"Collisions caused some planetesimals to accrete or grow rapidly and become the ancestors of planets. During the late stage of accretion it is postulated that the proto-Earth collided with a somewhat smaller planetesimal, and that the resulting debris thrown into orbit around the Earth re-accreted to form the Moon."
Dropping the ball
The atlas will be a boon to any backyard amateur astronomer or a desktop reference to more serious professionals. Yet the crisp black-and-white photos are likely to stir the imagination of anyone whose spirit was ever fired by moony science fiction or Neil Armstrong's famous first step off the planet.
And don't get Wood started on how we dropped the ball on humans in space.
Oh, wait, let's get him started.
The last human beings to walk on the moon -- and roll across it in Lunar Rovers -- were astronauts Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt, who arrived in the moon's Taurus-Littrow Valley on Dec. 11, 1972 on Apollo 17. It was the sixth and final landing of men on the lunar surface and they checked out after three days.
Just for historical orientation, that would have been the year Atari debuted the first generation of video games with the release of "Pong." It was a while ago, in other words.
Leftover Apollo rockets were used in earth orbit for Skylab and a 1975 joint US-Soviet détente-era launch. Then, more space stations and space shuttles. So, no human has gone beyond merely orbiting our home world for more than 40 years now.
"It's an amazing turning our face away from the future," Wood said. "It's like Columbus and those early sailors coming to the New World and saying, 'Yep, I've seen that! Cross that off my bucket list.' And never going back."
Wood observed that 50 years after Columbus made landfall in the New World there were several hundred thousand Europeans who had followed in his wake across the Atlantic.
"How many people are living on the moon?" he asked. "In fact, when we came to the end of the Apollo space program, if we had not stopped, if we had not squandered our time for 30 or 40 years on a space station, we could have gone back to the moon and established colonies."
With a lament in his voice that recalls that fifth grade boy looking up in wonderment at the moon cresting the midnight sky, he added: "We could've been by now a space-faring people."
Since this story will be on the Internet and may be commented upon by the fringe of folks who yet believe the moon landings were faked on a Hollywood sound stage, the man who could be the moon's official personal representative also has a few words for these ... um, sorry, but the word demands to be used here: lunatics.
The photos from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter are so detailed you can pick out where the astronauts kicked up their heels in the dust, changing its color tone, or went joyriding across the plains in big-wheeled rovers.
"We can see actual images on the moon of where humans left things," he said. "Hopefully, it'll put an end to the stupidity of people saying humans didn't go there. It's a tremendous insult to say that they didn't."
For his part, Wood is surprised more people don't share his fascination with what the book dubs the moon's "topographically exuberant landscape." He hopes his atlas will help generate a new round of folks who become -- his word for his lunar fixation -- "an addict."
Unlike farther out objects, like Mars, Titan and distant galaxies, which can only be appreciated up close and personal with serious telescopic firepower, the moon reveals wonders even with binoculars, much less a high-powered amateur telescope.
"The moon's a small little space in the sky that has 10,000 landmarks in that small space that you can explore," he said.
The atlas was initially a self-published labor of love he undertook on his own time. Then, someone from West Virginia University Press heard him interviewed on West Virginia Public Radio and offered to distribute it in their 2013 Fall catalog.
His hopes for the atlas? Pretty simple, really, Wood said.
"Sell a million copies and build my own spaceship to go to the moon."
Reach Douglas Imbrogno at doug...@cnpapers.com or 304-348-3017.