Monday, July 16, 2007

Apollo 11 Launch Anniversary

Today marks the 38th anniversary of the Apollo 11 launch. That mission carried three astronauts, Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Edwin 'Buzz' Aldrin to the moon. When Armstrong stepped out onto the Lunar surface, he not only fulfilled the goal set forth by President John F. Kennedy, he realized the work of scientists and researchers stretching back nearly a century, and the dreams of humanity going back to some of our earliest fiction.

I mention this today for two reasons. First, it took the mission four days to get to the Moon and land safely, on July 20th. That gives you a few days to put together a party for this coming Friday, invite some friends, get some rockets to launch, some Tang, and other astronaut food for your guests. The Lunar Landing really deserves celebration.

Second is what the Moon Landing demonstrated. We landed men on the moon on a handful of theories. The Apollo 11 capsule carried them over 200,000 miles through a vacuum to land on the surface of another planetary body with different gravity and no atmosphere to speak of. Then it carried them home again, making the perilous journey through the atmosphere where most objects burn up on entry.

Many people dismiss scientific theories because they define them in the common parlance as little more than opinions or guesses. “Well, it’s just a -theory- anyway.” As used in science, a theory is a logical and mathematical explanation that can be repeatedly demonstrated. The Apollo missions demonstrated that “theories” can be pretty powerful.