Three countries–China, Russia and the US–are planning to go to the moon in order to mine the incredibly valuable Helium 3 fuel there. Russia and the US have already planted flags on the moon. When these mining operations start, will the familiar "Man in the Moon" illusion still exist?

The Moon is in synchronous rotation with regard to the Earth, meaning that we see the same face turned to the Earth at all times. We might be able to prevail upon these countries to sign an agreement to scoop up moon dust only from the backside of the moon, which is never seen from the Earth. However, a look at history tells us that it’s inevitable that at least one of these countries will get greedy and start taking dust from the "wrong" side.

At the moment, no single country claims to own the satellite and its valuable surface dust. The Outer Space Treaty places the moon under international control and mandates only peaceful uses for it, meaning no nuclear weapons can ever be placed on the moon?if the treaty is followed. However, Helium 3 dust?like oil?could change all these admirable resolutions.

The Japanese see the image of a rabbit on the moon, while Westerners see a face there. What caused the Man in the Moon image, anyway? Ker Than writes in that the illusion was created by powerful asteroid impacts that occurred billions of years ago. Some of these may have hit the dark side of the moon. The shock waves then traveled through the interior, creating volcanic bulges on side of the moon we see.

Many people assume that the moon is a captured asteroid, as most planetary moons are. But the rocks returned by the Apollos missions showed that the moon is similar to the Earth and thus it must have originally been part of it. The moon may have broken off from the Earth’s crust due to centrifugal force, or it could have been knocked off the Earth by an large asteroid impact. Geologists think that the missing piece of Earth which is now the moon may be the Pacific ocean. Some astronomers think that the Moon and Earth are actually a double planet, which have become separated over billions of years, perhaps by an asteroid impact.

The Earth-moon combination works like an efficient machine, because the moon suppresses the speed of the rotational winds on the Earth, which would otherwise blow at a continuous speed of about 300 mph, meaning that life would not have evolved here.

Art credit: NASA. Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong took this photo from space in July, 1969.

When you look up, do you ever see a UFO? Bird watchers take a field guide with them when they go bird watching; take along a field guide when you search for UFOs.

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