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At our post rocket launch cupcake meeting, Team Just Ducky spent some down time reading what we now realize as awesome archives of the NASA space program.
Last February, Lars’ uncle, Tom Kewan, had dropped off a 12” x 12” old box filled with memories of his youthful interest in rockets and anything related to space and the NASA space program. Lars immediately started thoughts of using these as a 4-H project on a history of rockets , space and robots to be entered in the July Eau Claire County Fair . Little did Tom know his memories became a history lesson 45 years later for Team Just Ducky as they progress through their educational quest of space travel to the moon and all things lunar in this Phase 2 of the Google Lunar X Prize Foundation Moonbots challenge.
Bit by bit, the members of Team Just Ducky carefully unfolded newspaper clippings dating from 1965 to 1972 chronicling the USA and world race to the Moon, beginning with news of the first manned space mission, Gemini 3 to Apollo 17, the last mission to land men on the Moon. We all took turns reading these headlines from the Eau Claire , WI Daily Telegram and Milwaukee Journal piecing the clippings on the living room floor to form a time line of man’s attempt to land on and explore our Earth’s one and only Moon. Forty five years and a generation apart, these headlines told us the story of the pioneering spirits of these early astronauts through the trials, the failed attempts, the successful launches and landings and the grim reminder of the human cost of space exploration detailed in the tragic Apollo 1 fire killing the three astronauts on their launch pad.
We read with interest each story but were also fascinated to learn that even grown ups in the real world have technical failures maybe of different proportions than finding our Legendary payload and parachute stuck high up in a tree but problems turned into lessons. Gemini 3 fell 60 miles short of splash down target because of incorrect calculations in the wind tunnel tests, the pilot of Gemini 4 had trouble closing his hatch after taking the first space stroll because of unforeseen friction on the metal parts which were eliminated for future missions, Gemini 5 had problems with a broken heater in its power producing fuel cells. We read about weather and technical delays . We were intrigued to learn that the Apollo 15 astronauts for 6 ½ hours drove their $8 million lunar Rover 1 even though its front wheel steering did not work making due by steering with the rear wheel apparatus to explore the lunar surface of Hadley Base. We were quietly awed when reading Apollo 15 Astronaut David Scott’s words upon landing on the dusty lunar surface: “As I stand out here in the wonders of the unknown of Hadley, I sort of realize there is a fundamental truth to our nature: Man must explore, and this is exploration at its greatest.”
Forty five years later, it may be the hands of different teenagers holding these space stories, but they are the hands of holding space interest in their minds and souls. Let’s race to the moon and back to continue this history we were holding in our hands! Go Team Just Ducky, keep on learning!