In the Quilcene Community Center, a clutch of grade school-aged children received a brief history lesson July 2, about the men who had landed on the moon nearly 50 years before.
Martha Ashenfelter, the youth services librarian for the Jefferson County Library, continued this summer’s focus on outer space exploration giving the youngsters a hands-on lesson on how to design and build their own “lunar landers,” made out of tape and cardboard and paper cups, to protect marshmallow “astronauts” from the shock of landing.
Ashenfelter recalled how NASA’s Apollo Lunar Module Eagle landed on the moon’s surface July 20, 1969, when she was 10 years old, back when many aspects of the moon were still a mystery.
“They didn’t know how deep the dust and dirt on the surface of the moon went,” Ashenfelter said. “When you look at the feet of the lunar module, you see they’re these round pads.”
Ashenfelter told her pupils to try and jump without using their knees, then to see how much higher they could jump with their knees.
“When you land, your knees act as shock absorbers,” Ashenfelter said. “The legs of the lunar module were designed to absorb the shock of landing, so that it wouldn’t hurt the astronauts.”
Ashenfelter showed the kids how to fold old library cards, accordian-style, to create shock absorbers under the open “lunar lander” cups containing their marshmallow “astronauts,” so that the marshmallows wouldn’t bounce out of the cups when dropped from a height of 12 inches.
“You have to understand where your weight and center of gravity are,” Ashenfelter said. “Otherwise, they might land more heavily on one side or the other.”
Lynn Gibson, grandmother of budding “lunar lander” builder Hunter, got a kick out of seeing her grandson and the other kids recreating a feat she’d seen on live TV 50 years before.
“I hadn’t realized it was 50 years since then already,” Gibson said. “It was something that was virtually unbelievable to my own grandparents.”
Gibson appreciated that the library was willing to conduct the outreach to provide this opportunity for Hunter and other area children to interact constructively.
“He’s not just staying at home,” Gibson said. “He’s always been fond of building things, though. He’s amazing with LEGO blocks.”
Jeanne Mahan helped her own grandson, Thomas, with his “lunar lander,” successfully landing it the required 10 times without the marshmallow “astronaut” getting jostled out of the open cup.
Mahan heaped high praise on the Jefferson County Library, even as she laughingly acknowledged that her status as a former employee might have made her a bit biased. What’s clear to her is that all the kids who took part in the day’s exercise gained some historical insight and the ability to apply scientific principles in a hands-on way.
“He told me, ‘I learned how to make springy stuff today,’” Mahan said. “And he had fun doing it.”