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Max Goes to the Moon: A Science Adventure with Max the Dog

Max Goes to the Moon: A Science Adventure with Max the Dog

by Jeffrey Bennett, Alan Okamoto (Illustrator)

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Winner of:
2013 Science Communication Award, American Institute of Physics

Max the Dog and a young girl named Tori take the first trip to the Moon since the Apollo era, and their trip proves so inspiring to people back on Earth that all the nations of the world come together to build a great Moon colony. From the colony, the views of Earth make


Winner of:
2013 Science Communication Award, American Institute of Physics

Max the Dog and a young girl named Tori take the first trip to the Moon since the Apollo era, and their trip proves so inspiring to people back on Earth that all the nations of the world come together to build a great Moon colony. From the colony, the views of Earth make everyone realize how small and precious planet Earth is. Along the way, the story sets the stage for more sophisticated science, featured in the 19 “Big Kid Box” sidebars that have been fully updated in this new edition, which cover topics including “Phases of the Moon,” “Wings in Space?,” and “Frisbees and Curve Balls on the Moon”—all thoughtfully explained so that grown-ups and children can learn together about science. Behind-the-scenes science lessons with activities round out this entertaining and educational picture book, the new edition of which is designed to accompany the new Max Goes to the Moon planetarium show, coming soon to planetariums around the world.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A book that can be enjoyed by children and adults and is scientifically accurate besides is a rare treasure indeed."  —Sidney Wolff, Astronomy Education Review

Product Details

Big Kid Science
Publication date:
Science Adventures with Max the Dog Series
Edition description:
Second Edition, Second edition
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
11.10(w) x 11.40(h) x 1.50(d)
1040L (what's this?)
Age Range:
7 - 9 Years

Read an Excerpt

Max Goes to the Moon

A Science Adventure with Max the Dog

By Jeffrey Bennett, Robin J. Heyden

Big Kid Science

Copyright © 2003 Jeffrey Bennett
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-937548-00-1


This is the story of how Max the Dog helped people return to the Moon — this time, to stay.

It all began on the morning of the parade. Max had just returned from his trip to the Space Station. He was a hero — after all, none of the astronauts could have come home safely without him.

As Max's car drove along Pearl Street, Max looked to the west, and he began to howl just as the Moon set over the mountains.

Phases of the Moon

Do you see the Moon setting over the mountains in the picture of Max's parade? To appreciate what we're seeing, we need to understand the Moon's cycle of phases.

Each cycle takes about a month. That's where the word month comes from; think of it as a special way of saying "moonth."

A cycle begins with new moon, when we can't see the Moon at all. A couple of days after a new moon, a thin crescent [??] moon appears in the early evening sky. Then, each day, we see more of the Moon's face and the Moon stays up later at night. About a week after new moon comes first quarter [??] phase, when the Moon shows half its face and stays up until around midnight. A few days later, the Moon's face is bright except for a thin, dark crescent; we call this a gibbous [??] (pronounced with a hard g as in "gift") moon. Full moon [??] comes about two weeks after new moon; we can see the Moon's full face all night long.

After full moon, the Moon goes back through the same phases but with its opposite side illuminated and appearing only later at night. A few days after full moon we have another gibbous moon. A week after full moon comes third quarter moon; you can't see the third quarter moon at bedtime, because it doesn't rise until around midnight. A few days later, we can see only a thin crescent moon * in the early morning sky. Then the phases begin again with another new moon. Do you want to know why the Moon goes through phases? Try the activity on p. 30.

* * *

In truth, Max howled because he heard a siren. He always howls at sirens. But the TV reporters didn't know that, so they thought he was howling at the Moon.

A reporter spotted Max's friend, Tori.

"Why did Max howl at the Moon?," he asked.

"I'm not sure," said Tori. "Maybe it's because he wants to go there."

The Moon in the Daytime

Children's stories often make it seem like the Moon and bedtime always go together. But there are many nights when we cannot see the Moon at bedtime and many days when we can see it in the daytime sky.

Each day, the Moon rises in the east and sets in the west much like the Sun. The times of moonrise and moonset depend on the Moon's phase.

