Freshman Seminar, FRS 104 [QR]
Spring 2014

Robert F. Stengel
Princeton University

The dream that Jules Verne portrayed in 1865 became reality a century later when Project Apollo landed men on the moon and returned them safely to earth. In the quarter century that has passed since this stunning accomplishment, there has been no follow-up, giving the impression that this feat was an end in itself rather than the first chapter of a new human saga. For a time, our society seemed not only to have lost the momentum to build on its achievements in space but to have gone into reverse. The development of technology has continued at an ever-quickening pace, so it is clear that the reasons for this reversal must be found elsewhere.

The goal of From the Earth to the Moon is to reveal the freedoms and limitations of technological development, with a focus on space flight. We will investigate the scientific, political, and economic factors that made Project Apollo possible. The seminar will provide an introduction to orbital mechanics, launch, and re-entry, as well as to the basic principles of space-vehicle design and rocket propulsion, using flight from the earth to the moon and back as a focal point. We will study space programs as portrayed in history and fiction, and we will develop an understanding of the critical roles played by organizations, management principles, and budget. In the process, we will witness the interplay between technological capabilities and social goals, between inward and outward thinking, between perception and actuality, between baseness and nobility of purpose. The recent launching of the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) spacecraft from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility signals a renewed interest in continuing both manned and unmanned exploration of the moon. Many missions have progressed to the development phase, and many more are planned (See Future Lunar Missions)

Assignments include problem-solving, reading, and reporting, culminating in a team design study for an unmanned lunar lander.

About the Program of Freshman Seminars in the Residential Colleges

These seminars are designed to enrich the freshman experience by enabling students to work closely with faculty members in small groups exploring significant ideas and documents. Most seminars are conducted within one of the residential colleges (in this case, Butler College), though offered on a University-wide basis. Enrollment is limited to 15 students chosen for their interest in participating in a rigorous, intellectual endeavor. Freshman seminars count as regular University courses.

Syllabus and Course Readings

A few photos from '96 and '97 field trips to the NASA Wallops Flight Facility and the nearby Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge and Assateague Island National Seashore.
key words: Earth, Moon, lunar exploration, space flight, Apollo Program, orbital mechanics, attitude dynamics, space launch vehicles, interplanetary travel, solar system, science fact, science fiction, space race, aerospace industry, NASA programs, rocketry.
Last updated April 14, 2014.
Copyright (c) 1996-2014 by Robert F. Stengel. All rights reserved.