At night when you look up and see a beautiful new moon in a starry sky, do you think about the thousands of other people in the world who are looking at it at that moment? Or the millions of people since time began, who have spent long nights looking at the mysterious moon? . nowadays, we know quite a lot about it. Now we know more about it than has even been known before. And men have even walked on the surface of the moon. But, in spite of this, we don’t really know the moon well. It is a silent, mysterious planet that moves around the earth. We don’t know where it came from, what it is made of or how long it has been there. Long, long ago, it was even more mysterious to people than it is today. People thought that the earth was flat. When they looked up at the night sky, they thought that they were looking at the roof of the earth. Unless it was cloudy, this roof was covered with a mysterious design of shiny silver dots, and often, there was one larger, brighter light moving across it. This was it. But the silver stars seemed to be always the same shape, its is shape was always changing. Sometimes, it was a narrow silver curve, sometimes it was a broad curve, and sometimes it was a solid silver circle. And, more mysterious still, sometimes it disappeared completely.
During the day, people could not look at the sky easily. They could not gaze at the sun because it shone too brightly and was too hot. It gave the earth light and heat, so many people worshipped the sun as god. They used to have temples built for the god, and priests to pray to him, but they could not gaze straight at the god’s face. If they tried, the burning heat blinded them. It is no wonder why that mankind found the sky at night so mysterious and magical. At night, it was cool and dark, and it was easy to gaze for hours at it and the stars. People gazed up into the sky above them and wondered and dreamed about it. Because it was bigger and brighter than the stars, they worshipped it just as they worshipped the sun. but while the sun was a god, was usually a goddess. She had different names in different parts of the world, and in many places temples were built for her. In Greece she was called Selene, and in many parts of west Africa, she was called the goddess Mawu. But whatever her name was, she was usually thought of as the goodness of age and wisdom. The light and heat of the day are signs of strength, while the sun was worshipped because he was the strength of the world, was worshipped because she was the wisdom of the world.
While mankind worshipped the sun, and did not know very much about them, people were very superstitious. They became frightened and unhappy if the sun or moon disappeared when they ought to have been in the sky. When they saw a shadow move across the sun during the day, or over it at night, they thought that the sun god or the moon godness was very angry with them. then the temple priests had present brought to the temples for the god or goodness, and prayed to them to allow their light to shine again. And ideas about the sun god and goodness were not the only superstitions. There were other superstitious about huge monsters who came to swallow the sun and it. And when this happened, superstitious people prayed to the monster, asking him not to swallow the sun or it. Nowadays, very few people believe these superstitions. Most people know that when the sun and moon disappear it is because there has been an eclipse. There is an eclipse of the sun when the moon comes between the earth and the sun, while it is moving around the earth. And there is an eclipse of the moon when the earth’s shadow comes between the sun and the moon. When this happens, it cant reflect the sun’s rays. People used to hide themselves and pray during an eclipse, but now they get very excited about it and watch what is happening. Scientists study eclipses because they hope to learn from them more and more about the sun and the moon.
There have always been more stories about the moon than about the sun because it is easier for people to gaze at it and dream about it. Many of these stories are about the shape people think they see in it. In Africa, this shape is usually seen as a hare, and there are quite a lot of tribal stories about it and the hare. One of these stories comes from the cape Bushmen of South Africa. They say that a young hare was crying because his mother was dead. It appeared and told him not to cry because his mother wasn’t dead but asleep. She said that the mother would return alive to her son, just as it herself dies and then returns. But the hare went on crying because he didn’t believe it. Then it was very angry and had the hare punished. In Europe, In Europe, the shape in it is seen as a man, and European stories are usually about why this man is in the moon. One of these stories is told in the Bible. When Moses was alive, there was a man who gathered sticks on God’s day of rest. This was not allowed, and Moses punished him by having him exiled. He was exiled to the moon. Stories from Germany say that the man was exiled to it because he had stolen cabbages from his neighbor’s garden on the evening before Christmas. In France, some people still think that the man in it is Judas Iscariot who was exiled there because he had sold Jesus Christ to the Jewish priests. always watched it. They have watched to see how long it stays But it was not only something for superstitious people to worship and wonder about. Farmers, shepherds, hunters and sailors have in the sky, and they have used it as a kind of calendar. And there were also plenty of people who studied the moon scientifically. Scientists have been interested in Space and the stars and planets for many hundreds of years. Even before they realised how huge Space was, and they still thought the sky was just the roof of our own earth, they wanted to know more about this roof. So they studied Space Slowly, through the years, they began to understand that Space was more than just the roof of the world. They began to realise that our world was not the centre of Space, and that the size of Space was too huge to imagine or dream of. As soon as people started to study Space scientifically, they also started to imagine travelling in Space. And the first adventure stories about Space were written long, long ago. These Space adventure stories were often written about it, because the moon looked closer to earth than the stars did. People could easily imagine travelling to it The first of these adventure stories was written eighteen hundred years ago by a Greek called Lucian. His story is about the wonderful adventures he and some other sailors had when their ship was caught by a huge wind and spun through the air towards it. While people still could not see the moon easily, many stories like Lucian’s were told about travelling to it and meeting strange moon people there. Because it still seemed so mysterious, people used to believe almost anything about it. Sometimes, in these stories, people were carried to it by huge birds, and sometimes in strange machines. Rockets are a very new invention, but, for hundreds of years writers of adventure stories have imagined machines like rockets. They knew that a very special kind of machine and special mechanical equipment would be needed to travel to the moon, and everyone had their own idea of what this machine would look like. And when rockets were invented, they were just as strange and wonderful as the strange A rocket and wonderful machines people had imagined. The first rockets to go to it did not have people inside them. Instead, they had lots of radio and camera equipment so that messages about the moon, and pictures of it, could be sent back to the earth. These first rockets told scientists much more about it than they had ever known before, even though telescopes were so much bigger and better than they had been. people were never quite sure whether or not the telescope was giving them a true picture of it, and there were many ordinary people who would easily believe the kind of story that appeared in an American newspaper in 1835. This story was about a scientist who had seen men on the moon through his telescope. These men, the story said, were tiny, and could fly. They lived in a rich and beautiful country which had white sandy beaches and green rocky hills. In the middle, there was a temple of shiny blue stone, and in the air there were flocks of white birds. This story was not true, and the newspaper had been playing a trick on its readers. But until rockets sent back pictures and sounds which told more about it, many people would believe anything. The pictures sent back to earth by the first moon rockets showed that it was really a rocky, dusty desert, covered with mountains and craters. At first, it seemed that the craters might be lakes, but soon scientists learned that the craters were dusty plains surrounded by rocky hills. They also knew now that human beings couldn’t live on it because there was no air to breath. Also, because there was no ‘air, it was burning hot for fourteen days and icy cold for fourteen days. Everyone knew that there couldn’t be any life on the moon. But there was great excitement everywhere on earth when the first spaceship carrying men in it went to it. Many people still secretly hoped that there would be some kind of life on it. Other spaceships had travelled near the moon and even round it with men in them, and spaceships with dogs inside them had landed on the surface of it But Apollo Il was the first spaceship to take astronauts to it. There were three astronauts in Apollo Il. While one stayed in the main spaceship, two of the astronauts got into a smaller spaceship and flew down to it. Then, one of these astronauts, Neil Armstrong, became the first man in the history of the world to stand on the surface of it. It was a wonderful and exciting moment for the whole of mankind. For the first time, man was standing on the surface of another world. From now on, it would not be too strange to imagine living on another world. But the astronauts still had many problems. The greatest problem was whether their small spaceship would be able to blast-off safely from the surface of it, and join the mother spaceship again. And then there was the problem of blasting-off from Space, back towards the earth. Everything went very well on this first great journey. And since then, many other astronauts have blasted-off in their spaceships from earth towards it. Now that mankind has discovered how to blast-off into Space, and has begun to travel in Space, it, stars and planets should seem closer and less mysterious. But if you go outside at night and gaze up at the sparkling, shining lights in the dark night sky, it still seems impossible to imagine that men have stood on it . It looks just as magical and mysterious today as it did to people hundreds and thousands of years ago.