Hello everyone. My name is Viranga. I'm going to be teaching this course. This course is called “Our Moon: From Imagination to Exploration.” I'm going to talk a little bit about what I have planned but I really want input from you and I rather structure the course towards your interests and talk about things that you're interested in as well as things I'm interested in. I have this quote out there that I really like. It talks about kind of my philosophy of what education is I don't want to fill your head with stuff, with information facts and figures. I rather have you be interested in something. This picture is really cool. It's taken from orbit by a spacecraft that's currently orbiting the Moon and it's looking back at the Earth.
Before I get started, I want to have this little, short writing prompt. If you have a piece of paper, laptop, wherever you’re comfortable with, if you take two, three minutes and just write down what the Moon means to you. I want to have you start doing this at the beginning of the class and then we'll take a look at these at the end of the class in December. You can see how things have changed or haven't changed.
I want to talk about what it means to me. As a kid, I saw this movie “Apollo 13” on a visit to the U.S. Saw it and wanted to be an astronaut after that. The movie partly is the inspiration for this class in the sense sometimes science and engineering starts in art, and movies and music. I saw this as a kid when I was visiting the U.S. and then went back to Sri Lanka and my mom at some point, I don't remember exactly when but this book is 25 years old. My mom bought this book and I remember staring basically at one picture, which is of the Saturn V rocket. That's all I basically remember as a child. I don't remember any of the front or the back of this book, it’s just these two pages and it’s, it’s this rocket because it was just the coolest thing because this can literally take people to the Moon.
The Moon to me was a destination for a lot of my life. It’s just a place to go to. How do you go to the Moon? You build a rocket, you build it big enough to carry you and you go there. There’s a little rocket on the table that's from high school. The blue rocket is from college. So it's a high power rocket but the little one you can buy at a toy store and fly it. Find a big enough field, take basic precautions and you can fly it. The bigger ones you need training and certifications to fly because it's a high-powered rocket. So that's the blue one on the left on the right is my senior design project. I worked with six other people to put this rocket together. That's how I started with the Moon.
When I went to grad school, I looked at the science of the Moon. In particular, the shape of the Moon, the elevations, the surface of the Moon how it varies. There's a map on the bottom of the surface elevations on the top is the side of the Moon that you see from Earth that you're familiar with. The orange circle I've drawn is Imbrium. It's a giant crater on the Moon. They correspond from the top to the surface elevations. So you can kind of make out in the middle the side of the Moon that you see when you look up in the sky. One thing you should notice is that side we see from the Earth is generally lower than the other side of the Moon that’s shown on the left and the right. That’s generally higher in elevation. Except there's one part of the Moon on the backside, the side we don't see, it’s a giant crater, South Pole-Aitken basin. That’s the only low area really on the farside of the Moon. Generally, the side we see from the Earth is low. I was trying to figure out or trying to understand why that it. What caused it?
If you are not convinced that I'm still very obsessed with the Moon. A friend and I drove to Florida from here just for the anniversary of Apollo 11. We wanted to be at Cape Canaveral on the day of the 50th anniversary July 20th, 2019. Towards the right of this picture, if you were standing on this very spot, over that way is Launch pad 39A, which is the launch pad where Apollo 11 took off from. It was kind of cool to be in this place.
I proposed this class a little while ago. Started thinking about what should a class about the Moon be about anyway? What are the topics worth covering?
We can make a course about just the science of the Moon. On the left is a drawing by Galileo looking through his very primitive telescope and hand drawing what he saw. 400 years later on the right, we have spacecraft orbiting the Moon. We could take very, very high-resolution images of the Moon and see over 400 years we have a much, much better understanding of what the Moon is like.
We can talk about the engineering of the Moon. This slide is the Moon to many people. Build a rocket, go to the Moon, plant a flag. That's the Moon. This is very important, this is part of the story obviously but there's a lot more to the Moon than just that.
There's a lot of topics that are about the Moon. Movies, music, art, literature there's a lot we can talk about. Why talk about all those things? Well, it's interesting see it in different ways. But it's also the perspective.
So just to give you an idea I grew up in Sri Lanka. In Sri Lanka there is a holiday every single full Moon. Poya it's a Buddhist holiday. So it's great when I was a kid like awesome. Full Moon, holiday, no school. Especially if it's on a weekday, great it's even better. These are the upcoming holidays.
The Moon is not always great. This is Solomon Northup. He was a slave in the 1800s in the U.S. So if you've read the book or seen the movie "12 Years a Slave," he talks about full Moon is when you had to keep working because there's more light. This is part of it. It's worth talking about.
Let's look at the art that's associated with the Moon.
This is one of the earliest paintings. This is from the 13th century. It's called "Viewing Plum Blossoms by Moonlight." On the right, a little faint but you can see a little circle. That's the Moon.
This is from 1793. I really like this one. It's called "I Want! I Want!" and this is a person who has just put up a ladder all the way up to the Moon, presumably going to climb up to the Moon. Which is kind of cool.
You might have seen this one by Vincent van Gogh called "Starry night." Again, on the right hand side you can see the Moon, that crescent shape. Also, a little swirly because it's van Gogh.
The geopolitics of the Moon. Oftentimes what we mean by that is the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States and the resulting Apollo program. But there's a lot more to this.
One way to look at it is, look at just the number of countries that have the Moon on their flags. Most of these are representing Islam, the crescent representing Islam on these flags but not always. The Moon has significance to a lot of people throughout the world. It's important to think about that and that's part of the reason for calling it “Our Moon” is to really try to understand that significance that the Moon has to the whole world.
I have mentioned the engineering of the Moon already.
