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MSU Kicks off a Lecture Series Celebrating the 50 year Anniversary of Apollo 11

Written by on October 3, 2019

By Drew Mumich

Montclair State University Kicks off a Lecture Series Celebrating the 50 year Anniversary of Apollo 11

The moon, the most prominent figure filling up the night sky since the beginning of time.  Myths made about it, philosophers created theories over it.  Through these years it has created the curiosity of all mankind.

That curiosity satisfied on July 24th, 1969. Apollo 11 landed on the surface of the moon, lowered the hatch, and let 2 astronauts out to be the first men on the moon. This is where Neil Armstrong uttered the famous words, “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” That was 50 years ago.

Then a little past 7 pm on Thursday, September 26th, in the Center for Environmental & Life Science Lecture room 120 began a look in the science of Apollo 11. This lecture delves into the exploration, physics, and the science of what mankind learned from the moon.

The lecture was led by Marc Favata, the chair of Montclair State University Physics. As well as an Astronomy and Gravitational Aid Physicist.

This begins a fall semester lecture series hosted by The College of Math and Science called Journey to the Moon, celebrating 50 years since the Apollo 11. A lecture series delving into the science behind that famous moon mission.

To put the first moon landing in perspective, Favata explains it was the 60s. The Cold War was heading to space with the Russians beating America with the first Satellite. The Russians sent Sputnik into space. Then the first dog sent into space, Laika, and the first man to Orbit Space, Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin. America was at a severe disadvantage.

John F. Kennedy went to congress, telling them, “Finally, if we are to win the battle that is now going on around the world between freedom and tyranny. The dramatic achievements in space which occurred in recent weeks should have made clear to us all as did the sputnik in 1957 the impact of this adventure on the minds of men everywhere… Time for this nation to take a clearly leading role in space achievement which in many ways may hold the key to future on earth.”

As Dr. Favata explained the importance of this during the lecture, “It says nothing about doing any science experiments, learning about the gravity of the moon, testing Einstein’s theory, none of that is mentioned, it gets our man there and brings him back. Of course, scientists were involved, to throw in some bells and whistles, and it is those bells and whistles we will talk about.”

As Nicolette Filippon, Earth and environmental science major at Montclair State University who attended the lecture said, “America wants to be number 1, it’s always been that way. [The] American dollar runs the world and it’s why we have a military complex.”

In 48 slides and 1 hour and 15 minutes, Dr.Favata asked and answered three complex questions to his audience: how did it get there, what was it made of, and how well can we measure it?

To dive in, how did the moon get there? Dr. Favata presents The Giant Impact Theory, sometimes known as the Big splash.

The theory suggests that there was a collision between Earth and an astronomical body the size of Mars about 4.5 billion years ago. The debris from this collision formed the moon.

Dr. Favata explains that once the collision happened, the debris would be close enough to continue to orbit the earth. Adding that the moon is not that far from the course of impact.

Later, Dr. Favata explained the interior of the moon is heavier than the earth’s crust about 20 kilometers (12 miles) beneath the outer layer. Though adding, that the first kilometer of the moon’s crust on the surface of the is close to cheese then earth crust due to its porous nature.

“Sound-wave speeds in returned moon rocks are closer to the speed of sound in cheese then Earth Rocks,” Dr. Favata explains.  This would be due to a constant parade of projectiles like meteors hitting the surface of the moon.

Toward the tail of his lecture, he asked how far is the moon away from the earth?

Then explained, using retroreflectors, a device that reflects light back to the source. The Apollo astronauts placed on the moon five of them on the moon.

Scientists are able to calculate the moon is 384,400 kilometers (238,900 mi). This is roughly the same amount of distance a person could go around the earth 9.6 times. This accuracy of the moon distances is able to be calculated with 2 centimeters.

As Miguel Velazquez, a computer science major at Passaic County Community College said, “Although I finally learned that Apollo was no affiliated with space exploration at the time… throughout the lecture, I learned as many things as from theories of the moon’s creation, speculations about what the moon is made of or what the moon is in general, and above all, he just covered so many things that were in such a short lecture.”

The night was followed by stargazing. Lectures like this one about are happening throughout the fall semester. The next being on October 3rd called Ethics, Law and Space Exploration. For more dates on lectures like this one please visit their website at montclair.edu/csam/journey-to-the-moon.