‘That’s one small step for a man,one giant leap for mankind’

  • Astronaut Buzz Aldrin, lunar module pilot, walks on the surface of the Moon near the leg of the Lunar Module “Eagle” during the Apollo 11 extravehicular activity. Astronaut Neil A. Armstrong, commander, took this photograph with a 70mm lunar surface camera. While astronauts Armstrong and Aldrin descended in the Lunar Module “Eagle” to explore the Sea of Tranquility region of the Moon. Astronaut Michael Collins, command module pilot, remained with the Command and Service Modules "Columbia" in lunar orbit. STOCK PHOTO/CREATIVE COMMONS

  • Full Moon photograph captured in 2010 from Madison, Alabama. Photographed with a Celestron 9.25 Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope. Acquired with a Canon EOS Rebel T1i (EOS 500D), 20 images stacked to reduce noise. Contributed photo—

  • The Apollo 11 lunar landing mission crew, pictured from left to right, Neil A. Armstrong, commander; Michael Collins, command module pilot; and Edwin E. Aldrin Jr., lunar module pilot. Contributed photo

  • Arthur Evans helps a youngster during a Makerspace workshop in Montague.

  • Students experience virtual reality at the Greenfield Public Library in April. Contributed photo—

  • Students experience virtual reality at the Greenfield Public Library in April. Contributed photo—

  • Students experience virtual reality during a Makerspace workshop held inside the Greenfield Public Library in April. Contributed photos/Greenfield Public Library

  • Peter Evans leads a virtual reality workshop. Contributed photo—

Staff Writer
Published: 7/18/2019 8:21:45 AM

What would it be like to walk on the moon like American astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin did 50 years ago?

On Saturday — which will mark exactly a half-century from the July 20, 1969 lunar mission — the Greenfield Public Library will be as close to the lunar surface as most Franklin County residents can ever expect to get (with the exception of Catherine Coleman, a retired NASA astronaut who lives in Shelburne). Virtual reality headsets will transform the Main Street library’s carpeting into moon dust.

Starting at 10:30 a.m., father and son Makerspace instructors Arthur Evans and Peter Evans, 19, of Montague Center will host a virtual reality drop-in moon landing workshop. A Makerspace is a collaborative workspace that’s open to kids and adults alike, according to the organization’s website. At workshops, raw materials (such as virtual reality headsets) are provided and those in attendance can create whatever they’d like.

“The virtual reality program allows users to experience the mission from start to finish. We focus on the lunar part of it,” said Arthur Evans, who has been facilitating workshops on science, technology, engineering and mathematics with his son since 2016. Arthur Evans, who has a background in software engineering, says they began co-hosting the Makerspace workshops to raise money for college expenses.

The realistic experience, which is linear but allows users to look around at their outer space surroundings via an HTC Vive virtual reality headset, “starts in a living room with a 1950s era TV,” he explained.

The experience then follows the Apollo 11’s liftoff from Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the spacecraft’s subsequent lunar landing and its return to Earth. At any given time, two users can experience the same sequence at once. A number of screens will let onlookers (who aren’t plugged in) watch the landing in two-dimensions while users experience it in three-dimensions.

Perhaps the most fascinating part about the virtual reality moon landing sequence is “coming down the ladder, stepping on the moon, walking around,” Arthur Evans said. And while headset users remain seated throughout the moonwalk, “They can look up and see the sun and the Earth. The sun is extremely bright on the moon, that’s why (astronauts) wear such dark masks.”

In the background, users can hear an audio recording of the authentic 1969 moon landing, including the astronaut’s phone call to the Oval Office and Armstrong’s famous declaration, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Throughout and when they’re not plugged-in, Arthur Evans said attendees can try to answer trivia questions about the lunar mission — for example: Did you know the spacesuits are made up of 22 layers of nylon, rubber and metal (sewn together by a group of elderly women) to protect the astronauts from micro meteors?

The inspiration for Saturday’s space-themed program, which is funded by the Greenfield Cultural Council, came from Kay Lyons, a children’s librarian at the Greenfield library, according to Arthur Evans.

“I did their virtual reality experience in the spring,” Lyons said, noting it was beach-themed. “I turned around, and behind me, there was a very realistic spaceship that landed. It was the neatest thing. That gave me the idea for the spaceship theme.”

Lyons noted the virtual spacewalk coincides with the theme for this year’s summer reading program for children, “A Universe of Stories,” which is themed in honor of the moon landing’s 50th anniversary event. She noted the summer reading program will continue through Aug. 10.

For headset users on Saturday, Lyons said the virtual reality spacewalk should be pretty authentic. The lunar surface and the Apollo 11 spacecraft will feel real, as if “you can reach out and touch them,” she said. And for those observing on the two-dimensional projector, the experience affords an opportunity to “laugh heartily as (headset users) try to touch things that aren’t there.”

Saturday’s drop-in workshop will begin in the morning and run until around 2 p.m., or whenever people stop coming. The headsets will be set up in the Greenfield Room at the 402 Main St. library. More information and a full schedule of the library’s programming, including future Makerspace workshops and events coinciding with the summer reading program, can be found at greenfieldpubliclibrary.org.

Andy Castillo can be reached at acastillo@recorder.com.




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