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High-flying films and facts

Lectures add real science to reel versions of space travel and aviation

Did Stanley Kubrick really foresee the future of space exploration? How does a woman fighter pilot find her way around the boys' club of military flight school? What really happened on the Apollo 13 mission? On three Wednesdays in April, MIT Aero-Astro faculty -- including a former fighter pilot, a former space shuttle astronaut and a designer of future space suits -- will answer these questions and more as part of a special film and lecture series cosponsored by the Lecture Series Committee and Giant Leaps, an MIT celebration of the 40th anniversary of the first Apollo moon landing.

Professor Dava Newman, an aerospace engineering researcher who is working on designing the next generation of spacesuits, will lead off the series on April 15 with commentary on "2001: A Space Odyssey." Associate Professor Mary (Missy) Cummings, a former U.S. Navy fighter pilot, will be next, delivering her own perspective on "Top Gun" on April 22. The series will conclude on April 29 with former astronaut and current Professor of the Practice Jeffrey Hoffman's introduction to "Apollo 13." The introductions will start at 7 p.m., with screenings of the films to follow. All events will be held in 26-100 and are free and open to members of the MIT community.

The LSC is a student-run organization that has been bringing speakers and screened entertainment to the MIT community since 1944. For more information on Giant Leaps, visit

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on April 15, 2009 (download PDF).

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