Tag Archives: history

First Flight

The last part in Doug Messier’s series on the commercial aviation/space history, First Flight, is now available.

Messier brings his history of Virgin Galactic up to the present, and then compares their efforts to build a reusable suborbital spacecraft with that of Blue Origin and its New Shepard design. For Virgin Galactic, the comparison does not reflect well upon them. While fourteen years have passed since the company began its so far unsuccessful effort to reach suborbital space, Blue Origin has already done it multiple times, with a reusable ship. And it took Blue Origin about half the time to make that happen.

Share

Rory Feek – Fifty Thousand Names

An evening pause: The song is by George Jones. It speaks of those who died and are remembered at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington. Even though that particular war was somewhat misguided, the courage and bravery of those who fought it, and the fact that in the end it did serve to halt for a time the spread of communism and tyranny, should not be forgotten.

There’s stars of David and rosary beads
and crucifixion figurines
and flowers of all colors large and small
There’s a Boy Scout badge and a merit pin
Little American flags waving in the wind
and there’s 50,000 names carved in the wall.

Sadly, there are a lot of very wealthy athletes today who have forgotten this.

Share

Sputnik full scale test model sells for $850K

A full scale engineering test model of the Soviet Union’s Sputnik satellite sold at auction yesterday for $850K.

Bonhams auctioned the “beeping” replica of the now-iconic satellite, with its polished metal sphere and four protruding antennas, for $847,500 (including the premium charged to the buyer) at its New York gallery. The winning bid, placed by an unidentified buyer on the telephone, far surpassed the pre-auction estimate and the amount paid for a similar Sputnik replica sold by Bonhams for $269,000 in 2016.

Share

Parts 2 and 3 of “A Niche in Time”

The second and third parts of Doug Messier’s series on the history of aviation and space are now available:

Part 2 describes how the Hindenberg crash ended the lighter-than-air airship industry, while Part 3 describes how the Columbia accident led to the end of the space shuttle. He then compares them both, noting their similarities.

Not surprising to me, the main common thread that sustained both of these failed concepts was the desire of a government to build and fly them, regardless of their cost and practicality. Messier’s comparison between airships and airplanes highlights this well. Airplanes were cost effective and could easily be made profitable. Airships were neither. They existed because Hitler wanted them.

The same can be said for the space shuttles, and for Constellation and SLS/Orion today.

Anyway, read both articles above. They are nicely written, very informative, and provide important lessons about history that we would be wise to educate ourselves about before we attempt to make our own history in the future.

Share

Sputnik for sale!

Capitalism in space: Sputnik’s engineering test replica is going up for auction, and you can buy it!

Like the Sputnik-1 that flew into orbit on October 4, 1957, the test replica is a polished aluminum sphere 23 in (58 cm) in diameter with four spring-mounted external whip antennas. It consists of an outer shell to protect the satellite against heat and an inner pressurized shell to protect the pre-solid state electronics made up of a simple radio transmitter and a 12-V battery. The replica includes a 57-in (1,448 mm) manganese brass stand and an anti-static o-ring. All together, satellite and stand weigh about 100 lb (45 kg) and stand 78 in (1,981 mm) tall.

The Sputnik was previously part of the collection of Heinz Miller of Austria and was originally built for electromagnetic compatibility and electromagnetic interference testing. Only three of the original Sputniks remain in private hands. Of the other two, one is outside Moscow at the Energia Corporate Museum, while the other is at the Museum of Flight in Seattle.

The asking price for the Sputnik is US$100,000 to US$150,000.

Share

Behemoths of the Sky

Link here. This article by Doug Messier, about the German attempt to create an industry around rigid lighter-than-air airships, is the first of a five part history series that he will use to illustrate some fundamentals about new industries.

Despite the differences in time periods and technologies, there are some fundamental things that are required for all major advances in flight regardless of when they are made: imagination, daring, physical courage and financial backing. And luck. No small amount of luck.

Today, Parabolic Arc begins a five-part series looking at three different periods in powered human flight. We will compare and contrast them to see what essential lessons can be drawn from them. If the first two installments appear to have little to do with spaceflight, please be patient. All will be revealed.

