SNOLAB is walking to the Moon

May 21, 2020 — Events

Today marks the 51st anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing. The Moon has been an object of interest since the beginning of human history, but exploration and space travel has only been a thing of the past century. In 1969, Apollo 11 put the first humans on the Moon. Since then, we’ve had the most recent lunar samples collected in the 70s, multispectral images and mapping conducted in the 90s, and launched lunar orbiters in the 2000s. Now, with NASA’s lunar Gateway project, astronauts and scientists will not only orbit the Moon, but also to land on the surface, allowing better access to the Moon than ever before.  

Over the past few weeks, SNOLAB has been ‘walking to the Moon’, encouraging people to submit their steps and km to contribute to our progress moon-wards. What began as an initiative to connect our staff during physical distancing grew into a global activity with participants from seven different countries.  

Together, we made it into space. We passed the ISS and satellites in low-Earth orbit, passing through the Van Allen Radiation Belts and into relatively empty expanse of space separating us from the Moon. In total, we travelled 8288 km, further than the distance of Earth’s radius.

Despite our progress, based on our current speed, we are on target to reach the Moon sometime after 2050 (Apollo 11 travelled at 3,280 km/h on its journey to lunar orbit). Given this, we have decided to metaphorically hitch a ride on a rocket and wrap up our walk to the Moon challenge.  

For those who are eager to continue the journey on foot, check out this Walk to the Moon initiative from the ESA:  

July 6, 2020: 7253 km

We’rve gone almost exactly the distance from Sudbury to Naples, Italy – taking a mini-tour of Italy over the last two weeks!

June 29, 2020: 6784 km

We’rve gone almost exactly the distance from Sudbury to Florence, Italy – gelato, anyone? We also now have participants from Mexico!

June 22, 2020: 5740 km

We’re still in a relatively empty stretch of space in terms of satellites, and now have participants from Italy, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK, and USA. 

June 15, 2020: 4523 km

We’ve gone twice the distance of the upper limit of low Earth orbit, which is slightly farther than the distance from Sudbury to Iceland. 

June 1, 2020: 3520 km

We’ve made our way well into the first Van Allen radiation belt, and just about the distance it takes to drive from Sudbury to Vancouver, BC. 

May 25, 2020: 2231 km

​We’ve gone past all crewed space stations and officially moved beyond low earth orbit. The only humans who have gone farther are those astronauts who were part of the Apollo program (and Starman, the mannequin strapped into the Tesla that SpaceX launched).

May 19, 2020: 927 km  

We’ve gone higher than Sputnik 1 & 2 (and Laika) were at the low point in their orbit. We also zipped past the ISS this week.

May 11, 2020: 197 km

Collectively, we’ve walked 197 km – we’ve officially made it into space and are quickly approaching the low point in Sputnik 1’s orbit! Thanks to Nigel for submitting the first 2 km to get us up to surface from the underground lab.

Why walk to the moon?

With the current physical distancing requirements, we wanted to create something that brings people together. The weather is also getting nicer, which seems like a great opportunity to get outside. With this in mind, we’ve launched a walk to the Moon challenge.  

How to take part?

We’ve expanded this initiative beyond the SNOLAB community and are encouraging everyone to join in – the Moon is a bit of a long walk. If you want to participate, use this anonymous form to submit any distance you walk (or run, or hike, etc.) to be added to the total: If you walk with family/roommates/others inside your bubble feel free to include their distance too. Note: the form has both steps and kilometres to make it easier for more people to track their distance – you only need to choose one when you submit. Steps are submitted anonymously, but we do ask participants to share what country you are living in to get an idea of where our steps are coming from. The particle physics community is international, so we hope to see submissions from around the globe. 

How to keep track of the journey? 

Progress reports will be shared weekly on our social media channels, @SNOLABscience on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and this story will also be updated to reflect progress. Happy walking! 

Curious about the Moon?

We’ve made a collection of our favorite resources, media and activities so you can really dig into learning about the Moon as you take part in SNOLAB’s walk to the Moon challenge!

Earth’s Moon Overview: Take an overview and then dive deep into learning about Earth’s natural satellite from NASA.

Observational Moon Journal (Grade 4+): Learn about the Moon and make your own observations in this resource from Discover the Universe

Explore the Moon (K-Grade 3): Learn about the Moon with these resources from Space Matters. 

Junior Astronauts Moon Mission: Check out these great activities and challenges for the next generation of space explorers from the Canadian Space Agency.  

Apollo: Learn about NASA’s Apollo program that sent nine missions to the Moon in the 1960s and ’70s. 

Lunar Gateway: Learn about the lunar gateway project, a new space station that will orbit the Moon, led by NASA. 

The Apollo 11 story: A podcast series about the people who made the Apollo 11 happen detailing the final 13 minutes of the mission from 13 Minutes to the Moon.  

Apollo 16 Astronauts in Sudbury: Tune into this piece by CBC from 1971 covering the the training that the Apollo 16 astronauts completed in Sudbury. 

Apollo 17 Astronauts in Sudbury: Learn about the geology training that the crew of the Apollo 17 NASA mission completed in Sudbury in this video from Science North.

That’s no Moon: Learn about how the astronauts who came to Sudbury to prepare for the Apollo program helped to drive the region’s scientific aspirations in this article from TVO.