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Explorit Science Center: Space lovers are over the moon

By From page A4 | October 11, 2013

Join Explorit on Saturday at 7 p.m. for the next Davis Astronomy Club event. The evening’s talk will be given by David Takemoto-Weerts, NASA Jet Propulsion Lab’s solar system ambassador, and will include interesting facts and figures about Earth’s only natural satellite.

It’s been more than 40 years since astronaut Gene Cernan left the last bootprint on the moon. Before stepping onto the ladder to re-enter the Challenger lunar module on Dec. 14, 1972, Commander Cernan said, “I’m on the surface; and, as I take man’s last step from the surface, back home for some time to come — but we believe not too long into the future — I’d like to just say what I believe history will record. That America’s challenge of today has forged man’s destiny of tomorrow. And, as we leave the moon at Taurus-Littrow, we leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return, with peace and hope for all mankind. Godspeed the crew of Apollo 17.”

There have been at least 19 successful unmanned orbital or landing lunar missions from the United States, Russia, China, India, Europe and Japan since Apollo 17’s departure.

The latest mission, LADEE, launched from NASA’s Wallop’s Island facility in Virginia on Sept. 6, entered lunar orbit on Oct. 6, and will achieve planned orbit on Saturday.

LADEE is an acronym for Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer. What!? An atmosphere on the moon?

We all know that the moon lacks any significant amount of oxygen or air. An astronaut removing a helmet there would not last long.

However, observations by orbiting Apollo astronauts and subsequent research suggests a tenuous atmosphere. Data collected by LADEE about the ultra-thin lunar atmosphere, environmental influences on lunar dust, and conditions near the surface will help scientists understand other planetary bodies as well.

NASA Ames Director Pete Worden said LADEE “is probably our last best chance to study the pristine moon before there is a lot of human activity there changing things.”

Come celebrate the arrival of LADEE in lunar orbit and the International Observe the Moon Night with the Davis Astronomy Club oN Saturday. Observe the Moon Night is an annual event dedicated to encouraging people to “look up” and take notice of our nearest neighbor, the moon.

A short introduction to lunar exploration and LADEE will lead off the program. Weather permitting (and the forecast is for clear skies!), the group will go outside to observe the moon and other celestial objects. Bring binoculars, telescopes and an inquiring mind.

Davis Astronomy Club meetings are free and open to all ages. For more information, visit http://www.explorit.org/programs/astronomy-club.

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Explorit’s coming events:

* Saturday, Oct. 19, 5:30 to 7 p.m.: You’re invited to our October fundraiser “Touched by Science: Celebrating 30 Years of Science Education and Learning.” Enjoy food, wine and much more. Tickets are $75 general; discounts are available for Explorit members, members of the Cal Aggie Alumni Association, students age 18 and older and teachers. To buy tickets, call 530-756-0191 or visit http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/437033.

— Explorit Science Center is at 3141 Fifth St. For more information, call 530-756-0191, visit http://www.explorit.org, or “like” Explorit on Facebook at www.facebook.com/explorit.fb.

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