50 years since the first space craft landed on the Moon

The story of two momentous events which happened on the moon 40 and 50 years ago. Plus: how kids can make a 3D foam rocket

The Moon: can you believe there have been men on it? Photo by Steve Jurvetson]
The Moon: can you believe there have been men on it? Photo by Steve Jurvetson]
  • The Moon: can you believe there have been men on it? Photo by Steve Jurvetson]
    The Moon: can you believe there have been men on it? Photo by Steve Jurvetson]
    The Moon: can you believe there have been men on it? Photo by Steve Jurvetson]
    The Moon: can you believe there have been men on it? Photo by Steve Jurvetson]

This April (2012) is a good time for schools to let children explore the history of space travel as the month will see the anniversary of two very important events.

Kids will enjoy making arts and crafts such as making their own rockets in the same month that two fantastic feats of space exploration took place.

The first space craft on the moon

On the 26th April it will be the 50th anniversary of the day when US ‘Ranger 4’ became the first space probe to land on the Moon. An on-board computer failure meant that the space craft crashed on the far side of the Moon without returning any scientific data. However, Ranger 4 proved that the human race could create an object capable of reaching the Moon; in 1969 the first man set foot on Earth’s only natural satellite.

Apollo 16

Before the Ranger 4 anniversary, there is the 40th the anniversary of the Apollo 16 Moon mission. It was on 4th April 1972 that astronaut Charles Duke shouted, “Contact!” as Apollo’s lunar module, Orion, landed.

Transferring from foot into a space buggy, two long drives saw Duke and his colleague John Young become the first (and last) men to journey into the lunar highlands.

They travelled on more rugged terrain than previous expeditions had done but after a seven-hour crisis involving engine trouble on the spacecraft, the men were relieved to be on the moon at all.

Mission control was understandably nervous about the mission – only two years before, technical problems had caused the Apollo 13 mission to be aborted after the crew were placed in great danger.

The troubles experienced by Apollo 16 were soon forgotten when the men returned to Earth having collected far more scientific data than any other mission.  

The astronauts ‘haul’ from their travels included 212lbs of Moon rock – more than the weight of a fully-clothed astronaut!

This precious cargo helped scientists on terra firma disprove the widely-believed opinion that volcanic activity had created the Moon’s eerie landscape. We now think that the impact of meteorites was vital to the Moon’s genesis.

The success of Apollo 16 was on such a scale that it over-shadowed the next manned mission to the Moon, which took place in December 1972 – this was the last manned mission to the moon.

In 2004, US President George Bush Jnr declared that American astronauts would return to the Moon by 2020. Until then, children can imagine what it is like now in space and make some super space-related craft supplies.

How to craft a 3D foam rocket

Children’s art company Baker Ross has a great instructional video entitled ‘How to craft a 3D foam rocket’ on its YouTube channel.

All you need to make one is:

  • A make-your-own 3D foam rocket kit and
  • A tube of silicon glue

Making one tests kids’ ability to make cones and cylinders from colourful sheets of foam. Can they glue on the rocket feet so that the rocket stands up with its head pointing towards the starry skies? Once the rocket takes shape they can start decorating this space apparatus with foam stickers, yellow circles, stars, spots and whirly spiral shapes.

Now it should be ready for take-off and can be lifted onto a classroom ceiling where it will be displayed with pride.

Remember: kids should, just like astronauts, complete this task by using small steps!