The red dot shows roughly where Apollo 17 was heading. It got there a few days after that photograph was taken. Then on December 14, 1972, we reached the end of the heroic age when Gene Cernan and Jack Schmitt lifted off from the Moon. Just in the same way that the exploration of Antarctica had its heroic age, this remains the end of the heroic first age of lunar exploration.
What is particularly interesting is that the first human landing on the Moon took place just under 12 years after the launch of the Soviet Union’s Sputnik 1, which was launched on the fourth of October 1957, heralding the start of the space age that we all celebrate today.
Sputnik 1 was part of the International Geophysical Year (IGY; 1957 to 1958), which had it’s origins in something that had happened considerably earlier, in the 1880s. The first International Polar Year (1882 to 1883) was proposed by George Neuymeyer but was actually developed, although not completely executed because he did not live to see it completely, by an Austrian naval lieutenant, Karl Weyprecht. He developed the principles of the International Polar Year as follows.
Nations should collaborate,
Coordinated research expeditions using standardized instruments and methods would give a bigger bang for their collective buck,
Observations should be over at least one annual cycle, and
Observations should be a synchronized.
This showed great foresight for its time, but it has remained the basis of all the international collaboration on terrestrial, and if you like, space research that has followed.
There were 12 nations involved, undertaking a total of 12 expeditions to the Arctic and 3 to the Southern Ocean and the Antarctic. Fourteen meteorological stations were operated and there was a wide range of science undertaken: polar meteorology, atmospheric electricity, geomagnetism, auroral studies, ocean currents, tides, ice motion, and so on. All benefited from this joint collective standardized approach.
Fifty years later there was a second International Polar Year, organized by the World Meteorological Organization, which had also been involved in the earlier event. Forty nations participated with 40 Arctic observ-