Wednesday, June 3, 2009

To the Moon, by way of MIT

Instrumentation Lab made Apollo landings possible 40 years ago

Many people consider the Apollo lunar landings one of the crowning achievements of human ingenuity. But not so many people realize that the epochal first steps by human beings on another world -- which took place 40 years ago next month -- likely would not have been possible without the technological experience and capabilities of MIT.

In celebration of that singular accomplishment and MIT's crucial role in it, the Institute is holding a three-day symposium and celebration on June 10-12 that will feature talks by astronauts, engineers, and others involved in that mission, as well as an examination of what lies ahead for the U.S. space program in the coming decades. The event's title, "Giant Leaps," evokes the famous first words spoken by astronaut Neil Armstrong after descending a ladder to the lunar surface on July 20, 1969: "That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind."

The second person to walk on the moon just moments after Armstrong's "one small step" was Buzz Aldrin ScD '63. In the course of his studies at MIT, Aldrin took the class in astrodynamics (16.346) that was then, and still is today, taught by Senior Lecturer Richard Battin of the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics. Of the 12 men who have walked on the moon, two others -- David Scott SM '62, EAA '62 of Apollo 15, and Edgar Mitchell ScD '64 of Apollo 14 -- also took Battin's class. And Charles Duke of Apollo 16 received his SM in 1964 under the guidance of Laurence Young, the Apollo Program Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics and a professor of health sciences and technology.

But MIT's role in the Apollo program was much more crucial than just educating its astronauts.

Read the Article HERE.
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