Our moon missions have served a variety of purposes ranging from technical ones to the satisfaction of our curiosity. But the moon has also served one very practical and immediate purpose: It's a laboratory. Here's a history of how we've used the moon as a scientific facility — and how we might do it in the future.

In response to this clip of Galileo's infamous feather-and-hammer experiment being conducted inside a vacuum, commenter mwhite66 reminded us of one of the other replications this particular experiment had undergone on the moon (with some video evidence, as seen below).


It's an impressive visual, but it's also a great reminder of the fact that the moon has been the site of an ever-evolving range of experiments ranging from soil testings to solar wind measurements to measurements of the moon's magnetic fields.

To get a better idea of just what experiments have been conducted on the moon, the Lunar and Planetary Institute has put together an interactive lunar mission timeline (a 20 year excerpt of which you can see above), stretching from 1959 to the next 15 years in our future. Clicking on each mission not only treats you to a range of photos and mission information , it also describes each experiment that the mission undertook and the results.

You can check it out — and we highly recommend that you do — right here.