Dark side of the Moon: Astronauts in row over naming of craters

William Anders and Jim Lovell - who were immortalised in Apollo 13 - among the first to orbit the Moon in 1968

Can you spot the lunar craters named after  the astronauts who were among the first to orbit the Moon? Neither can William Anders and James Lovell – and they’re not happy about it.

The two members of the 1968 Apollo 8 mission have gone public about their anger with the International Astronomical Union (IAU), which is responsible for naming new planets, asteroids and celestial features.

Mr Anders has revealed that, in training for the mission, he named craters along the mission’s orbital path after members of the crew. However, when in 1970 the IAU chose to name different craters in their honour, it picked sites on the “far” side of the Moon, rather than the sites visible from Earth to which the crew were referring.

While the perceived snub happened more than 40 years ago, it only came out into the open this summer when the IAU announced it would from now on take public campaigns to name celestial bodies into account when choosing what to call them. The move served to reopen some old wounds.

In a letter to the New Scientist this  month, Mr Anders wrote: “I thought these names would have some priority, but when the IAU honoured our crew with crater names, it picked three craters that were not only well out of sight of our orbital track, but also in darkness at the time of our mission.”

He added: “I wrote to the IAU to try to correct this and even included the flight map. I got brushed off by its bureaucracy – and never got my map back.”

Mr Lovell – credited with the immortal line “Houston, we have a problem” – also wrote to the publication in support of Mr Anders, saying: “The IAU disregarded his suggestions, even though we discovered the craters on the far side of the Moon.”

Mr Lovell continued: “On the near side of the Moon, on the shore of the Sea of Tranquillity, there is a small mountain that had no name. I observed it on Apollo 8 and called it Mount Marilyn, after my wife.

“It was used as the starting point for the descents of Apollo 10 and 11. Although the IAU does not officially recognise the name, it is embedded in space-flight history.”

A spokesperson for the IAU said: “The first I heard of this issue was when journalists called me up about it. The issue is now in the hands of the general secretary.”

The IAU was founded in 1919 and for most of its history it has kept the task of naming celestial features “in-house”. However, in August, the IAU said that in an effort to democratise the system, it would be open to receiving suggestions from individuals or public campaigns. However, the organisation has set strict rules for accepting suggestions from the public.

Rules include the stipulation that names should preferably consist of one word, of 16 characters or less; that the word should be pronounceable in as many languages as possible and not offensive in any language or culture; and that names should not be of a commercial nature. Pet names are also “discouraged”.

There is also the stipulation that the names of individuals and places principally known for political or military activities are “unsuitable”. This is bad news for Mr Anders and his former Apollo 8 colleagues. Among the other names for the Moon’s surface they wanted the IAU to recognise were “America”, “Kennedy” and “Houston”.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing & Sales Manager

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A reputable organisation within the leisure i...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Recruitment Genius: Doctors - Dubai - High "Tax Free" Earnings

£96000 - £200000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Looking for a better earning p...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly expanding company in ...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker