IEEC releases anniversary image of the Moon in celebration of 50 years since humankind set foot on a celestial body
On 20 July 1969, at approximately 20:17:40 UTC, the Apollo Lunar Module Eagle landed at the site called Tranquility Base, in the south-western corner of the lunar lava-plain called Mare Tranquillitatis ("Sea of Tranquility"). The landing area where the intrepid space explorers set their foot for the first time in history, is marked in this image taken with the Joan Oró Telescope (TJO) from the Montsec Observatory (Observatori Astronòmic del Montsec, OAdM). 

Montsec Observatory is managed by the Institute of Space Studies of Catalonia (IEEC) which has recently celebrated 10 years of successful operation of this leading infrastructure for astronomical research, satellite services, and climate and environment monitoring. Its equipment includes, among others, the 80-cm diameter TJO telescope, named after the famous Catalan biochemist and pioneer of astrobiology Joan Oró. Public visits to the observatory are organised once per month. 

The image was taken on 10 June 2019, when the Moon was in the first quarter phase. IEEC astronomers used the LAIA instrument (4k x 4k imager) with a Johnson U filter, for an exposure time of 0.1 seconds. 

The arrival to the Moon was a great feat for science and exploration. It taught us, among many other things, about the composition of our satellite thanks to the 21.5 kg of lunar material that was brought back to Earth. Two types of rocks, basalt and breccia, were found in the geological samples, and three new minerals discovered: armalcolite (named after a combination of the astronauts’ names), tranquillityite and pyroxferroite. These minerals have subsequently been found on Earth. 

Landing on the Moon had benefits for society as well. Many of the technologies we now use in our daily lives would have not been possible without the exploration of space. Water purification systems, for example, used today to kill bacteria in recreational pools were created to purify astronauts’ drinking water. Ear thermometers use infrared astronomy technology to measure the amount of energy emitted by the eardrum. Also, cordless handheld vacuum cleaners were designed to collect samples on the Moon. Phone cameras, scratch-resistant lenses, CAT scans and radiographs, LEDs, memory foams, baby formulas, artificial limbs, all of them are inventions and technologies fully implemented in our day-to-day life that originated in or had benefited from the space age. 

At the same time, arriving at the Moon was an inspiring moment for people across the globe. “That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.”, said Apollo 11 crewmember Commander Neil Armstrong. Astronaut Buzz Aldrin, the second person to step on the Moon, described it, beautifully and simply, as “magnificent desolation.” The mission gave humanity the first perspective of our planet from our own satellite. 

Since the first arrival of humans to the Moon, there have been six crewed landings — between 1969 and 1972 — and numerous uncrewed landings, with a total of twelve people having set their foot on our satellite. Will we come back to it someday? “The Moon continues to present interest to us today because it represents the perfect laboratory to test technologies that could allow crewed missions to one day travel further away in our Solar System, mainly to Mars”, declared Ignasi Ribas, IEEC Director and researcher at the Institute of Space Science (IEEC-CSIC). 

Inspired by the Apollo missions, scientists nowadays continue to advance their goal to explore the unknown and achieve what seems impossible, and IEEC members are at the frontline of those efforts. One example is the MELiSSA (Micro-Ecological Life Support System Alternative) project, in which IEEC members from the research unit CERES — Center of Space Studies and Research at the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB) are involved. MELiSSA is an innovative ESA project that was initiated 30 years ago as part of a research programme on life-support technologies to test the feasibility of a manned long-range space mission. The main objective is to achieve complete recycling of all chemical compounds in a self-sustainable manner and without any type of external supply. The pilot plant installed at the UAB Campus, with researcher Francesc Gòdia as its director, is capable of simulating this environment on a small scale in order to demonstrate the viability of the project. It is the only laboratory in Europe to demonstrate closed-loop life support systems, a circular regeneration system that produces water, food and oxygen recovered from waste, carbon dioxide and minerals. This year, the plant celebrates its 10th anniversary. 

Another exploration mission with participation from IEEC members is Mars2020. The aim of this NASA mission is to find evidence that there was once life on the red planet. To this end, it will carry a series of instruments on board with which it will be possible to analyse rocks in search of potential chemical traces of life. The wind sensors of one of the instruments were designed, manufactured and calibrated by the micro and nanotechnologies research group at the Polytechnic University of Catalonia (UPC), lead by researcher Manuel Domínguez-Pumar. It will produce measurements and better characterise Martian geology and atmospheric dynamics in preparation for future human exploration of the planet. 

On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Moon landing, IEEC is organising a social media competition encouraging people to spot the Moon on the sky and photograph it, sharing the image on social media with the dedicated hashtag, #IEECspace and tagging IEEC on Twitter or Facebook. From the 10 most liked pictures received, IEEC’s management team will select two overall winners. 


More information
The Institute of Space Studies of Catalonia (IEEC — Institut d’Estudis Espacials de Catalunya) promotes and coordinates space research and technology development in Catalonia for the benefit of society. IEEC fosters collaborations both locally and worldwide and is an efficient agent of knowledge, innovation and technology transfer. As a result of over 20 years of high-quality research, done in collaboration with major international organisations, IEEC ranks among the best international research centers, focusing on areas such as: astrophysics, cosmology, planetary science, and Earth Observation. IEEC’s engineering division develops instrumentation for ground- and space-based projects, and has extensive experience in working with private or public organisations from the aerospace and other innovation sectors. 

IEEC is a private non-profit foundation, governed by a Board of Trustees composed of Generalitat de Catalunya and four other institutions that each have a research unit, which together constitute the core of IEEC R&D activity: the University of Barcelona (UB) with the research unit ICCUB — Institute of Cosmos Sciences; the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB) with the research unit CERES — Center of Space Studies and Research; the Polytechnic University of Catalonia (UPC) with the research unit CTE — Research Group in Space Sciences and Technologies; the Spanish Research Council (CSIC) with the research unit ICE — Institute of Space Sciences. IEEC is integrated in the CERCA network (Centres de Recerca de Catalunya). 

IEEC Communication Office
Barcelona, Spain

Rosa Rodríguez Gasén
Attached Documents
Generalitat de CatalunyaUniversitat de BarcelonaUniversitat Autònoma de BarcelonaUniversitat Politècnica de CatalunyaConsejo Superior de Investigaciones CientíficasCentres de Recerca de Catalunya