The Journal Gazette
Sunday, July 21, 2019 1:00 am

Science Central celebrates moon landing

Prof details complex legacy

DAVE GONG | The Journal Gazette

Just a few small steps inside Science Central, patrons were treated Saturday to a celebration of one of mankind's most giant leaps – the Apollo 11 moon landing. 

Saturday marked the 50th anniversary of the iconic event, when astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong became the first humans to set foot on the moon. To celebrate the anniversary, Science Central hosted David Schuster, associate professor of history at Purdue University Fort Wayne, to give three 30-minute discussions on Apollo 11 and its impact on the Cold War, as well as its legacy in science, technology, society and culture. 

About 400,000 people worked on the Apollo program, which spent more than $25 billion over its lifetime, Schuster said.

“We developed that technology, we applied it and we got to the moon quicker than we said we would,” he said, noting that things like Mylar, integrated circuits and freeze-dried food were all products resulting from the space program. 

The space race also helped spark the environmental movement, spurred budgetary discussions within the government and helped spark interest in science fiction.

Schuster, who has a doctorate in history with a specialty in the history of American medicine, science and culture, said his father was a rocket scientist who worked on NASA projects.

“I just kind of lived in the world of it, so it's easy for me to apply historical knowledge to what I grew up with,” Schuster said. 

In addition to Schuster's presentations, Science Central also featured a commemorative photo display and special programs in the AEP Foundation Science on a Sphere Theater, with images of the liftoff, footage of the landing and data sets that show exactly where the moon lander touched down. 

Cole Finney, Science Central's school and public programs manager, said it's important for kids to learn about the moon landing not just to celebrate the achievement and its history, but to also put a tangible face on science and technology education. 

“Yes, it is the 50th anniversary, and we're celebrating all the science that made that possible and resulted from it,” Finney said. “But we're also hopefully taking all of that and putting it into kids' brains and think forward about what that means.”

The moon and the Apollo missions can help make science more relatable, Finney said. 

“People maybe haven't met a chemist or a physicist, but everyone's seen the moon,” Finney said. “It's good to know what the moon has to do with science.”

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