NASA names new lander Altair

Contributed by
Dec 21, 2007
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I know, this is not a topic of great import or anything, but still. NASA has decided to name the new lunar lander Altair.

Drawing of the Altair lander on the Moon

It's a nice name. Altair is one of the brightest stars in the sky, and is one of the three stars in the Summer Triangle, easily visible in the northern hemisphere.

But I have two points to make.

1) Altair is the brightest star in the constellation Aquila, which represents an eagle. What was the name of Aldrin's and Armstrong's lander, the first to set down on the Moon's surface?

Eagle.

Coincidence? Maybe. But it also means "flying" in Arabic, which is nice.

Note: I wrote that above paragraph before seeing the actual NASA press release, and now I see they make the same point about Apollo 11. Oh well. Great minds and all that.

2) The crewed vehicle that will take humans to the Moon is called Orion. Altair is up in the summer, and Orion in the winter. They can never meet, and in fact can only be up over the horizon at the same time for a couple of hours at most. That bodes ill for any docking maneuvers.

Or am I mixing metaphors?