Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Science 101 (part 3) - From Galileo to Apollo

Wikipedia.com/Apollo 11 Insignia

Man on the Moon - July 20, 1969

July 20th marks another anniversary of the moon landing of Apollo 11.  Neil Armstrong took the first steps and said these words while a large part of the world was watching -

Much has been written and recorded about his epic event.  And for the greatest moments, check out: Apollo 11: First Men on the Moon | The Greatest Moments in Flight | Space.com

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The Saturn V carrying Apollo 11, the first crewed mission to the Moon, soared into space 

Almost a year ago, August 25, 2012, Neil Armstrong passed away, "slipped the surly bonds of earth" to "touch the face of God."  (reference:  Neil Armstrong Biography - Facts, Birthday, Life Story - Biography.com)   The video below is a "Blue and Beautiful" tribute.

Physics and Engineering for Apollo 11

It was a remarkable achievement of science and engineering as well as piloting skill and will power to take on this great leap of human exploration.

How did this all work? Here is abglimpse that explains some of the physics involved - How Hard Is It to Land on the Moon? New Space Game Gravitates Towards Space Physics « Mad Science

The physics of Galileo and beyond ...

Much of the moon shot was made possible by understanding the laws of physics.  And Galileo was a pioneer in modeling the effects of gravity on masses.  In the1500s, Aristotle's description of nature had reigned for 2000 years.  But Galileo challenged this model with his hypotheses - all objects fall (with no air resistance) fall at the same rate.

Such is seen below as this experiment carried out on the Leaning Tower of Pisa:

And Galileo wins!

For fun, try this game:  Wolfram Demonstrations Project: Galileo's Experiment at the Leaning Tower of Pisa

On the moon - practically speaking - there is no air resistance.  Here during  the Apollo 15 mission, Commander David Scott drops a feather and hammer.

Bazinga!    Galileo wins, again!

Galileo has been attributed to the assertion of the Equivalence Principle that says the inertial mass is proportional to the gravitational mass.

So we have an example of two experiments that corroborate the Equivalence Principle from the Tower of Pisa and the moon. (reference:  Millersville University - Experiment of the Month - Inertial and Gravitational Mass)

What's next?

STEP into the Future ...

A more sensitive experiment is taking shape in the STEP program:  The Satellite Test of the Equivalence Principle (STEP).

Wikipedia - Spacetime Curvature

The proposed science experiment in space boasts an accuracy in measurement of 1 part in 10 to the18th power - that is, 1 in 1,000,000,000,000,000,000.  When or if this satellite launches, we will have an opportunity to gather more data. (reference:  STEP – The Satellite Test Of the Equivalence Principle (PDF) )

With this small STEP, will three be a charm and Galileo wins, again?

You betcha.


Previous posts on this subject:

Roger Bacon - a scientist ahead of his time (2009)

October Sky 2010 (2010)

Touching the Face of God ... (2011)

For want of a thermistor the Moon was lost .... 41 years ago (2011)

AI (part 1) - American Ingenuity (2012)

AI (part 2) - How Curiosity got our groove back (2012)


Previous posts in this series:

Science 101 (part 1) - Vernal Equinox  (2013)

Science 101 (part 2) - The Sound of Music? (2013)


Photo from:  Wikipedia - Apollo 11 Insignia; Spacetime curvature

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