One small step …
50th aniversary of the
first lunar landing
You are now reading an article from Earth, a planet that is 4.54 billion years old as stated by Space.com. Scientists have explored most of what this planet has to offer, now we are in the search for more and that doesn’t bring us to the depth of the world’s oceans, but to space. Now the ideas of space exploration was once a dream. However, now it is a reality. We had the pleasure to sit down interview with John
John Zielinski’s passion for science started when he was just a kid. He said he wanted to be a pilot, but was always fascinated by space exploration and how astronauts were able to successfully land on the moon. Now a visiting assistant professor of Physics at SUNY Oswego, Zielinski hopes to inspire other students to pursue their passion in science.
When Zielinski gave his lecture, he decided to center it on the upcoming 50th anniversary of Apollo 11, or the lunar landing on July 20th, 1969. The lecture was broken up into three parts; the history behind the Cold War and why we chose to go to the moon, the hardware and flight path NASA took to complete this mission, and finally about Apollo 11 itself. One thing that was of interest to the audience was how driven Americans were to go to the moon. Given the context with the Cold War, it makes sense why Americans wanted to be the first to land on the moon.
Zielinski also talked about how there were multiple options for NASA’s flight path to the moon, something many audience members had never known. He discussed the three possible flight plans for the Apollo 11 mission, direct ascent, Earth-orbit rendezvous, and lunar-orbit rendezvous. The direct ascent approach was definitely the most difficult to pull off because it required the rocket to garner enough energy to leave Earth’s gravitational field, make it to the moon, then leave the moon’s gravitational field and re-enter Earth’s atmosphere. This would have required an incredible amount of energy, way more than could have been carried in fuel aboard the rocket. The Earth-orbit rendezvous required a portion of the rocket to remain in orbit around the Earth, while the lunar lander was sent to and from the moon. Less mass meant less energy that had to be spent in thrusting and braking in order to reach the moon’s surface. This approach was viable, however the third approach was more energetically favorable with a similar rendezvous point orbiting the moon instead.
Dr. Zielinski also touched on the technological advances that were made in the process of achieving this great feat. Early iterations of solar cells were found on the Vanguard I rocket prior to the Apollo missions and cutting-edge biomedical instruments were put to the test at long range, monitoring vitals of the astronauts during their mission. The computers on board the Apollo 11 rocket were only about as powerful enough to do basic Newtonian physics, such as calculating trajectories while taking into account the gravitational forces of the moon and the Earth. Yet, the success of this mission brought much promise to the future of space exploration and science as a whole.
Professor Zielinski was joined by John Rusho, a recently retired professor of the Astronomy department. Rusho and Zielinski both agreed that Apollo 11 was the most significant mission for NASA. During our time interviewing the two, we inquired about recent talk of manned missions to Mars. They speculated that a Mars mission would be a lot more difficult, time-consuming, and expensive than the lunar landing was. While companies like SpaceX have the hopes to go to Mars, Professor Zielinski and Rusho agree it’s unlikely to happen.
Some may say that our exploration of the moon is over, However, we believe it has just begun. Space exploration was once a dream. But scientist and eager learners filled with passion, ambition, and compassion made the dreams of know what space has to offer come true. Our Exploration has answered many questions over the past 50 years of exploration. However, there are more questions that need to be answered like, Where to next?
Thanks for enjoying our slice of science.
-Kelly, Dylan, and Oreal
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