We have to talk about Wernher von Braun. He was part of Nazi Germany. He built the V-2 rocket shown in the middle is this rocket. There's a person for scale. It's the world's first long-range guided ballistic missile. They were built mostly using slave laborers, concentration camps. In production of this rocket, 12,000 to 20,000 people were killed. These rockets were aimed at mostly London, where 9,000 people died in just the attacks of this rocket. This person is the person behind creating this rocket and technology developed for this rocket goes into the Saturn V rocket that went to the Moon. Remember the thing I was obsessing about. Here's a quote Wernher von Braun he says "I have very deep and sincere regret for the victims of the V-2 rockets, but there were victims on both sides." There's "both sides" again. If you've listened in the news recently that phrase came up. We'll talk more about him as we go, important person to talk about because many people attribute going to the Moon to John F. Kennedy. It was his idea. Wernher von Braun was very much behind the fact of going to the Moon.
Many other stories to talk about. This is John Glenn. He's the third American to go to space 1962 just before his flight he asks "the girl" to check the numbers. "The girl" he’s referring to is Katherine Johnson, who is 43 at the time. He's 41. If you watched the movie "Hidden Figures" or read the book, Katherine Johnson is in it. You can start asking questions like is it appropriate to call a 43 year old woman a girl. There's a lot, lot to talk about there.
This is Margaret Hamilton. She is the lead software developer for the Apollo spacecraft. During nights and weekends she would take her daughter to work at MIT. One time her daughter had mistakenly hit a button that made the system crash, so she thought that was bad because a single mistaken hit of a button could really throw off the entire computer. So she goes to NASA and tells them 'hey you should probably have a protocol that ignores a mistaken input' and she was told "astronauts are trained never to make a mistake” so they didn't listen to her. During Apollo 8 Jim Lovell, who also flew on Apollo 13, mistakenly does that. They had to work to figure that out quickly. Also, she's credited with coming up with the phrase "software engineering." That's how fundamental this person is.
Let's look at the movies that are associated with the Moon.
Here's "A Trip to the Moon.” French movie producer Georges Méliès in 1902. This is probably one of the first, if not the first, feature film of all time. Something be said about the fact that one of the earliest films that we ever made is about going to the Moon. This is how they planned on doing this, is basically have a projectile with people, have a giant cannon and fire it off all the way to the Moon. This movie is important for a number of reasons it invents things that we take for granted in film. If you talk about the history of film you probably recognize, if you haven't seen this movie, you at least probably recognize this next scene where there's the Man on the Moon and the projectile goes and crashes onto its eye. Maybe you've seen that. Oftentimes when people talk about history of film, this is something that’s shown.
Lots of music associated with the Moon and we will listen to one. It's the "Moonlight Sonata" by Beethoven. Some of you may recognize it.
Also, a few days ago. MTV Music Awards. This is Lil Nas X & Billy Ray Cyrus winning Song of the Year. Right hand side the award that MTV gives out has an astronaut on it. It's a astronaut on the Moon.
So we have science that's associated with the Moon.
The Apollo program brought back a lot of samples. This is one of them, it's colloquially referred to as the "Genesis Rock" because it's really, really old. Was believed to be part of the earliest crust of the Moon. If you look at samples of the Moon, usually the first two numbers refer to the mission. So this is Apollo 15. Why this rock is very special is because this rock is made out of one mineral. If you pick up a random rock outside they're usually made out of multiple different types of minerals. This one has just basically one. It's very special, it led to the idea that the Moon was mostly molten.
It was a ball of magma that cooled over time became a solid object and this process of cooling is part of this idea called the Lunar Magma Ocean that we can talk about.
Starting next week, I thought of starting with mythology and religion and go from there because I think that will organize the course somewhat chronologically.
Throughout the class, this is going to be something that I want you to keep thinking about. What does the Moon mean to you? Keep that in mind. We'll come back to it at the end.
Lecture 1: Introduction to Our Moon
“The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.”
Image: NASA/ASU (LRO)
From Imagination to
What does the Moon
mean to you?
Short writing prompt
Date Day Holiday
September 13th Friday Binara Full Moon Poya Day
October 13th Sunday Vap Full Moon Poya Day
November 12th Tuesday Il Full Moon Poya Day
December 11th Wednesday Unduvap Full Moon Poya Day
Image: Google Maps
“The hands are required to be in the cotton
field as soon as it is light in the morning,
and, with the exception of ten or fifteen
minutes, which is given them at noon to
swallow their allowance of cold bacon, they
are not permitted to be a moment idle until
it is too dark to see, and when the moon is
full, they often times labor till the middle of
the night. They do not dare to stop even at
dinner time, nor return to the quarters,
however late it be, until the order to halt is
given by the driver.”
12 Years a Slave
Early 13th century
Algeria Azerbaijan Comoros
Laos Libya Malaysia Maldives
Mauritania Mongolia Nepal Pakistan Palau
Singapore Tunisia Turkey Turkmenistan Uzbekistan
Wernher von Braun
Estimated Death Toll
12,000 to 20,000 slave laborers
9,000 civilians & military in attacks
World's first long-range
guided ballistic missile
“I have very deep and sincere regret for the victims of
the V-2 rockets, but there were victims on both sides”
“John Glenn did ask for the girl (referring to Katherine
Johnson) to manually check the calculations generated
by the electronic computers.”—NASA
That “girl” was 43 years old1962
41 years old
Nights & weekends would take her
daughter to work at MIT
Daughter mistakenly pushed a
button that made the system crash
She suggested that NASA add a
Told “astronauts are trained never to
make a mistake”
On Apollo 8 Jim Lovell makes the