Take a giant leap into Science North’s Apollo 11 anniversary events

This Saturday will mark 50 years since Apollo 11 landed on the moon. 

Many in the space and science field are celebrating the anniversary, including Science North in Sudbury, which has a number of activities planned.

Jen Blanchette, the science communicator for the centre’s Discovery Theatre, said visitors will be able to learn about some of the problems astronauts had on their trip to the moon. Not technical issues, but of a more human nature.

“For example, how do we eat?” Blanchette said. “How do we go to the bathroom, or what the problems could be eating without gravity.”

The presentation will involve vacuum-packing meat, similar to the kind of packaging astronauts dealt with. It will also explore the technology astronauts used when going to the bathroom.

“You learn about how to deal with your future by looking toward your past,” Blanchette said. “So understanding technology and understanding how we can benefit from the technologies in that way are going to aid us today.”

“I feel like it’s really important to celebrate those achievements and also understanding how we failed.”

Jen Blanchette says she wants to explore the more human side of astronauts’ journey to the moon. (Markus Schwabe/CBC)

Olathe MacIntyre, a staff scientist at the science centre, said her favourite permanent exhibit at Science North is the Gyroscope, which was the same type of training astronauts from the Apollo-era used to prepare for their time in space.

“It teaches us about our centre of gravity, centre of mass, momentum, angular momentum and it’s the epitome of hands-on learning and it’s a lot of fun.”

MacIntyre was also one of the Canadians selected for the short list of potential astronauts in 2016. You can read that story here.

“Astronomy, space exploration has always been part of what Science North teaches,” MacIntyre said. “It’s a really amazing way to inspire youth.

“Everybody is interested in space, so we have a lot of exhibits about fundamental physics that people get interested in because of their relationship to space.”

Olathe MacIntyre is a staff scientist at Science North. (Markus Schwabe/CBC)

Tyler August, a science communicator responsible for the Space Place, said his station will be a little off-topic, but fun nonetheless.

He has designed a video game which replicates the Moon Rover, which wasn’t used until Apollo 15, 16 and 17.

“It’s built into a replica of an old video game cabinet,” August said. “We’ve got a nice 30-inch screen, and a lovely little joystick.”

“The moon rover is one of very few automobiles ever built to be run by joysticks, so just like the original moon rover you push the joystick forward to drive. Back for reverse, turn right, turn left.”

The reason engineers built the moon rover to be controlled with joysticks is because in their bulky space suits, astronauts would not be able to work regular car pedals, August said.  

The simulation also replicates the one sixth gravity of the moon, so August said it would be easy for players to tip the rover.

The centre will also welcome Dr. Shawna Pandya, who will be giving a presentation on how far we’ve come in space travel since the Apollo in 1969.