Date: October 1, 2011
Title: Look for the Bunny Girl: How NASA’s Missions to the Moon Influence the Imagination
Podcaster: Jessica Santascoy
Sound Engineer: Joe Cieplinski
Organization: Astronomical Society of the Pacific (ASP)
Description: How do NASA’s missions to the moon, such as Apollo, GRAIL, and the Lunar Reconnaisance Orbiter shape and reshape cultural storytelling and influence how popular culture envisions the moon? This podcast is in celebration of International Observe the Moon night on Saturday, October 8th, 2011.
Bios: Jessica Santascoy is the Astronomy Outreach Coordinator at the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. She’s the voice of the NASA Night Sky Network on Facebook and Twitter and a member of the San Francisco Amateur Astronomers. Jessica is passionate about the outreach that astronomy clubs do, and thinks that everyone should experience the sky through a telescope.
Joe Cieplinski is a graphic designer, sound engineer, and musician. He designed Go StarGaze, the iPhone app for the NASA Night Sky Network that helps you find stargazing events and astronomy clubs. Joe also designs music for apps.
The Astronomical Society of the Pacific (ASP) is the largest general astronomy society in the world, with members from over 70 nations. The ASP is a recognized leader in astronomy education, increasing the understanding and appreciation of astronomy by engaging scientists, educators, enthusiasts, and the public to advance astronomy and space science literacy with their outstanding programs.
Sponsors: This episode of “365 Days of Astronomy” is sponsored by Steve Nerlich from Cheap Astronomy: …where expense is not an option.
This episode of “365 Days Of Astronomy” has also been brought to you by lifeboat.com.
This is Jessica Suzette Santascoy at the Astronomical Society of the Pacific.
The world will celebrate International Observe the Moon Night on Saturday, October 8th, 2011. This year’s theme is “What does the Moon mean to you?” For lots of people the moon evokes a strong love, a genuine feeling of closeness to the moon. Maybe you grew up with an understanding of the moon and it’s phases, or your parents showed you the moon through a telescope. Or you just looked up at the moon and enjoyed it. You might have heard stories of the moon, and grown up with a particular tale that you really loved. Whatever your connection is, it’s difficult to deny that our collective vision of the moon has been influenced by NASA’s missions.
On July 20, 1969, Apollo 11 commander Neil Armstrong stepped onto the Moon’s Sea of Tranquility. He famously said this is “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Mankind means all of us, male, female, human. Spaceflight became a unifying force, something that people around the world could imagine together. It may have been Neil Armstrong and Edwin Buzz Aldrin who walked on the moon, but all of us felt the psychological impact of achieving the seemingly impossible via the Apollo mission. After Apollo, we could imagine ourselves on the Moon traveling vicariously via the astronauts.
Now, we have images from the LRO: Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter that are shaping the way we think about the moon and what it means to us. The LRO’s cameras are making an atlas of the entire moon in great detail. You can see incredible photos of the moon that were never possible, that open up our imaginations even more. GRAIL, the Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory, has a program allowing students to be a part of lunar exploration using up to five cameras aboard the GRAIL spacecraft. The program is similar to the EarthKAM program which allows middle school students to take pictures of our Earth from a camera on board the International Space Station. With these cameras, who knows what kind of storytelling this will produce and how our imaginations will be reshaped.
Before the moon was a destination within our grasp, it was a destination that was dreamed of and a source of storytelling and conjecture. Cultures throughout the world imagined what the moon’s surfaces represented. Many cultures, such as the Aztec and the Chinese imagined a rabbit on the face of the moon. Many people today still see a rabbit. Look closely and you’ll see the rabbit, too.
In the Air-to-Ground Voice Transmission from Apollo 11, the rabbit surfaces in the conversation between Houston and the crew just before the landing: Houston says: Among the large headlines concerning Apollo this morning there’s one asking that you watch for a lovely girl with a big rabbit. An ancient legend says a beautiful Chinese girl…has been living there for 4000 years. It seems she was banished to the moon because she stole the pill of immortality from her husband. You might also look for her companion, a large…rabbit, who is easy to spot since he is always standing on his hind feet in the shade of a cinnamon tree. The name of the rabbit is not reported.
Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin responds: “Okay, we’ll keep a close eye for the bunny girl.”
Notice that Aldrin responded by pairing the rabbit and the woman, calling her the “bunny girl,” whereas in the traditional story, the rabbit and the woman are separate. But it shows you how stories can change quickly and evolve into new stories. Interestingly, many years later, Buzz Aldrin became the inspiration for Buzz Lightyear in the movie Toy Story. That film has become a pop culture mainstay that’s constantly referenced, much like traditional stories are still mentioned today.
Tell us, how do you think new images, missions and scientific findings of the moon will set our imaginations in a new direction? What are your favorite moon stories and what does the moon mean to you?
The Astronomical Society of the Pacific and the NASA Lunar Science Institute are pleased to be partners for International Observe the Moon Night on Saturday, October 8, 2011. Two of the ASP’s programs, Astronomy from the Ground Up and the NASA Night Sky Network are gearing up for this exciting global event to which everyone is invited. You don’t need to be a member of the ASP or the NASA Night Sky Network to join the festivities.
The NASA Night Sky Network is a community of astronomy clubs managed by the ASP for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Invite your family, friends, and pack up the car with munchies and go out to a Moon Party. Astronomy clubs across the United States will be holding events and you’ll get a great view of the moon through a telescope and find out lots of juicy moon facts. Events are free or low-cost. Find a Moon Party in your area, no matter where you are in the world, and enjoy International Observe the Moon Night.
Join the ASP on Facebook. You’ll find the NASA Night Sky Network on both Facebook and Twitter. The NASA Night Sky Network features charts and updates from our partners at EarthSky.
This is Jessica Suzette Santascoy wishing you clear skies from all of us at the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, located in beautiful San Francisco. Bye-bye, and thank you for listening.
End of podcast:
365 Days of Astronomy
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