July 14: Reaching the Moon

July 14, 2009

In all the classes the students have successfully landed a rocket on the Moon!

The procedure involved the following steps:

  1. Launch the rocket using the stage 1 engines.
  2. Move the rocket into a circular orbit about the Earth using the stage 2 engines and a brief burn from the stage 3 engines.  The students had to figure out the correct amount of time to burn the stage 3 engines to achieve a nearly circular orbit where the rocket’s altitude stayed between 100 and 199 miles.
  3. After one and a half orbits, fire the stage 3 engines (exhausting the remaining fuel) to leave Earth orbit and travel to the Moon.  Students had to determine the correct time to launch the rocket to ensure it rendezvoused with the Moon.

In the fourth period class, students began work on a web page that will summarize some of the exicting things they’ve learned in the course.  Students in the other periods will start work on their web pages Wednesday and Thursday.

Students also attempted to execute a brief engine burn in lunar orbit in order to achieve a free return trajectory.  This has proved challenging, and we’re still working on it!