Grasping paper rockets they had just made, children emerged from the Discovery Science Place exhibit during Tyler Junior College’s Moon Day celebration on Saturday, ready for volunteer Jonathan Kavannaugh to help them launch their rockets high into the air.
The Moon Day celebration was staged by TJC’s Center for Earth & Space Education.
Kavannaugh let children who made a paper rocket put their hand on a red button connected to an air compressed launch system that he had built for the Tyler Mini Maker Faire to enable them with their parents to see their rocket fly. Just like a real rocket launch, Kavannaugh counted down 4, 3, 2, 1 and the rockets shot into the air.
Kavannaugh said, “Building paper rockets goes well with celebrating the Apollo 11 launch.”
The Moon Day celebration of the Apollo 11 mission to the moon and the walk on the moon 50 years ago by astronaut Neil Armstrong also featured another model rocket building activity of a different sort, led by the Civil Air Patrol.
Using different materials, children learned during the CAP session to make a rocket using Styrofoam swim noodles, glued on fins, attached a rubber band in the nose and used wire ties to complete the project.
Civil Air Patrol Lt. Col. Rich Schmitt said the CAP’s model rocket building session taught children to read and follow instructions and how to make something, briefed them on safety and let them have fun. They took their rockets outside, pulled back the rubber band and fired them off.
Schmitt said the children’s activity was part of the CAP’s emphasis on space education. The CAP also focuses on leadership and emergency services.
Dr. Beau Hartweg, TJC’s science center director, said that besides the Apollo 11 landing on the moon 50 years ago being a historic and momentous occasion in its own right that Moon Day celebrated, the science center was hoping that the Moon Day event would inspire students and families to take an interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Moon Day festivities ranged from children’s activities to lectures and talks for adults and advanced students on various topics, including astronomy, moon rocks and constellations, plus movies about the moon in the TJC planetarium.
Several groups around East Texas joined in offering exhibits, such as the Historic Aviation Memorial Museum, Mathnasium, Tyler Amateur Radio Club and Girl Scouts.
Hartweg said, “We are excited to have a great turnout from the community.” People from neighboring towns attended as well as Tylerites.
Nathan Anderson, of Whitehouse, accompanied his son, Zader, 8, who said he wanted to make a rocket even though he already had one at his house.
Marissa Scott brought her son and two grandsons, all of whom reside in Marshall, because they are interested in the 50th anniversary of the Apollo landing on the moon and wanted to look at the exhibits.
Her son, Jack Morris, said he wanted to bring his children because he wants them to be interested in aviation and space exploration. He added, “Not enough people are interested in the concept anymore and I want them to grow up having a passion for it.”
Marissa Stuart, of Tyler, a sixth-grade science teacher, was looking for ideas for her class and brought her daughter, Harper, 6, to learn about the moon landing. The girl said, “I wanted to see stuff and I thought that making rockets would be cool and fun. I already know how to make a Lego satellite.”
Nichole Smith, of Bullard, who homeschools her four children, said the Moon Day celebration was “an excellent opportunity” to involve them in science during the summer.
She paused with her children at a gravity display illustrating the different weights of brick on the Earth, Moon and Mars and asked which brick was the lightest. Her oldest child, Clair, 7, answered “the moon” and then commented that the exhibit was “cool.”
Dr. Suzan LaVoy said she wanted her four grandchildren with her for Moon Day to experience and become aware of the U.S. accomplishment she saw while watching the moon walk in the Netherlands with 200 people gathered around a nine-inch TV 50 years ago. She also hoped they would appreciate advances made because of the moon landing and become excited about science.
One of her grandchildren, Ella Acosta, 12, said, “I think it’s interesting that we haven’t explored most of this huge solar system that we don’t know a lot about. I would like to be aware of what other stuff is there.”
Cynthia Crouch, of Troup, was making her way through the exhibits with her daughter, a friend and her friend’s two children. She said, “The exhibits in the rock room are pretty neat. I learned a lot of different things … how rocks are formed and what the moon looks like on the opposite side.”
Ken Murphy, of Tyler, known as “the moon guy” because he has researched the moon for two decades, presented three lectures.
His lecture on Moon rocks gave an overview of the kinds of rocks that are on the Moon that astronauts brought back, using similar rocks on the Earth to illustrate. He even showed an actual tiny moon rock from an asteroid that fell into the desert in northwest Africa.
Murphy also led a class for children on the basics of the moon, such as how big it is, how it was formed and its orbit. His third lecture was for adults and focused on human space activities, covering what can be done on the moon, industrial concepts, experimentation, research and humans living and working on the moon.