On July 20th 1969, at 20 h 17 m GMT, the lunar module ‘Eagle” of the NASA Apollo 11 space mission touched down at the edge of the Sea of Tranquillity on the Moon. And about 6 and a half hour later, Neil Armstrong descended the ladder from the module and became the first person ever to set foot on the grey-powdery lunar surface.
We all remember Neil’s famous first words as he took that first step: “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind“. It is extraordinary that after a lapse of 40 years, since the last manned lunar landing, by Apollo 17 in December 1972, that no one else has been back to the Moon. Was it all just a hoax? Definitely not! The speaker has made 20 visits to the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in Pasadena CA, and got to meet several of the scientists and engineers who were actively involved in the mission. The Apollo 11 landing was the climax of a space race between the USA and the Soviet Union to be the first to send a man to the Moon.
The Apollo missions cost well over 100 billion dollars and at its peak there were some 350,000 people working in some aspect or other of the project. It would have to be a very elaborate hoax! In this talk to the Victorian Skeptics, the speaker will discuss the many achievements and discoveries that have been made manned and unmanned programmes of interplanetary space exploration over the past 40 years. These include the Voyager Mission to the Outer Planets, which saw the arrival of the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecrafts at Jupiter exactly 30 years ago this year, and the subsequent Voyager flypasts of Saturn, Uranus and Neptune between 1979 and 1989.
Following Voyager, there was the Galileo Project at Jupiter between 1995 and 2003, and the Cassini-Huygens Mission to Saturn and Titan which commenced in 2004 and is still on going.
Dr Prentice will compare the spacecraft observations with the predictions about the physical and chemical properties of the planetary system that he made over the past 3 decades using his “Modern Laplacian theory” (MLT) of solar system formation. This theory is a modern quantification of the original nebula hypothesis of the French mathematician Pierre de Laplace. His theory is underpinned by the new physical concept of supersonic turbulence which provides the mechanism for the large spinning proto-solar cloud to shed a concentric family of orbiting gas rings from which the planetary system later condense.
The extensive satellite system of Jupiter and Saturn, as well as those of Uranus and Neptune, are assumed to be miniature planetary systems which formed around their host planet in the same way as the Sun spawned its planets. Unfortunately, very few other scientists are happy with the concept of supersonic turbulence, the MLT remains largely ignored, despite the many successful predictions which it has made over the past 3 decades.
The listeners are encouraged to form their own judgement about the MLT. Eventually, time will tell whether it is headed in the right direction or should be discarded.
Links to further material about Dr Prentice and his ideas of solar system formation