The Apollo 11 story that almost everyone knows is that of a historic mission that took man to the moon in July 1969. What is not certain to this day is what happened to the Lunar Eagle Module. Rather than colliding with another object, as previously predicted, a simulation based on the piece’s trajectory indicates that it may still be orbiting the Moon. The study was published on July 9 in the scientific journal Planetary and Space Science.
In the 1969 mission, astronaut and pilot Michael Collins (1930-2021) stayed in orbit aboard the command module, Columbia, while his colleagues Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on lunar ground aboard the Eagle. To return to orbit the next day, they used the same rover. After reuniting with Collins in NASA’s mission command module, the Eagle was dropped into space.
What is concretely known is that the Lunar Eagle Module was abandoned in lunar orbit after the historic 1969 landing, but what is speculated is that the object may have remained in lunar orbit to the present day. The numerical analysis described in the scientific paper published in July by James Meador, a California space enthusiast, supports this theory.
According to Meador, who made simulations of the space module’s predicted orbit using NASA software, the object should still be orbiting the moon today, at about the same altitude at which it was left — approximately 100 kilometers. Since the Moon has no atmosphere, there is nothing that promotes friction to drag the module to it, unlike what would happen on Earth.
Meador’s simulations show that the module’s orbit can still be practically stable today, causing it to travel around the Moon every 2 hours. “It’s about where it was 52 years ago,” the enthusiast told British magazine New Scientist.
Next research steps
If Meador’s calculations are correct and the spacecraft, which is about 4 meters in diameter, is still in orbit, it can be detected by radar here on Earth. “It would be great to allocate a few hours of radar time and look for it,” Meador said. And he added: “A lot of people would be very excited to know that this thing still exists. It would be amazing to bring it back to Earth and put it in a museum.”
And would you like to see the lunar module that first took man to the moon back to Earth? Let us know in the comments.