A new moon rises and sets with the Sun, which is why we cannot see it at all: in the daytime it is hidden in the Sun's glare and at night it is below our horizon. As the phases progress from new to full — which we call the "waxing" (getting fuller) phases — the Moon rises and sets later and later compared to the Sun. A waxing crescent moon trails a couple of hours behind the Sun in the sky, making it visible in the late afternoon and early evening. A first quarter moon rises around noon and sets around midnight, making it visible for much of the afternoon and all of the evening. A full moon rises and sets opposite the Sun, keeping it above the horizon all night long.

The pattern continues with the "waning" (getting less full) phases. For example, a waning gibbous moon rises a few hours after sunset and sets a few hours after sunrise, while a third quarter moon rises around midnight and sets around noon. If you look closely, you'll see that it is a waning gibbous moon over Max's parade, which is why it is visible in the mid-morning sky.

Many newspapers show the Moon's daily phase and times of moonrise and moonset.

* * *

Well, Tori's "maybe" was good enough for TV. By the next day, Max's dream of going to the Moon was all over the news. And because no one had been to the Moon in a long time, it seemed like it was about time for someone — or some dog — to go.

Leaving the Earth

If you throw a ball into the air, it falls back to the ground. But the harder and faster you throw it upward, the higher it goes before coming down. If you had magical strength, you could throw a ball so hard and so fast that it would never come back down. We would say that you gave the ball escape speed, because it went upward fast enough to escape from the Earth and go out into space.

The escape speed from the Earth is very fast — about 25,000 miles per hour (40,000 kilometers per hour). That is much faster than anyone can really throw a ball. It is faster than any airplane travels. But big rockets can go that fast.

* * *

It's not easy to go to the Moon. It takes big rocket engines to get a spaceship off the Earth. It takes careful planning to make sure the astronauts reach the Moon and come back safely. And it costs a lot of money.

But everywhere Max went, crowds chanted, "Send Max to the Moon!" People wrote letters to the President. So a new moonship was built and assembled at the Space Station.

A Trip to the Moon

Past Moon missions took astronauts directly from the Earth to the Moon with big, multistage rockets. Future Moon missions may include a stop at the Space Station. (The Space Station will require modifications in order to support a Moon mission.)

The Space Station makes Moon trips easier in two ways. First, it makes it easier to put a large moonship in orbit. Without the Station, we'd need a huge rocket to get the moonship into space. With it, we can use smaller rockets to launch the moonship in pieces, then assemble the pieces at the Station.

Second, starting from the Station gives the moonship a head start on achieving escape speed. The Space Station orbits about 250 miles (400 km) above the Earth at a speed of about 17,000 miles per hour (27,000 kilometers per hour). Thus, a moonship docked at the Space Station already is traveling this fast, so its engines need only to boost it an additional 8,000 miles per hour (13,000 kilometers per hour) to reach escape speed.

* * *

Tori gave Max the good news. "You are going to go to the Moon," she said. "I sure hope they let me come with you."

Why Is the Moon a "moon"?

Our Moon is a "moon" because it orbits the Earth. Planets orbit the Sun, and there are nine planets in our solar system: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto. Moons orbit planets, and there are dozens of moons in our solar system. Mercury and Venus are the only planets with no moons at all.

The Moon is about 2,160 miles (3476 kilometers) in diameter, which is a little more than one-fourth of the Earth's diameter. The Moon's average distance from Earth is about 239,000 miles (384,000 kilometers). The photographs below of the Earth and Moon show their relative sizes to scale. If you wanted to show the distance between them on the same scale, you'd need to hold these two pictures about 1.9 meters (6 feet, 3 inches) apart.

* * *

Max went into astronaut training again. The other astronauts were glad to have Max back. Max made the long training sessions seem fun.

Some how, he always managed to find a stick. He loved to play fetch while the astronauts trained in the water tank. He also loved to play tug-o-war — and guess who always won?

The Face of the Moon

The Moon always shows nearly the same face to Earth, so no one ever saw the Moon's back side, or "far side," until we sent space probes to photograph it.

