How big is the moon? Smaller than you think!

Scott Sutherland
February 14, 2013

If you've ever driven from Vancouver to Halifax (or the other way around), you may look back on it now and say how it wasn't that big of a deal. However, you may change your mind about that when you get a look at this image, put together by user boredboarder8.

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I'll let boredboarder8 describe what they did, in their own words:

It was difficult for me to fathom the size of the moon, thus inspiring the creation of this map. For me, this map puts the scale of the moon much smaller than I previously imagined.

It was one definitely a weird challenge to take a "flat" map of something on a sphere and project it onto a smaller sphere.

Certainly take it only as an approximation, but what intrigued me the most is that the distance spanning the continental United States is roughly equal to a little less than half the circumference of the moon.

Taking a Canadian perspective on this, the driving distance between Vancouver and Halifax (if you stay in Canada and don't take any major detours) is a little over 6,000 kilometres, and the equatorial circumference of the Moon is 10,921 kilometres. So, if you made that cross-country drive, you didn't just make it from one end of our country to the other, you did the equivalent of driving over halfway around the Moon!

Also, consider this little nugget: Not counting rest stops and hotel stays, the drive across Canada supposedly takes about 65 hours (driving at the posted speed limit, of course). If you were to make that same trip on the Moon, in one of the Apollo lunar rovers, at the 'break-neck' speed of 18 km/h — the 'unofficial' lunar land-speed record set by 'last man on the moon' Eugene Cernan during the Apollo 17 mission in 1972 — it would take you over two weeks!

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Driving at our highway speeds while on the moon wouldn't launch you into space or anything — lunar escape velocity is over 8,500 km/h — but with lunar gravity being only one-sixth of Earth's, driving too fast up there would be dangerous. Any bumps in the terrain would mean catching some pretty impressive air-time! Whereas that might appeal to the thrill-seeker in us all, given the cratered, rocky surface of the Moon, you might not enjoy the landing so much.

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