We celebrated with events all year long. Check out Dr. Jean Creighton’s article about 5 of the most influential technologies that we use here on Earth as a result of the Moon landing.
Lunar Party (Free!)
Saturday, July 20, 12-3 p.m.
More than 500 space enthusiasts celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing at our Lunar Party in July despite the heat and thunderstorm. People of all ages enjoyed Purple Moon ice cream, had their faces painted, took selfies with a replica astronaut, and attended mini stargazing shows and guest lectures.
It was fascinating to hear about lunar exploration from a planetary geologist’s point of view. Dr. Lindsay McHenry explained that the Moon has two basic terrains: (i) highlands that are lighter in color, higher in elevation, and more cratered, and (ii) mare which are darker, smoother, and younger. Firstly, we looked at samples of anorthosite (which is made of feldspar, a rock-forming mineral that 51% of the Earth’s crust is made of); this rock is from the time that the Moon would have a liquid magma ocean and less dense feldspar would rise to the surface whereas denser olivine and pyroxene would sink. On Earth, it is unusual to get feldspar without quartz or olivine because minerals tend to crystallize together. Secondly, McHenry showed us breccia rocks that occurred from impact sites on the Moon. These rocks show angular broken fragment texture. Thirdly, we saw a sample of basalt on Earth that would look very similar to that on the Moon—bubbles are frozen in the rock. However, a basalt that formed 200 years ago on Earth would be in significantly worse shape than the 3.9 billion-year-old basaltic glass that we have found on the Moon. There is so little weathering on our natural satellite. McHenry’s favorite is the beautiful volcanic glass in the lunar soil that cooled in lovely spheres in the absence of an atmosphere to give the aerodynamic shapes that we see in the glass near volcanoes on Earth.
Exploring Other Moons: The Amazing Atmosphere of Titan
Wednesday, March 13, 7-8 p.m.
Chemistry professor Dr. Joseph Aldstadt described how the recent exploration of the Saturnian system by the Cassini-Huygens mission has revealed intriguing new insights, particularly the surprisingly complex composition of Titan’s atmosphere. Seeing Saturn through a telescope for the first time as a first grade student got Dr. Joe Aldstadt hooked on the cosmos long before he discovered his main passion, chemistry. Both of his interests came happily together when he described the chemistry of the atmosphere of Titan—the biggest of Saturn’s 62 moons. This intriguing moon has an opaque atmosphere due to a thick haze riddled with hydrocarbons. Titan looks like home: it has weather systems and flowing rivers because methane can be in three phases: rain, ice, and vapor, just as water can be on Earth.
To the Moon: The Greatest Engineering Adventure Ever Taken
Thursday, March 28, 5:30-6:30 p.m.
After uttering his first-word “airplane”, Dr. Nathan P. Salowitz has enjoyed an exciting career in aerospace engineering through his work at Boeing and through his graduate studies at Stanford University’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics. He shared his expertise on the engineering feats of the Apollo Moon landing as he discussed the complexities, challenges and nuances of developing a flight plan and spacecraft that could keep people alive on the trip to and from the moon. The research done during these missions has advanced many subfields including timekeeping, rocket propulsion, lunar geology and human physiology. The ambitious goals of space exploration have provided wisdom on the hazardous conditions of regolith, or moon dust, as its sharp structure and static charge degrades air seals. These missions have also allowed a deeper understanding of the field of radiation in our atmosphere and further evidence suggests that people can safely be sent between 150 and 400 miles above the earth without dangerous radiation exposure. Manned space flights also reveal the physiological responses to space such as the reactivation of viruses such as chicken pox after long-duration trips. Dr. Salowitz’s research at UWM on self-healing metals, or alloys that repair themselves when introduced to heat, provide an insight into technologies that have the potential to advance the future of aerospace engineering.
Imagining the Moon: A History of Lunar Visualizations
Wednesday, April 3, 7-8 p.m.
UWM American Geographical Society Library
Four hundred years ago the Moon was envisioned very differently than how it is visualized now. Marcy Bidney, curator of the UWM Libraries’ American Geographical Society Library (AGSL), described the history of lunar cartography and imagery that shaped our perceptions of the moon over time. From pre-telescopic observations that conceptualized the lunar surface to intricate maps of lunar craters and maria (the large, dark plains on the moon), she explained the history and technology used to reach these discoveries. From the Middle Ages and Renaissance to the Space Age, these developments have allowed a deeper understanding of the composition and structure of the lunar surface. Beautiful maps, models and photographs were on display to highlight the progress we have made in appreciating our nearest neighbor.
Unblinded By the Light
Wednesday April 17, 6:30-7:30 p.m.
Janis Eels shared her expertise as a NASA researcher on using photobiomodulation technology to treat eye disease on Earth at Wednesday night’s Unblinded by the Light guest lecture. With the use of red-light technology, Eels described how our understanding of the eye and visual heath has been advanced through ongoing research projects with low-level laser therapy. Eels says she hopes to have visual improvement technology FDA approved in the United States within the next five years.
Challenges for Low-Cost Space Exploration
Wednesday, May 1, 7-8 p.m.
Dr. Rani Elhajjar described current industrial efforts and how the ability of humans becoming a multiplanetary species hinges on the ability to reduce the cost of access to space. Elhajjar is Fulbright scholar and tenured associate professor at the College of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. His experiences include senior positions in aerospace quality, certification, and build reliability engineering at Boeing and SpaceX.
Full Moon Canoe
Thursday, June 13, & Friday, June 14, 7:30-10 p.m.
Urban Ecology Center/Milwaukee Rowing Club
Attendees enjoyed the full Moon while canoeing down the Milwaukee River as UWM Planetarium Director and NASA Airborne Astronomy Ambassador Jean Creighton described our nearest celestial neighbor, other exotic moons in the solar system, and more intriguing objects scattered through space.
How Space Exploration Impacts Our Life on Earth (Free!)
Wednesday, June 19, 7-8 p.m.
Lynn Garrison, small business technical advisor at NASA, will discuss technology at NASA and how it impacts our daily lives.
Moonshots Then and Now: Why Google Isn’t NASA
Wednesday, September 25, 7-8 p.m.
UWM Manfred Olson Planetarium
Fifty years on, NASA’s triumphs in the Apollo program have made “moonshot” a part of the language. Dr. Thomas Haigh compared and contrasted NASA’s work on moonshots during the Apollo program with that of private programs, such as Google X, also known as Google’s “Moonshot Factory.”
Space Crazy! Kids’ Letters to Astronauts in the Early Space Age
Wednesday, October 16, 7-8 p.m.
UWM Manfred Olson Planetarium
What was it like to be a kid during the “space craze,” when “cosmic enthusiasm” was igniting imaginations on both sides of the Cold War divide? Visitors joined Dr. Roshanna P. Sylvester for an entertaining and enlightening historical tour of Soviet and American childhood from Sputnik to Apollo. Kids’ perspectives came to life through their letters to the pioneering spacefarers Yuri Gagarin, John Glenn, and Valentina Tereshkova. Space-themed toys, games, music, movies, and TV were also part of the show. In the famous words of Yuri Gagarin, “let’s go!”