After lifting off from the lunar surface, the Apollo 11 ascent stage docked with the Columbia command module, with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin rejoining Mike Collins. The ascent stage was then jettisoned in lunar orbit.
Credit: NASA

New research points to the prospect that the historic Apollo 11 “Eagle” Lunar Module ascent stage may still be orbiting the Moon.

James Meador has published his numerical analysis and simulations in the Planetary and Space Science journal, work that “provides evidence that this object might have remained in lunar orbit to the present day.”

Meador notes that the lunar modules were designed for 10-day missions, and little consideration was given to long-term reliability. “For this reason, fuel leaks might have resulted in propulsive events or even complete destruction at any time after the craft was jettisoned. Although catastrophic outcomes are possible, there exists some possibility that this machine might have reached an inert state, allowing it to remain in orbit to the present day. If so, it should be detectable by radar,” he writes.

Wanted: radar scans

A rough analysis indicates that the historic Eagle ascent stage that boosted Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin off the Moon would be more than 78 miles (125 kilometers) above the lunar surface in about 25% of limb crossings.

“If one assumes radar is able to detect objects at this altitude, then four judiciously chosen 2-hour observation periods should provide sufficient coverage to possibly relocate one of the most important artifacts in the history of space exploration,” Meador writes.

To access the complete paper – “Long-term orbit stability of the Apollo 11 “Eagle” Lunar Module Ascent Stage” – go to:

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0032063321001434

Note: Special thanks to skywatcher John Williams for calling my attention to this interesting research.

 

 

 

 

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