Philadelphia astronomer explains significance of moon landing

Beccah Hendrickson Image
Friday, February 23, 2024
Philadelphia astronomer explains significance of moon landing
Philadelphia astronomer explains significance of moon landing

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- For the first time in more than 50 years, an American-made spacecraft is back on the moon.

It's a historic feat matched only by the Apollo missions in the 60s and 70s.

However, if you ask an astronomer like Derrick Pitts from the Franklin Institute, the landing of Odysseus, which was built by a private company called Intuitive Machines, opens an entirely new chapter for space exploration.

"it's better to do this one step at a time than try to do it all in one go," said Pitts, the chief astronomer there. "NASA bought the service, but the company that put it together did the whole thing by themselves."

Thursday marked the first time a private spacecraft has ever landed on the moon and Pitts believes it will not only drive competition, it will help American astronauts get back to the moon as well.

A private spacecraft successfully landed on the moon Thursday, marking the first time since NASA's famed Apollo moonwalkers that the U.S. has been back on the lunar surface.

"Instead of being there for only a few hours, we're going to be there for days and weeks at a time. We're going to establish permanent research stations so that astronauts can go and explore the surface for a long time," he said.

The moon could possibly be a stop on the way to sending astronauts to Mars, according to Pitts.

As he explained the historic significance, students learned about space and the moon inside the Franklin Institute.

"They could be the potential next, I don't know, landing on Mars or doing something even better than we're doing now," science teacher Beth Colgan said of her Delaware students visiting the institute.

While on their field trips, kids marveled at the idea of the first moon landing in half a century.

"I think it's cool," said 9-year-old Jerry Mustaro from West Deptford. "Because I just wonder what it's like up in space."