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50 Years Later, Here's How Texas Kids Learn About The First Lunar Landing

Saturday marks the 50th anniversary of the first lunar landing, and visitors to the Scobee Planetarium at San Antonio College have plenty of questions about the moon.

Elementary age students from Through A Child’s Eyes, a child development center in New Braunfels, were excited and ready to learn more about the moon and the rest of the solar system on a visit on Thursday.

Their teacher, Norma Leija, said a return trip to the moon would be great for their generation.

“It would be nice,” she said. “It would be a good experience and I think these children would enjoy seeing something like that, especially if we had women up there as well, so I think after this they’ll learn a lot.”

The planetarium offers shows for all grade levels, from elementary through high school, that meet state education requirements in science.

 The Scobee Planetarium at San Antonio College
Credit Brian Kirkpatrick | Texas Public Radio
The Scobee Planetarium at San Antonio College

The Scobee Planetarium will mark the anniversary with family events on Saturday. 

The college on North Main Street will demonstrate rockets and lunar robotics, how to build a lunar lander and presentations on moon phases and geology.  Expert speakers on space and astrophysics are scheduled to appear too.

Planetarium coordinator Michelle Risse said they will also have a special show in the dome-shaped building. 

“We are hosting the show CAPCOM Go!, which talks about the Apollo moon landings and how a significant feat it was for us to be able to get a man on the moon and what accomplishments we have done to get us to there,” she said.

The free celebration runs from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The now closed Brooks Air Force Base in San Antonio played a large role in preparing astronauts for a trip to the moon.

The School of Aeronautics Medicine at the base is where early astronauts, including the first moon walker Neil Armstrong, were put through extreme medical tests to prepare them for a trip to space.

Scobee Education Center Director Rick Varner said G-forces were killing many early candidates in the space program.

“A lot of fighter pilots were experiencing cardiac vascular events,” he said.  “They were having heart attacks and at least one in ten I believe was the rate at which pilots were crashing and perishing.”

Varner said the work done at the school led to pressurized suits to protect a body from G-Forces and meals the astronauts could eat in space.

Many of those tough medical tests at the Brook’s medical school were dramatized in the movie The Right Stuff, he said.  The movie was released in 1983.

The Scobee Education Center and associated Challenger Learning Center at San Antonio College are caretakers of the school’s legacy and artifacts since it no longer exists.

The platform President Kennedy stood on to speak at the school one day before his assassination is among them.

The centrifuge that tested the astronauts ability to withstand G-forces is still in operation at the former base, but by private contractor, according to Varner.

Brooks Air Force Base was incorporated into what is today called Brooks City Base, a mixed-use development on the South Side that grew out of the base’s closure in 2002 by the Department of Defense.

Scobee Education Center Director Rick Varner inside Scobee Planetarium.
Credit Brian Kirkpatrick | Texas Public Radio
Scobee Education Center Director Rick Varner inside Scobee Planetarium.

Brian Kirkpatrick can be reached at Brian@TPR.org and on Twitter at @TPRBrian.

Brian Kirkpatrick can be reached at brian@tpr.org and on Twitter at @TPRBrian