Time for a Lunar Academy

by guest blogger Ken

July is always the time of year when people start getting all sentimental about the phenomenal achievement of the Apollo 11 Moon landing. I’m working with NSS of North Texas to put together a program for Saturday the 22nd at Frontiers of Flight Museum at Love Field in Dallas. Some folks at NSS Leaders level are advocating that we adopt “Space Exploration Day” as a holiday. I personally prefer Moon Day, because that’s really what’s it’s all about – our first human visit (must the distinction be made?) to the Moon.

Over on the other side of the metroplex in Fort Worth the Museum of Science & History’s Noble Planetarium hosted a Moon Party last Saturday night (the 8th) in conjunction with the Fort Worth Astronomical Society. There was a 20-minute show on our visits to the Moon, followed-by a short Q&A, and then out to the parking lot to view the waxing gibbous Moon through some really big telescopes.

The questions were interesting, but the answers were a bit disturbing, displaying a lack of Lunar knowledge that bordered on the dangerous, to be honest. The case in point: Jack Schmitt’s orange soil. One of the audience asked what the orange soil was. The answer was that it was probably rust, possibly as a result of water from a comet impact interacting with some element in the regolith near the impact.

At this point I’m stuffing my fist into my mouth to keep myself quiet. By then there was nothing that could be said that wouldn’t illegitimize and embarrass the presenters in front of their audience. Now to be fair, the presenter was a terrestrial geologist that had been brought in for special duty (since probably no one else around has any Moon knowledge), but doesn’t normally do the Lunar beat. When I was talking with the presenters afterwards I quietly informed her that the orange glass was most likely the result of a fire fountain (“oh, that makes sense”), and the color seems to be a function of the titanium content.

My objective for being there was to start a dialogue about NSS‘s International Space Development Conference over the Memorial Day weekend in 2007. Our chapter is trying to get all the local space-related insitutions (even libraries!) to do some kind of space program over that same weekend, so that D/FW becomes for one brief shining moment a space metroplex. As an example, I’ve heard rumors that the Science Place at Fair Park is going to be hosting the MarsQuest exhibit over that timeframe.

One of our day trips during the conference is going to be to FW, so we might as well work in a visit to the Noble Planetarium. I know they are good people there, as one of the presenters is one of the local JPL Solar System Ambassadors and they have a solid website. SSAs tend to be more knowledgeable about deeper out into the Solar system. Nearer in, Mars is the ‘sexy’ object of study, thus leaving a gaping hole in our ability to convey useful Moon information to the public.

Which brings to mind something that’s been in the back of my mind for a while (especially since I’m trying to figure out what to do with the Lunar Library):

A Lunar Academy.

(…waits for laughter and guffaws to die down…)

Okay, it sounds a bit silly. But what I have in mind is in essence a summer program or semester-long program that provides a comprehensive background in things Lunar. It wouldn’t be just about things like mineralogy or astronomy from the Moon. It would also cover vacuum engineering, cislunar transport logistics, base siting criteria, and so on. Moreso a poly-technical program, but also with business, systems management, liberal arts, and more.

It would be modeled a bit after the International Space University and the NASA Academy. Students would not necessarily be experts in any one particular area (except for the individual project), but would know more about most aspects of things Lunar than pretty much anyone else around. Keeping it to the length of a semester means it could be treated like a semester abroad. Institutionalizing it means that you can do things like run teacher workshops and professional seminars to help spread the knowledge around.

People are curious about the Moon, but by and large it’s luna incognito to folks both inside and outside the space field. How did we come to such a gaping hole in our capabilties? And what are we going to do about it?

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2 Responses to Time for a Lunar Academy

  1. Zachary V. Whitten says:

    No laughter here; it’s a good idea, similar to one I’m working on, but with a broader scope. There are many young people (and some not-so-young) who won’t find at a typical university the sort of courses that can feed the hunger of one interested in the frontier. So, there ought to be something (or several somethings) like the Lunar Academy that you propose.

