40 years ago today the United States was about to accomplish an unprecedented feat: we were about to land on the Moon. I know, there are people who don't "believe" we landed there, but I think there is plenty of evidence to support the fact that we did. Especially in light of the photos that came out this week from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.
Way back then, I was just a few days short of 4 months old, so I don't remember the event. In fact, as a kid, I doubt, based on my interests, that anyone who knew me would have ever expected me to teach any kind of science, especially not physics. So I probably wouldn't have cared had I even been old enough to remember. However, when I look back on my life, its really not a surprise to me that I became a physics teacher. I learned electricity in the Army, I have always been fascinated with the internal combustion engine, and I was a whiz a trajectories when riding (and wrecking) my motorcycle. What does surprise me is that I ever considered Pre-Medicine as a major. What was I thinking? Biology? Applied Chemistry? Come on! Everyone knows those are just extensions of Physics.
So, let's get back on topic: the amazing-ness of the Moon landing. I can actually understand why people so readily buy the notion of us not going to the Moon; not based on physical evidence such as videos or pictures, but based on the fact that the Physics that got them there was 300 years old! The only Physics you need to know (other than the radio technology) were discovered by Isaac Newton way back in the 1660's when he formulated his 3 Laws of Motion (he didn't publish these until the 1680's). That blows my mind and here is the reason: the basic Physics I teach in high school are all you need to calculate a trajectory to get to the Moon. Newton's 3 Laws of Motion and his Theory of Gravity are pretty much all you need to understand to get there. Wow. It reminds me of "The Astronaut Farmer", which is a story about a (modern day) guy who builds a rocket in his barn and goes into space.
As I sit writing this, I am listening to the recording of the Apollo 11 mission which can be found here. It really is quite exciting to listen to, although much of what they are saying doesn't really mean anything. What it does do is let me be a part of what they did. I imagine that I am a NASA worker, sitting in Mission Control, listening to all of it while it is actually happening. Ah, the wonders of modern technology. It is the epitome of virtualness. I am no longer in 2009; I am transported back to 1969. Hmmm... sounds like a Time Machine of some sort. I like it.
As a side note, while looking around for some links for this post, I found this. I think I'm going to try to by one of the US landing sites. Or maybe, I should find the next proposed landing site and buy that. Then I could charge NASA usage rights.
thanks for reading,