What some people call the "man in the moon" is just a pattern of large craters and maria that we see on the Moon's face. Craters are scars from impacts of asteroids and comets. The maria are located at the sites of especially large impacts — so large that they fractured the Moon's surface. Molten lava later rose up through the cracks and filled these huge craters, leaving a smooth surface when it cooled and solidified.

By the way, the word maria is Latin for "seas"; they got their name because their smooth appearance reminded ancient people of the smooth surfaces of oceans seen from afar.

* * *

Tori thought that Max should know a little history before his trip. So she told Max about the first astronauts who went to the Moon.

"Listen carefully, Max. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were the first people to walk on the Moon. Their mission was called Apollo 11. They landed on the Moon on July 20, 1969. Neil Armstrong stepped out first. Do you know what he said when he took his first moon step?"

Apollo and Beyond

The scene on these pages shows Apollo 11 on the Moon in July 1969. Astronauts must wear spacesuits on the Moon, because the Moon has no air. Of course, no air also means no wind. So why does the flag look like it's blowing in the wind? It's because the flag is made of foil. With no wind or air, the foil holds the shape it had when the astronauts unfurled it.

The Apollo 11 astronauts spent less than 24 hours on the Moon. Their entire trip from the Earth to the Moon and back took about eight days.

Five more Apollo missions landed on the Moon over the next three years — Apollo 12, 14, 15, 16, and 17. (Apollo 13 had an accident while in space. It did not land on the Moon, but the astronauts returned home safely.) The last Apollo mission was in December 1972, and no one has been to the Moon since.

The Apollo missions were run by NASA — the National Aeronautics and Space Administration of the United States. NASA is still a leader in most space missions, including the international Space Station. But today, NASA usually works with partners from around the world, including the Canadian Space Agency, the Japanese Space Agency, and the European Space Agency (ESA). Many other nations also have space agencies, and astronauts, space scientists, and space engineers come from almost every nation on Earth.

* * *

"Armstrong said:

That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.

"Do you understand, Max?"

Max barked, and Tori took that as a "yes."

"Good boy, Max," said Tori.

NASA chose six experienced astronauts to go to the Moon with Max. Since Max and Tori made such a good team, Tori got to go along too.

So the crew of seven humans and one dog blasted off into space.

Within a few hours, they were docked at the Space Station, where their moonship was waiting. After lunch on the Space Station, the crew boarded the moonship.

Wings in Space?

Airplanes and rockets both fly, but in very different ways. Airplanes need wings to fly. Airplane wings have special shapes so that, when the airplane goes fast enough, air pushes up under the wings harder than it pushes down over them. The extra upward push creates what we call lift, allowing the airplane to fly. Pilots can adjust flaps on the wings to increase or decrease the lift, making the plane go up or down.

Wings are useless in space, because there is no air to provide lift. That is why spaceships need rocket engines. (The Space Shuttle uses its wings only for landing on Earth.)

* * *

The crew fired the moonship's rocket engines to gain speed, leaving Earth orbit. Once on their way, they turned off the engines and coasted toward the Moon. The trip took a little more than two days.

Soon, the Moon loomed large in the window, with the Earth far behind. The crew turned the ship around, so firing the rocket engines slowed it down. As the moonship neared the surface, the blast from its engines kicked up a cloud of moon dust. Then it settled gently onto the Moon.


A rocket works by shooting a stream of hot gas out its back, which makes the rocket itself go forward. It's the same basic idea as when you inflate a balloon and let it go without tying the end: the balloon flies forward as air shoots out its end. Of course, the rocket engine offers much more power and much more control than the balloon.

It may look like rockets "push off" the ground, but they don't; their power comes from shooting the hot gas out the back. In fact, the ground (and air in our atmosphere) gets in the way of the streaming gas, so rocket engines perform better in space than on Earth.

Amazingly, spaceships don't even need rocket engines, except to speed up, slow down, or turn. In space, where there's no air to create friction or drag, spaceships can coast forever without engine power. That's why the moonship can cut its engines once on its way to the Moon. It's also why spaceships and satellites don't need fuel to remain in orbit around the Earth, as long as their orbits are high enough to be fully above the Earth's atmosphere.

