Malta and the Moon

THE MOON FOR ALL MANKIND – THE MALTA MOON

The moon is our closest celestial body and by far the brightest object in the night sky. It has fascinated man since antiquity.

The International Year of Astronomy 2009 celebrates the four hundred year anniversary since Galileo turned his telescope towards the night sky. He was the first to observe our moon in detail and some of the maps have been preserved.
The year 2009 is also the fiftieth anniversary of the first unmanned lunar landing and also the fortieth anniversary of the first manned landing.

Malta is an archipelago of small islands in the Mediterranean with a population of just over four hundred thousand people. It has a rich history and is home to the oldest free standing stone structures in the world. It is claimed that these temples, which are thousands of years old, were aligned to the solstice and so there has been a strong astronomical tradition in Malta since antiquity.

The IYA 2009 Malta committee has been very busy organising several astronomy events and it has also put an emphasis on the moon and its exploration by robotic and manned spacecraft. This included the issue of a stamp set commemorating Galileo, Apollo 11 and Lassell’s famous telescope in Malta. A highlight of the activities was a very successful visit to Malta by the Apollo 17 lunar module pilot, the geologist Senator Harrison Schmitt. There have been several talks, seminars, exhibitions and observing sessions.
During the early meetings of the committee the chairman Dr Gordon Caruana Dingli proposed that Malta should co-ordinate an international project for the IYA 2009. Mr Leonard Ellul Mercer, who is a keen astrophotographer, had long wished to produce an astronomy image involving various countries and after discussions with Dr Alex Gatt, Gordon proposed forming an image of the moon composed of images taken by countries all over the world. Leonard then divided an image of the moon into numbered segments and all IYA 2009 single points of contact with an email address were invited to take part. The response was overwhelming with 40 countries submitting images from all five continents, one country for every year that has passed since Apollo 11 landed on the moon!  We have also included an image from the European Union’s Smart-1 spacecraft. Most of the images were taken during the May or June full moons of 2009 but some were older and Italy’s was a four hundred year old sketch by Galileo Galilei. These images were painstakingly processed and pasted as a collage on the background of an image of a full moon imaged by Leonard. This took up many hours of Leonard’s time especially after he decided to produce an audiovisual production of the project. The music of the animated feature is specifically composed and played for the project by Lynn Faure.

The project commemorates the Russian Luna 2 which was the first unmanned spacecraft to land on the moon. We also commemorate the Apollo project which reached Kennedy’s goal with the first manned lunar landing on 20th July 1969 followed by another five landings. Other countries that have launched spacecraft to the moon are Japan, Europe, China and India. These probes are also featured in the image.

The font used in the project is Futura which was used on the plaque that was fixed to the Apollo 11 lunar module Eagle, this read:

“HERE MEN FROM THE PLANET EARTH FIRST SET FOOT UPON THE MOON JULY 1969, A.D. WE CAME IN PEACE FOR ALL MANKIND”

This was the inspiration for our project “THE MOON FOR ALL MANKIND”

Leonard Ellul-Mercer
Gordon Caruana Dingli

International Year of Astronomy 2009 Malta Committee

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