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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    UA remembers Apollo’s ‘giant leap’

    History was relived at the Kuiper Space Sciences building, where the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory invited the public to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

    The July 18 event, which hosted hundreds of people throughout the day, featured children’s science activities, movies and lectures, sun observations through telescopes and the opportunity to meet several UA scientists who participated in the national effort to put astronauts in space and on the moon.

    Displaying old newspapers with headlines such as, “”Mankind is on the Moon: A Milestone, Not a Finish Line,”” and countless NASA relics of bygone technology, the event immersed the public into the wonder and excitement of the time period.

    A hands-on approach to the strange and often destabilizing physical conditions of life in space was explored in the Physics Factory, where children were treated to an array of chemical and physical experiments that helped to demonstrate the challenges for human life in space.

    In the “”Astronomy for Kids”” section of the event, children were given the chance to explore these conditions in an interactive manner, with questions raised such as, “”How high can you jump on the moon?”” and, “”Can you place moon images in order?””

    Notable scientists who had helped carry the Apollo missions forward were also present.

    Ewen Whitaker, a retired UA associate research scientist emeritus who specialized in projects to observe and map the moon, remembers this time as one of great national change.

    “”Sputnik came up, which started the space race,”” Whitaker said. “”In response to Sputnik, NASA was formed, and there were, early on, rumblings in NASA about possibly going to the moon.””

    Having already worked on observing the moon as part of the Lunar Project at the University of Chicago’s observatory, Whitaker was recruited by NASA to help discover possible landing sites and areas of scientific interest on the moon.

    “”NASA asked us for help in mapping the moon, and the first mission we had was the Ranger series. These were unmanned rockets sent the moon, equipped with six TV cameras to photograph it,”” Whitaker said. “”We have, right here, images from those missions.””

    Dr. Spencer R. Titley, who trained renowned astronauts such as Neil Armstrong, Alan Shepard, Ed White and Buzz Aldrin, was also in attendance.

    “”I helped train astronauts to observe the moon through a telescope, and to help them identify what they were looking at,”” Titley said.

    Titley also played a fundamental role in mapping the lunar surface and exploring its geological conditions.

    He said he remembers the time as one of great excitement, but also of uncertainty.

    Along with issues such as whether craters on the moon were formed by volcanoes or the impact of incoming bodies, other questions, far more outlandish by today’s standards, were explored.

    “”Questions about life on the moon were raised, I don’t how seriously, but experimental teams were concerned with it,”” Titley said. “”Each Apollo mission guy had to spend a week to 10 days on ships – on quarantine – because we didn’t know if they were infected.””

    With a virtual planetarium that offered reality tours of the moon, along with lectures on the harsh conditions that astronauts meet in space, the event attempted to explore and honor the struggles that went into achieving the Apollo mission.

    A lecture entitled “”Apollo Remembered”” given by Perry White, a local aerospace leader, recalled these challenges.

    “”If you have claustrophobia, you wouldn’t want to be an astronaut,”” White said. “”In the early missions, there were 10 to 11 days in flight for two men in a ship the size of a phone booth. There was a lot of science, but also a lot of heroics.””

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