Friday, April 12th: Exploring the Night Sky with Lasers.

Exploring the Night Sky with Lasers

NASA Engineers, Lasers and Cosmonauts!

Host: Don Freeburn, former NASA Engineer for Apollo Missions

“I saw for the first time the earth‘s shape. I could easily see the shores of continents, islands, great rivers, folds of the terrain, large bodies of water. The horizon is dark blue, smoothly turning to black… the feelings which filled me I can express with one word — joy.”

Yuri A. Gagarin,
Life magazine, 21 April 1961

This event will be guest hosted by Don Freeburn, a former NASA engineer, worked on the Apollo Program in the 1960s and 1970s. Where else can you spend an evening with the stars, lasers and a man who knew Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin?

Mr. F. Don Freeburn, is a retired propulsion systems NASA engineer. Mr. Freeburn worked on a number of iconic space programs, including the Apollo missions which sent the first humans in history to the Moon. He promises to bring his amazing collection of artifacts from his time at NASA. Mr. Freeburn will be presenting in White Oak Hall at Fort Roberdeau and taking questions from 7:00-8:00 PM.

Weather permitting, we will then head down to the Mt. Lion Observatory where Mr. Tom Kasner from the Starlight Astronomy Club of Altoona will show guests our observatory improvements and treat them to objects of the spring sky with our wonderful telescope.

Mr. Jim Krug will be outside the observatory leading guests through naked eye exploration of the sky with lasers. The first 20 adult guests can buy their own lasers to take home with them. **The lasers will only be available if the clouds part and we are treated to a good night of seeing, so that we can actually use them. Otherwise, we will hold them until our next event.

Some of the best night sky exploration is done with your own two eyes and bright lasers are invaluable in directing your guests attentions to specific spots above. Participants will learn the does and don’ts of safe astronomy laser use, identify easy to find patterns in the sky, and keep their laser at evening’s end for future backyard astronomy sessions of their own!

Enjoy “Yuri’s Night” – the anniversary of the Russian Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin’s maiden 1961 voyage as the first human in outer space with this star themed evening.

A special thanks to Dr. Lanika Ruzhitskaya, Director of Sciece Outreach and Astronomy, St Francis University for organizing this event.

Admission: $1 per guest plus $9 per laser.

Time: Talk from 7pm-8pm, followed by an evening with the stars, weather permitting. 8pm – 11pm

MegaFun tickets for other weekend events will be on sale for $10.

About Don Freeburn

Don grew up on Osborne Street in Johnstown, Pa., across the street from the U.S. Steel Plant and between the Cochran Junior High School (now Johnstown High
School) and the Memorial and Mercy Hospitals. In the 5th grade, his teacher asked the class of their choice of a future vocation; he stated, “aeronautical engineer.” In the years that followed, he built numerous model airplanes and read all the science fiction novels and aircraft books in the Johnstown library. The 1961 Johnstown High School yearbook lists “aeronautical engineer” as his ambition. In December 1964, he graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering with an Aerospace Option. In February 1965 he was hired by the Propulsion and Power Division at NASA-Houston as an Aerospace  Technologist in the Apollo Lunar Program. 

Over next 44+ years, he worked for the Federal Government as a propulsion systems engineer in the (very) successful NASA applied research and development programs of Apollo, Apollo-Soyuz, Apollo Skylab, and Space Shuttle, and as a general engineer in the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy research and development programs in synfuels and DOE Office of Science fundamental research programs of materials sciences, chemical sciences, biological sciences, geosciences, and engineering sciences within its Office of Basic Energy Sciences.

In January 2010, he retired from the U.S. Department of Energy, and in November 2011, moved with his wife, Kathryn, to Patton, PA. The last few years he has given talks on his work experiences at NASA and DOE to area students in K-12, as well to undergraduates in local universities. His NASA experiences with the space  programs are of particular interest to the students; and this year, the Apollo 11 “first” lunar landing – its 50th anniversary is on July 20.

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