The same idea explains why the Moon needs no fuel to keep orbiting the Earth and why the Earth and other planets need no fuel to keep orbiting the Sun. With no air to slow them down, moons and planets can orbit forever.

* * *

Max was so excited about reaching the Moon that the crew had a hard time getting his spacesuit on. It took three of them just to hold Max while the others pulled the space suit over his legs. Tori made sure that Max's tail went in the right place. Then they closed all the buckles and attached his helmet. Finally, they checked carefully to make sure that the spacesuit was airtight.


You probably know that spacesuits allow astronauts to carry air with them. But did you ever wonder why spacesuits are so thick?

One reason is to protect astronauts from temperature extremes. With no air to moderate temperatures in space, it gets very hot in sunlight and very cold in shadow — the difference from light to shadow on the Moon can be 400°F (220°C)! Spacesuits must have heating and cooling systems to keep temperatures steady for the astronauts inside.

A second reason is to protect astronauts from dangerous radiation from the Sun, such as ultraviolet and X rays. On Earth, our atmosphere protects us from this radiation. In space, astronauts outside their spaceships must rely on their spacesuits to block this radiation. Protection from radiation is also why astronauts have dark, coated visors on their helmets; we've taken artistic license in this book so you can see faces behind the visors.

Spacesuits also allow astronauts to communicate, because they contain built-in radios. Despite what you may have heard in science fiction movies, sound cannot travel through empty space. Space is always silent, and even explosions make no sound in space. When we hear astronauts talking in space, we are actually hearing voices transmitted by the radios in their spacesuits.

* * *

When they opened the airlock, Max jumped out. You should have seen the look on his face! He went much higher and farther than he had expected. It also took him much longer to come down than he was used to on Earth. Tori watched out the window and said,

"That's one giant leap for a dog!"

Weak Gravity

Have you ever wondered why objects fall to the ground? The answer is gravity, which pulls everything on Earth downward. If you jump up, gravity pulls you back down. It keeps pulling even when you are on the ground, which is what gives you weight.

On Earth, the strength of gravity is about the same everywhere. But gravity is different on other worlds. Gravity on the Moon is about six times weaker than on the Earth, so you would weigh only about one-sixth as much on the Moon as you do on Earth. Everything else weighs less on the Moon too, so you could lift big objects that would be too heavy to lift on Earth, and throw things much higher and farther.

The Moon's weaker gravity also means that everything falls back to the ground more slowly than it does on Earth. That, along with reduced weight, is why astronauts find it easier to bound than to walk on the Moon. It is also why Max got such a big surprise when he made his first Moon leap.

* * *

For posterity, the astronauts fenced off the spot where Max made his first paw prints on the Moon. There is no wind or rain on the Moon, so those paw prints are still there today, even though it has been many years since Max's first Moon trip.

Max thought it would be fun to play with a stick. He didn't see any, so he decided to look behind a big rock. But when he poked his head into the rock's shadow, he couldn't see a thing. It was darker than the darkest night, and cold, too.

The Airless Moon

Max noticed a lot of strange things on the Moon, many of which occur because the Moon has no atmosphere. That's why astronauts (and astrodogs!) must bring their own air with them in their spaceships and spacesuits, and why their spacesuits must protect them from dangerous radiation. But the lack of air has other effects too.


Excerpted from Max Goes to the Moon by Jeffrey Bennett, Robin J. Heyden. Copyright © 2003 Jeffrey Bennett. Excerpted by permission of Big Kid Science.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Jeffrey Bennett is an astrophysicist and educator who proposed the idea for and helped develop the Voyage Scale Model Solar System—the first science-oriented exhibit approved for permanent installation on the National Mall in Washington, DC. He is the lead author of bestselling college textbooks in four distinct disciplines: astronomy, mathematics, statistics, and astrobiology, as well as the critically acclaimed books for the general public Beyond UFOs and Math for Life. He is also the author of the three books in the Science Adventures with Max the Dog series and The Wizard Who Saved the World. He lives in Boulder, Colorado. Alan Okamoto was a children's book illustrator and a space artist who completed commissioned work for the Air Force, numerous aerospace corporations, and college textbooks.

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