we do, the extra questions come up, and there appears to be one important purpose that we come to our limits, and that’s the human mind.

Will you have a good time the 50th anniversary of the Moon touchdown?

We already had a really good celebration on the College of Bern in June with scientists, astronaut Charles Duke, politicians and the broader public. On 21 July I’ll have a glass of champagne with my spouse Carmen to have a good time the primary touchdown on the Moon, this nice second in historical past and science.  

Ceremony honouring Prof. Geiss in Bern

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