The ancient Greek mystical world was ruled by 12 great gods and goddesses who lived on Mount Olympus (when they weren’t off travelling). They were called the Twelve Olympians.
Of these, two have become closely linked to 20th and 21st Century space travel. Can you guess which they are and why?
Apollo is the first Greek god to be associated with space travel, after NASA Director of Space Flight Development, Abe Silverstein, read a book about mythology in 1960. He was captivated by the image of ‘Apollo riding his chariot across the sun…’.
As God of the Sun, there are many myths, facts and stories surrounding Apollo. Some of them include:
Reading about Apollo, Abe Silverstein thought his name would be perfect for the most significant space programme of the 1960s and 1970s in the USA. The programme he was talking about was a plan to land humans on the moon and bring them back to Earth. 6 of the Apollo missions achieved this goal, with the most famous being the Apollo 11 mission. On the 20th July 1969, the lunar module, Eagle, took Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the surface of the moon, where they became the first humans to walk on it.
But, even as God of the sun, was Apollo a good name for the first mission to the moon? There may have been a better choice. Apollo is often depicted in Greek mythology as a hothead, whose emotions got the better of him and who made disastrous choices, particularly in love.
To be part of a mission to space, where they are away from home, isolated and in a strange environment, astronauts need to be calm, emotionally stable, resilient and adaptable. Being a team player and collaborative in nature is also extremely important.
Can you image Apollo fitting in to this environment?
50 years after the first landing on the moon, NASA announced the next mission to the moon, due to begin this year. This mission will see the first woman walk on the moon and is named after Apollo’s twin sister, Artemis.
‘We’re going back to the Moon for scientific discovery, economic benefits, and inspiration for a new generation of explorers: The Artemis Generation. We will build an Artemis Base Camp on the surface and the Gateway in lunar orbit. These elements will allow our robots and astronauts to explore more and conduct more science than ever before.’
Artemis, Goddess of the hunt and the moon, is depicted as:
Perhaps, as Goddess of the Moon and the elder of the twins, Artemis should have been the name of the 1960s and 1970s moon missions and we should only be hearing about her younger brother now?