National Science Week at the ANU Library – space exploration

15 August 2018

The ANU Library is celebrating this year’s National Science Week theme – Game Changers and Change Makers – by exploring some of the incredible resources in our collection that showcase amazing scientific achievement.

Today we are celebrating some of the many achievements in space exploration.

50th anniversary of Apollo 8’s first manned orbit of the moon

This year commemorates the 50th anniversary of Apollo 8’s ground-breaking first manned orbit of the moon. Apollo 8 launched on December 21, 1968 placing astronauts Frank Borman, James Lovell Jr. and William Anders into orbit. Six telecasts were conducted during this mission, sent worldwide and in real time to all five continents. It was on Apollo 8 that the iconic photograph “Earthrise” was taken, which became one of history’s most influential images. Thanks to this image, we could see our entire planet for the first time as it is situated in the universe.  This mission set the stage for the Apollo 11 moon landing one year later in 1969.

You can read about the Apollo 8 mission in Analysis of Apollo 8 : photography and visual observations,   Rocket Men : The Daring Odyssey of Apollo 8 and the Astronauts Who Made Man's First Journey to the Moon or To touch the face of God : the sacred, the profane and the American space program, 1957-1975 .

50th anniversary of film 2001: A Space Odyssey

When the Space Race was capturing the world’s attention in the 1950s and 1960s, it was inevitable that a number of fictional works would be released that celebrated, or even questioned, the scientific and technological advancements around space travel.

2001: A Space Odyssey was produced and directed by Stanley Kubrick and is widely considered one of the most influential science fiction films ever made. Released in 1968, it explores themes of artificial intelligence, human evolution and technology, as well as the possibility of extra-terrestrial life. This futuristic movie sparked an interest in the possibilities of space exploration among many, and also provided a realistic idea of what the future of space held for humanity. When the film premiered 50 years ago, living and working in space full-time was merely science fiction. Today, the International Space Station is crewed year-round. 

Read the story based on the screenplay with an introduction by author Arthur C. Clarke, watch the original film, or read about the making of the film.

100th birthday of Richard Feynman

Continuing our space theme, nonconformist theoretical physicist Richard Feynman gained public notoriety as a member of the Presidential Commission investigating the explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger. During his work investigating the explosion, he conducted a dramatic demonstration at the televised hearing by dunking a piece of rubber in a glass of ice water to show how predictable the failure of the rocket’s rubber seal would have been on the freezing morning of the launch.

Born in 1918, Feynman forever altered the way science understands the nature of waves and particles, through his work in quantum electrodynamics. He was co-awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1965 for this work.

You can read selected papers of Feynman, as well as a number of biographies of the unconventional scientist such as Genius: Richard Feynman and modern physics, and The beat of a different drum: the life and science of Richard Feynman.