The Moon from Many Perspectives

The Moon is a fascinating planetary body that be considered from a number of traditionally distinct academic disciplines. When I first encountered the Moon as a child, it was solely a place to be visited because I was introduced to it by stories of the Apollo program. Thus, for me the Moon fit into engineering, which is the reason why I studied aerospace engineering as an undergraduate student :) Over the years I have come to appreciate that the Moon has much more to offer us. For instance, it is amazing that most human beings who have ever lived would have seen the very object in the night sky over approximately the 300,000 years we homo sapiens have been around (Schlebusch et al., 2017). It would have meant something different for each of them and in this course I want to explore the Moon in several avenues. In addition to giving the Moon its proper place in the global human experience, I hope that you will find at least one aspect that is really interesting to you.

Learning Objectives

By the end of this course, you will be able to:

  1. Describe how the Moon was perceived over time in mythology, art, literature, music, and motion pictures

  2. Summarize historical and current motivations for exploring the Moon

  3. Identify current and past challenges of exploring the Moon

  4. Summarize important scientific findings about the Moon



Viranga Perera, Ph.D.

Pronouns: he/him/his

I am a postdoctoral researcher at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory and I’ll be the instructor for this course. For my Ph.D. I researched the thermal evolution of the early Moon, interior structures of rubble-pile asteroids, and how students’ attitudes towards science influence their learning.

For more information about me, please see my website:

Course Expectations

You are expected to attend each class, participate in class discussions and complete all projects. Active lectures will be used during the class, which means that short lectures will be followed by questions and opportunities for class and peer discussions. You are expected to be respectful towards all students and the instructor.

Diversity and Inclusion

One of the main objectives of this course is to have broad participation of students from different backgrounds. It took nearly 400,000 people working together in the mid-20th century to put humans on the Moon and as such, it is important for all students to recognize that they have a place in the exploration of our Moon. Unfortunately, the history of the Moon also involves discrimination and active exclusion of certain people (e.g., by gender and race). Going forward we need to take responsibility to be informed, vigilant, and active in welcoming all students into the university learning environment and to be participants of the future exploration of the Moon. Any discrimination based on a person’s race, ethnicity, disability, place of birth, biological sex, gender, sexual orientation, age, religion, or level of prior knowledge will not be tolerated.


Your final grade will be based on 3 small projects and a final project. Scores will not be curved. As such it is possible and highly encouraged for everyone to obtain the highest scores on all projects. You will be given a rubric with each project so that you know what is expected. Grades will follow the standard scale: A = 89.5-100%; B = 79.5-89.4%; C = 69.5-79.4%; D = 60-69.4%; F <60%, with plus and minus grades.

Small Projects (60%)

You will be asked to work on 3 small projects (each being 20% of your final grade). You are free to work on a topic that is interesting to you, of course as long as it has to do with the Moon. I encourage you to try out a topic or a skill that you are not familiar with since you may find that you really enjoy it. I ask that you work on these small projects individually. One of these projects could be developed further into a final project. For each of these small projects, I expect you to work on it for about 10 hours outside of class since you will generally have 2 weeks for each project. The due dates are listed below. Please note that I will ask you to present your work to the class on the due dates (about 5 minutes per person).

Project grade breakdown
Each project 20% (2% for project proposal, 15% for project product, 3% for class presentation)

Project 1 is due: September 25th, 2019
Project 2 is due: October 9th, 2019
Project 3 is due: October 23rd, 2019

Final project (40%)

You have the option of either developing one of your 3 small projects into a final project or working on something entirely different. You can work on the final project either individually or as part of a group. The due date is shown below and again I will ask you to present your work in class on that day (about 5 minutes per person).

Final project is due: December 4th, 2019

Mental Health

If you are struggling with anxiety, stress, depression or other mental health related concerns, please consider visiting the JHU Counseling Center. If you are concerned about a friend, please encourage that person to seek out their services. The Counseling Center is located at 3003 North Charles Street in Suite S-200 and can be reached at 410-516-8278 and online at

Students with Disabilities

Any student with a disability who may need accommodations in this class must obtain an accommodation letter from Student Disability Services, 385 Garland, (410) 516-4720,


The strength of the university depends on academic and personal integrity. In this course, you must be honest and truthful. Ethical violations include cheating, plagiarism, reuse of assignments, improper use of the Internet and electronic devices, unauthorized collaboration, alteration of graded assignments, forgery and falsification, lying, facilitating academic dishonesty, and unfair competition. If you notice any violations of this policy, please let the instructor know. Students can find more information about university misconduct policies on the web at this website:

Absence from Class Due to Illness

The Health and Wellness Center does not provide documentation for students who miss individual classes. In these cases, students should communicate directly with the instructor. If a student experiences an extended illness or hospitalization that causes the student to miss a significant number of classes or major academic assignments, the student can provide a physician’s documentation of illness to the instructor. Students who have prolonged illnesses that interfere with their ability to meet their academic obligations are encouraged to seek treatment at the Student Health and Wellness Center and to confer with a Case Manager in the Student Life Office for assistance. Students should also notify the instructor when they are not able to complete work due to illness. Falsely reporting an illness or injury is a violation of the code of student conduct and is subject to disciplinary action.

Policies for Class Cancellation

If class is cancelled for any reason, students will be informed by email at least a day in advance whenever possible. Course material that was to be covered will be covered in the next class period.


An aspect of learning is changing how we think and behave in response to new information. Our brain does not just accept information like a computer. Instead, our brain processes new information in relation to what it already knows and tries to fit new information to old information. Think about how difficult it is to try to convince someone who believes in a conspiracy theory…there is a reason for that. Of course this varies from person to person but our brains nevertheless are all pretty stubborn. It is important to recognize this since we come to the classroom with our own prior experiences and knowledge. Some of them will help us with our learning, while others will not. Please watch the 20-minute video called A Private Universe (link), which nicely demonstrates how difficult it is to change misconceptions. But we must try! Our goal is to improve our understanding of ourselves and the world.

It is ok if we do not know something and if we make mistakes while learning. It is part of the process of learning. However, it is difficult to admit when we do not know and when we make mistakes. It is my responsibility as the instructor to create a classroom environment where everyone feels comfortable enough to treat learning as a process.


  • Ambrose, S. A., Bridges, M. W., DiPietro, M., Lovett, M. C., & Norman, M. K. (2010). How learning works: Seven research-based principles for smart teaching. John Wiley & Sons. (Amazon)

  • Crovitz, D., & Smoot, W. (2009). Wikipedia: Friend, Not Foe. The English Journal, 98(3), 91-97.

  • National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. How People Learn II: Learners, Contexts, and Cultures. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

  • National Research Council. 2000. How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School: Expanded Edition. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.