Out & About: Class About Space, NASA Among Osher@Dartmouth Offerings

  • Apollo 15 astronaut James Irwin salutes while standing on the moon in 1971 near an American flag.(Courtesy photograph)

Valley News Calendar Editor
Saturday, September 01, 2018

Hanover — Do you remember being caught up in the excitement of the space race?

Then consider taking a new Osher@Dartmouth course called “Mercury, Gemini & Apollo: NASA’s Golden Age, a 50-Year Retrospective,” to be taught by new instructor Dan DeMars. The course begins on Sept. 20 and will meet on Thursdays from 5-7 p.m. through Nov. 15 (except for Oct. 18).

Since he was a child, DeMars has been fascinated by space and collected books, films and other material on the topic.

“I never really thought I had a vehicle for it,” he said. “I have no background in aerospace. I never aspired to be an astronaut.”

But like so much of the country, he became in awe of NASA’s achievements, particularly how many accomplishments were compressed within a short timeframe.

“In a government program, that doesn’t happen anymore,” he said. “The fact that they did it is amazing. They went from an idea to a completed mission in 10 years.”

One question that DeMars will address is “how did they do this?”

Scientists had much to consider including big questions such as if and how men could survive in space. The class will also look at how the astronauts were chosen.

“This was not a homogenous (group) of guys,” DeMars said.

The course also puts the space race in context to other events occurring at the time. On Dec. 24, 1968, Apollo 8 became the first spaceship with men on it to leave Earth’s orbit and circle the moon before returning.

“It certainly wasn’t by design, but it certainly was a Hollywood moment,” DeMars said. In a sense, it brought the country together after a tough year saw the deaths of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy as well as further involvement in Vietnam. This was also the time period when then-president Lyndon B. Johnson was promoting Great Society programs to end poverty in the country.

Still, the magic of the space race prevailed.

“Like every kid who was my age, we were exposed to it and it was ingrained in the consciousness,” DeMars said.

Other Osher@Dartmouth Classes to Consider

“From the Page to the Stage — How Opera Comes to Life,” taught by new study leader Helena Binder.

“Bridging the Divide: On Understanding and Remedying...” taught by new study leader and Dartmouth undergraduate Rachna Shah.

“U.S. Diplomacy, Aid, and Soft Power,” taught by Josette and Ray Malley.

“Beyond Bliss: Buddha, Jung and Spira,” taught by Patricia Cashman.

“Two Definitive Thomas Hardy Novels,” taught by Steve Rounds

“Beekeeping for Beginners,” taught by new study leaders Barbara and Harvey Bazarian.

“The History of American Skiing,” taught by new study leader Peter Graves.

“What Would William Shakespeare Do?” taught by new study leader Sonja Hakala.

“Influenza: Mother Nature’s Worst WMD,” taught by new study leader Paul Etkind.

“Something in the Soil?” taught by new study leader Bruce James.

“It’s About Time,” taught by new study leader Larry Crocker.

“The Puritans: From England, to Massachusetts,” taught by Charles Buell.

“Why is Special Education Special?” taught by new study leaders Andrea and Michael Harris.

Editor’s note: For more information about costs and classes, visit osher.dartmouth.edu/ or call 603-646-0154. Liz Sauchelli can be reached at esauchelli@vnews.com or 603-727-3221.


The photograph with this story shows Apollo 15 astronaut James Irwin saluting while standing beside an American flag planted on the moon in 1971. An earlier photo caption incorrectly referred to an earlier lunar mission.