The Science of Apollo

Best-selling author and space historian Andrew Chaikin and a panel of experts, including Apollo 17 astronaut Harrison Schmitt, discuss the science of Project Apollo and the benefits to society of future planetary exploration.

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John Clerk of Eldin

John Clerk of Eldin, a Scottish scholar and artist, was born Dec. 10, 1728. Clerk in his own day was best known as the author of the first modern English book on naval strategy, Naval Tactics, 1790, which was supposedly used by Lord Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar....

John Woodward

John Woodward, an English geologist and fossil collector, was born May 1, 1665. Woodward was an early believer in the organic origin of fossils (first proposed by Steno and Hooke around 1668), but he was initially at a loss to explain how fossils became embedded in the earth’s crust, if they were the remains of living animals on the surface. And then he got his Big Idea. What if, during the Great Flood of Noah, God had miraculously suspended gravity (by which Woodward meant not Newtonian gravity, but the force of cohesion that holds things together)? As the earth’s rocks dissolved into thick pudding, all the drowned animals and planets would sink down until their density was equaled by that of the surrounding muck. When gravity returned, the rocks would cohere again, with the animals remains now imprisoned as fossils within. It was actually a clever idea, except for the density part, which would suggest that the top layers of rock should contain all the jellyfish and the bottom layers all the turtles…

Henry Englefield

Henry Charles Englefield, an English antiquarian, died Mar. 21, 1822, at the age of about 69; his date of birth is unknown. Englefield was wealthy, and a dilettante of sorts (we are not passing judgment here–Englefield was a dues-paying member of the Society of Dilettanti, founded in London in the 1740s to foster interest in the art and antiquities of Italy). Englefield, a Catholic, was particularly interested in British churches, especially those that had been Catholic and were forced into ruinhood by the Dissolution of the Monasteries that began in 1536. The last two decades of the 18th century marked the beginnings of British romanticism and its fascination with ruins of all kinds (such as Tintern Abbey), and Englefield, although no artist, felt a great kinship to those who swooned in the presence of an ancient and lost world…