Give Them the Moon

Marianne Dyson’s Science Snacks Newsletter

December 9, 2015

Hello, and a special welcome to those of you who joined my monthly mailing list/newsletter at the Freeman Library Book Fair and at the SCBWI Houston meeting December 5th and 7th. I call it Science Snacks because I discuss one cool science fact or news item (the “snack”) in each issue that I hope writers and readers of science fact & fiction will enjoy. This month’s topic is observing the Moon.


“The near side [of the Moon] is the likely choice for the first lunar outposts. … All the Apollo landings were on the near side. Experience gained from these missions reduces the risk of some unexpected danger.”

Home on the Moon, page 40

Give Them the Moon

The Apollo Program “gave” me the Moon, and with it, a longing to explore space. I’m ever grateful for this gift which I first “opened” on Christmas Eve in 1968 when Apollo 8, the first human ship to orbit the Moon, sent back the famous image called “Earthrise,” showing the fragile blue home planet with the Moon’s stark surface in the foreground. During the following four years, six Apollo missions landed on that surface, forever changing what I see when I view a full Moon now: the places where they landed.

This year, we are all given the gift of a full Moon on Christmas. I urge you to go out and “unwrap” this gift. Using the simple memory aide I created as an activity for Odyssey magazine years ago, you can “open” this gift with the knowledge of where the Apollo missions landed (and impress all your relatives!).

Grab a friend or family member and go outside after dark on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. The Moon will rise in the east around sunset and be overhead at midnight. First, identify the major features which are the dark maria or “seas.” For naked eye US observers, a very round dark spot on the right edge (which may point “down” at sunset) is the Sea of Crisis near the eastern equator. The left or western side of the Moon is generally dark (the Ocean of Storms). The left “eye” is called the Sea of Rains and beside it is the Sea of Serenity which is somewhat smaller. To the right and south and about the same size as Serenity is the famous Sea of Tranquility, where Apollo 11 landed.


Use your imagination to think of Serenity as the body, and Tranquility as the head of an upside-down “peace sign” rabbit, with two dark “finger ears” (Sea of Nectar and Sea of Fertility) pointing south. Apollo 11 landed near the equator right about where the Sea of Nectar connects.

Next note the bright white spot below the Sea of Rains. This is the crater Copernicus. Apollo’s 12 and 14 are south of it on either side and near the equator. In your mind, draw a line from 11 to 12 and 14. (Note, Apollo 13 didn’t make it to the Moon, but you can download the movie!) This is your “baseline” equator. Next draw a line from 14 up to a point between the eyes of Rains and Serenity. This is the bridge of the Moon’s nose and marks where Apollo 15 landed.

Now draw a line from Apollo 15 to below the equator in the whiter highland area across from the “kink” in the rabbit’s ear (Nectar). This is the site of Apollo 16. Finally, draw a line from there, past Apollo 11, up to the “top” side of the “neck” between the body (Serenity) and head (Tranquility) of the rabbit where Apollo 17 landed.

You have now connected the dots of all the Apollo landing sites in order from Apollo 11 to 17 and drawn a letter “N” for nose on the Moon! My son created an animated Moon Map for my website which includes this activity and also information on the features named.

I hope you will enjoy “opening” and sharing this celestial gift with your friends and family this holiday season. Happy New Year to everyone!

Writing about Space

The index for my memoir, A Passion for Space, has been updated with the correct page numbers. The new index is available free via Springer. Copies purchased after November have the updated index. The book is available via Springer and Amazon.

My short story, “The Right of Interference,” is included in the anthology, Touching the Face of the Cosmos: On the Intersection of Space Travel and Religion & is now available for order via Amazon.

Speaking of Science

Saturday, December 19, 2015. Book signing with Buzz Aldrin, Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, Florida.

Friday, February 19, 2016. Featured speaker for “Dinner with a Slice of History,” International Women in Air & Space Museum, Cleveland, Ohio. Book sales benefit the museum.

Author: Marianne

Marianne Dyson is an award-winning children's author, science fiction writer, and former NASA flight controller. To invite her to speak or order her books, visit her website,