The Apollo 11 Spacecraft Ascent Stage May Still Be Orbiting the Moon

The ascent module (pictured) may still be orbiting the moon—or it exploded. According to the new calculations, the space junk never crash-landed onto the moon's surface as previously expected. (NASA APPEL Knowledge Services via Flickr under Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0))

Part of the Apollo 11 Spacecraft May Still Be Orbiting the Moon

by David Kindy/

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 Posted in May on arXiv, a preprint server for studies not yet peer-reviewed, the study will be published in Science Direct’s peer-reviewed journal Planetary and Space Science in October.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:



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  1. Always remember, fully one quarter of Americans think the Sun goes around the Earth. Google it if you don’t believe me. These folks also believe that the Earth was created exactly 6025 years ago because someone counted up the “begats” in the Bible. The Earth is flat and has corners because it says so in the Bible. Therefore, the Apollo missions must have been staged by devil-worshipers.

    • I wondered how the globe could have “four corners” as one sees that expression in literature. It occurred to me that if one superimposes a tetrahedron inside the area of a sphere, such that the vertices each coincide with points on the sphere’s surface, you would indeed have four geographic points all equi-distant from each other.

    • There is objective reality, however dimly perceived, and then there are faith-based belief systems. Thankfully, the US Constitution specifically prohibits the imposition of someone’s faith-based belief system on the rest of us. Millions of Europeans came to this continent on the run from the Inquisition, the 30-Years War, and the various pogroms that happened all over Europe. The last thing we want is for some crazy evangelical to tell us how to think and what to believe.

  2. Is there any reason to believe the other Apollo mission LEM ascent stages aren’t also still in lunar orbit? To find and photograph it would be fascinating.

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