by David Kindy/Smithsonianmag.com
Independent researcher James Meador at the California Institute of Technology had an idea: using new gravitational data of the Moon, maybe he could track where the Apollo 11 ascent stage crashed after it returned astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the command module following the first lunar landing in 1969. He was thrilled to pursue the chance to locate the impact site on the moon for history’s sake.
As Meador ran his calculations from the last known location of the spacecraft—about 125 kilometers above the lunar surface—he began to realize something significant: the ascent stage vehicle might not have crashed as everyone assumed. If fact, he theorized it could still be orbiting the moon.
Meador’s recent research posits that the ascent vehicle may still be visible and could be detected by radar or even a telescope. Posted in May on arXiv, a preprint server for studies not yet peer-reviewed, the study will be published in Science Direct’s peer-reviewed journal Planetary and Space Science in October.
“The Eagle was abandoned in lunar orbit, everyone just kind of forgot about it, and the assumption was it struck the Moon decades ago,” Meador tells Jonathan O’Callaghan of New Scientist magazine. Read More: