Apollo 11 landed on the moon with two American astronauts on board 50 years ago this summer. How did NASA scientists accomplish that feat? What were some of the scientific principles involved?
Radiant Randy, a presenter from Mad Science of Kansas City, was in Tarkio on Tuesday, June 11, to talk about and demonstrate some of the principles involved in space exploration. Fifty-five children and approximately 20 adults in Atchison County were the lucky witnesses to this event.
Terms the children had an opportunity to learn about included Sir Isaac Newton’s Laws of Motion; particularly, the every action creates a reaction principle. The principle of unguided trajectory was demonstrated with balloons. The trajectory of a rocket headed for outer space and moon landings can not be unguided!
What fuel propels a rock- et, and how much fuel is needed for a rocket to reach the moon? The rocket that launched Apollo 11 was fueled by a mixture of kerosene and liquid oxygen. It took 980,000 gallons (almost one million) of fuel to reach the moon, and the journey took 41⁄2 Earth days each way! The scientist demon- strated how the mixture of an acid and a base (water and baking soda) builds up pressure to create propulsion of an object. The children were delighted by the explosions created by the build up of CO2.
Some specific facts about the moon’s surface the kids learned were: The moon has no atmosphere or air pressure like earth. The two week long nights on the moon reach temperatures of -280° Fahrenheit and the two week long days
reach temperatures of +260° Fahrenheit. Walking on the moon is best accomplished by jumping in a zig zag motion!
The suits astronauts wear in space weigh 200 pounds. The suits must be pressurized to simulate the 14 pounds of air pressure that the astronauts feel in Earth’s atmosphere. The children were amused to learn that the air pressure is pumped into the suits via the astronaut’s underwear, and the air must be constantly cooled.
The scientist demonstrated that landing an object in space is extremely difficult, because the Earth and the moon are never still. They are in an orbit and rotating at all times. How do you calculate that landing? Fact: The computers used to calculate the landing of Apollo 11 were about the same as what is in today’s cell phones and calculators used by most high school age students. They were nothing like the high powered sophisticated computers that NASA has today. How brilliant were the NASA mathematicians who made those calculations??!!
Radiant Randy used
many children who volunteered to be in his demonstrations. These interactive demonstrations included trying to hit rotating and orbiting objects with small compressed air propelled rockets and walking in sim- ulated space shoes!
Atchison County Library, sponsors of The Mad Science Walking on the Moon program, conducted a drawing for six door prizes. The winners of those prizes were Brody Wennihan, Raelynn Sachs, Charlotte Wright, Bo Peregrine, Raiden Baruth and Bryar Wennihan.
Mad Science is a nation wide science enrichment program for children. Library Director Janice Rosenbohm was thrilled for the group of children that enjoyed their delightful and inspiring presentation. She always wishes more chil dren could take advantage of these opportunities.
Mad Science will conduct NASA based workshops in June and July in Tarkio, Fairfax and Rock Port, and the library’s Summer Read- ing program – The Universe – starts June 19 and 20 at all county libraries. Call or visit your library if you need more information.