  2. Anonymous says:

    “I Recommend this Book to All Young Americans,” says Buzz Aldrin about Inspiring History Book by Michael Class

    On Anniversary of Apollo 11: ‘Real’ Photos in Award-Winning Book put Modern Boy on Moon with Astronauts in 1969

    Seattle author and photographer Michael Class has used digital composite photography to place his twelve year-old son, Anthony, in the cockpit of the Spirit of St. Louis with Charles Lindbergh, in the laboratory with Thomas Edison, on the baseball diamond with Lou Gehrig, and on the moon with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.

    “I wanted to capture the interest of today’s kids,” says Class, “by turning American history into a grand time travel adventure.” The museum-quality book, Anthony and the Magic Picture Frame, is recommended for grades 6-12. The Web site, http://www.MagicPictureFrame.com, displays some of the book’s amazing photographs.

    “The book’s vivid narrative and captivating photographs transported me through space and time,” says Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin. “I felt that I was once again standing on the surface of the Moon in 1969. Anthony and the Magic Picture Frame tells it like it really was in America’s early space program – the adventure, the risks, and the rewards. I almost believe that Anthony was there! I think that parents and teachers will appreciate the inspiring message this unique history book holds for America’s next generation. I recommend this book to all young Americans, may they take us to the stars and beyond.”

    Years of meticulous research went into the book, and historical accuracy rules every page: Anthony takes readers through the science, technology, human drama, and politics of America’s space program. Anthony’s conversations with the people of the past are based on things they really said, all properly footnoted: his conversations with the astronauts are based on NASA transcripts.

    “I wanted America’s heroes to speak directly to America’s kids, through Anthony,” says Class. “Buzz Aldrin does that in the book, talking to Anthony about setting goals, taking risks, teamwork, and courage. Today, Buzz Aldrin is a strong and inspiring voice encouraging America’s return to space, putting human footprints on Mars, and the great things that America’s children can achieve. Buzz Aldrin donated copies of my book to children’s charities and schools. He’s Anthony’s hero – and mine.”

    The book’s inspiring message also comes from the moral lessons included in each chapter. The chapter about Lindbergh’s flight is really about choosing one’s destiny. The story of Lou Gehrig is one of a virtuous life. The chapter about Thomas Edison is really about business and the benefits of hard work. The story of Dr. Jonas Salk is really about dedicating one’s life to a higher purpose. Anthony’s observation of D-Day and the liberation of the death camps during the Holocaust is a testament to the reality of evil and the need to fight it. When Anthony meets his immigrant great-grandfather at Ellis Island, it’s really a story about what it means to be an American.

    The story of Apollo 11 comes with a message of hope for America’s space program. Anthony says, “In my time there is not one child who has seen a man, or a woman, walk on the surface of the moon. My father reminds me of something that astronaut Eugene Cernan, the last man to stand on the moon, wrote: ‘Somewhere on Earth today is the young girl or boy, the possessor of indomitable will and courage, who will lift that dubious honor from me and take us back where we belong.'”

    Class included many subtle touches to convince his readers that Anthony “was really there.” Anthony knows things that only an eyewitness to history would know: he sees Buzz Aldrin leave Soviet cosmonaut medals on the moon. Who do the cosmonaut medals belong to? Why did Buzz Aldrin bring them to the moon? “You’ll have to read the book to find out,” says Anthony, the time-traveler.

    Anthony and the Magic Picture Frame was named Outstanding Book of the Year and Most Original Concept of 2006 by Independent Publisher, Reviewers Choice by Midwest Book Review, and Editor’s Pick by Homefires: The Journal of Homeschooling Online. Nationally syndicated talk-show host Michael Medved calls the book “entertaining and educational.”

    Anthony and the Magic Picture Frame includes built-in tools for teachers: recommendations for hundreds of books, movies, songs, and places to visit, keyed to the subjects of each chapter. The author’s Web site includes a fun final exam; the author’s blog (www.MagicPictureFrame.blogspot.com) is a place for readers to discuss the book’s moral lessons.

    Anthony and the Magic Picture Frame (hardcover, 225 pages, $35) is available at http://www.MagicPictureFrame.com, by calling toll-free 1-800-247-6553, at select bookstores, and on http://www.amazon.com.


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