Lunar Landing Unit
A Renewed Interest
It has been over forty years since Apollo 17 left the moon’s surface, marking the last time a man walked on the moon. The Apollo missions were government funded expeditions, highly
influenced by the global political conflict known as the Cold War. Once the United States showed that it could land a man in the moon the Soviet Union, the only real competition
in the race to the moon, lost interest. Without the competition of the Soviet Union, the government of the United States also lost interest, preferring to spend the financial resources
on other projects.
Now, interest in visiting the moon has been rekindled, and not just by government entities. Competitions such as Google’s X-prize are creating interest in
creating new technologies capable lunar exploration, but by the private sector. Further, the recent formation of the Golden Spike Company promises to send man
to the moon once again. Both of these endvours are attempting to find ways to not only visit the moon far cheaper than the Apollo missions, but lay the ground
work for profit-generating missions. Concepts such as mining minerals from the moon or looking for Helium-3, a form of helium rare on Earth but thought to be in greater abundance on the moon
and useful in creating nuclear fushion powerplants, are being looked into. Once the missions are shown to be profitable, a constant series of moon missions will become possible.
Private industry has lately been creating space programs with a surprising degree of success. In 2002 Space X was formed with the purpose of creating rockets
and capsules capable of entering a low Earth orbit. With the creation of their Falcon 1 and Falcon 9 rockets and Dragon capsule, the company has been so successful that in 2012 they were
awarded a $1.6 Billion contract with NASA to perform 12 missions to resupply the International Space Station.
With private sector interest in moon missions growing, it now seems likely that man will walk again on the moon within the next ten to twenty years. This program is intended to give
CAP members a better understanding of some of the history and science behind lunar landings.
Basic Science of the Moon Landings
Newton’s Three Laws of Motion:
1. An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.
2. The acceleration of an object is dependent upon the net force acting upon the object and the mass of the object. Force = mass of the object * acceleration (F=ma).
3. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
Newton’s Law of Gravity
Newton’s law of gravity states that the force exerted on two objects is equal to the mass of the first object times the mass of the second, with the product divided by the square of the distance between the objects. F=G(m1*m2)/d2. In this formula, G is a gravitational constant often denoted as 6.67384(80) x 10-11m3kg-1s-2. G is used to help convert the Force into Newtons, the SI unit of force. For the sake of this discussion, lets ignore the gravitational constant. Now, based upon this formula you may notice that the more mass an object has, the greater the force of gravity the moon will exert on it. However, rewriting the Second Law of Motion as, a=F/m, we see the items with less mass need less force to obtain the same acceleration. Therefore, without air resistance, a heavy object like a hammer and a light object like a feather, if both dropped from the same height at the same time, should hit the ground at the same time. Think about this. Do you think that will happen? To see the answer, click here.