While the decade of the '80s saw no lunar missions, 21 robotic spacecraft have flown to the Moon since 1972, all of them successfully. There has been a resurgence of interest in lunar exploration, not only in the U.S. but around the world. The Sept 2013 launching of the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) spacecraft from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility is the most recent American example. A few months later, China's Chang'e 3 lander delivered the Jade Rabbit rover to the Moon's surface. Many unmanned missions have progressed to the development phase, and many more are planned (See Future Lunar Missions). For example, Japan and India plan to land lunar rovers in 2017. China plans to return samples of lunar soil in the same year and to land men on the Moon in 2025.
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 investigate the scientific, political, and economic factors that made Project Apollo possible. The seminar provides 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 study space travel as portrayed in history and fiction, and we develop an understanding of the critical roles played by organizations, management principles, and budget.
Assignments for this freshman seminar include problem-solving, reading, and reporting, culminating in a team design study for a robotic lunar lander.