I had the pleasure of watching Apollo 13 with our kids last night. It’s amazing how little they know about the Apollo program. My son is reading up on it online right now.

Last summer I thought about doing an after-school activity with students to study the Apollo program (my wife had done something similar with fifth graders in the past). Even though I was just over 8 years old when the last lunar mission was completed (December 1972), it was a big deal during my childhood. It was science and technology on a major innovation curve– more so than “what’s the next iPod going to be like?”

Sources suggest that the Apollo program, clocking in at 20-25 billion 1969 dollars (around 145 billion 2008 dollars), was the start of several long-term technology advances, including integrated circuits (for the on-board computers), fuel cells, and computer-controlled machining (CNC). I wouldn’t mind exploring these beliefs with students to see if the connections are true.

I don’t believe that science and technology need to be at the center of our lives, and I was a bit amused when my son noted that he has no interest in being blasted off on the planet on a rocket the size of a major skyscraper. (I felt ready to go at his age– and maybe the dumb sailboats I sail are a reflection of that.)

However, we have some challenges coming up in the next few decades (take your pick) of which several could benefit from some pure science and technology innovation. Better still, long-term innovation.

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