Michael Landon and the squid

I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon, comrade

Everyone knows the USSR lost the race to put a man on the moon. But in other ways, they totally kicked the US’s butt — because the Soviets sent the first probes that orbited the moon and sent back photos of its hidden dark side. That’s one above! It comes from the Mental Landscape blog, where there’s a terrific writeup of this mission, as well as the Soviets’ many other pioneering lunar shots:

Using a phototelevision camera, pairs of images were simultaneously exposed through 200mm and 500mm lenses. [snip] The camera held 40 frames of film, and 12 images were received via frequency-modulated analog video (some reports claim 17 images were received). The full moon appears to have very little detailed texture, because the lunar mountains and terrain casts no shadows when lit from overhead.

Check out the rest of the site for dozens of increasingly cool shots of the missions — including wild panoramic vistas assembled from Soviet lunar landers. They’re quite reminiscent of the panoramic shots from NASA’s recent Mars probes. Indeed, I’m sure those moon pix seemed even more weird and eerie than the Mars ones do today, because the moon is visible to the naked eye. When people gazed on photos of the lunar soil, it must have felt more sensually, proximally tangible, and thus more uncanny, than you-are-there pictures of a faraway planet like Mars — a planet that exists almost purely in our imagination.

(Thanks to the Cynical-C blog for this one!)

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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