Share

The final commercial 747 flights

Link here.

United announced Monday that its final Boeing 747 flight will take place Nov. 7 with a celebratory recreation of its first United flight from San Francisco to Honolulu.

Twenty-eight minutes later, at 3:47 p.m. Monday, Delta announced that it recently operated its final Boeing 747 Tokyo Narita-Honolulu flight (on Sept. 5), and that it had operated what were thought to be the final domestic 747 flights from Honolulu to Los Angeles to Detroit. Delta subsequently used two 747s on Orlando evacuation flights as Hurricane Irma approached, bringing a widely-applauded end to its domestic 747 flying.

United plans to recreate the 1970 San Francisco-Honolulu flight, its first commercial Boeing 747 flight, on the Nov. 7 flight. “From a 1970s-inspired menu to retro uniforms for flight attendants to inflight entertainment befitting of that first flight, passengers will help send the Queen of the Skies off in true style,” United said in a press release.

Though the plane has been bypassed by newer technology, I suspect that we will see 747s flying for many years to come, but only in specialized situations. It was a grand achievement, and proved that giant planes could be built.

Share

Carl Orff – O Fortuna from Carmina Burana

An evening pause: The first half of this video is a great performance of Orff’s piece, written as the opening for Carmina Burana. The second half shows what I think is the closing scene from a staged performance, but has no sound and is unclear. Regardless, the first half is breath-taking, and includes English subtitles, which clearly places the context of this music in 1930s Germany.

Hat tip Wayne DeVette.

Share

It is now bad to cheer for the USA in California

Link here. The story is about how the principal of a local high school sent an email to the families of all students telling them that they should reconsider chanting “USA!” at sports events, as such chants might offend some.

The school’s principal sent out an email to families, Wednesday and relayed the same message to students over the school’s PA system, clarifying any confusion.

She told students and parents that sometimes “We can communicate an unintended message.” She also said USA chanting is welcome, but it may be best to do it at what she says are appropriate times, like following the national anthem or the Pledge of Allegiance. School officials worry the chants could come across as intolerant and offensive to some.

You see, to these California officials, the United States is essentially an evil and racist nation whose only past achievement was to enslave minorities. To show pride in this country is to show pride in this vision, and they want to make sure their students all know this.

What a slander and lie. To me, this position not only illustrates the utter ignorance of these school officials, but their hatred of all things American. If I had a kid in this school I would now be homeschooling them.

Share

An oral history of the Cassini mission to Saturn

Link here. Those who have read my book on the building of the Hubble Space Telescope will recognize many of the same people and political maneuvers used to get the project off the ground and funded.

Note too that the idea of Cassini was first proposed in 1982, but it didn’t actually launch until 1997. Fifteen years. While today I think such a spacecraft could go from concept to launch much faster, this timeline gives us a guide on when the next Saturn orbiter might launch. At the earliest do not expect another mission to Saturn to launch before 2025.

Share

International group forms to get UN protection of Apollo sites

An international group of lawyers, academics, and business people has formed an organization called “For All Moonkind,” aimed specifically at getting UN protections for the six lunar Apollo sites.

They are going to the UN because, based on the Outer Space Treaty, this is the only place that has jurisdiction. Unfortunately. This quote illustrates why:

“Though we are based in the US, we are an international organization,” said Michelle Hanlon, US space lawyer and Co-Founder of For All Moonkind. “Humaid Alshamsi [the UAE participant] brings tremendous experience in public and private aviation and space law to our team. We are thrilled that he has agreed to join our effort.”

For All Moonkind was critical of the auction by Sotheby’s of the Apollo 11 Contingency Lunar Sample Return Bag used by astronaut Neil Armstrong. “The astronauts of the Apollo project represented all of us here on Earth,” explained aviation and space lawyer and Advisory Council Member Humaid Alshamsi, “they went to the Moon in peace for all, and the relics of their historic achievement should be shared by all. The loss of this artifact to a private collector is a loss for humanity.”

The Outer Space Treaty forbids any nation from claiming territory in space, thus leaving it under the control of the UN and the international community, a community that — as demonstrated by this quote — is hostile to capitalism and private enterprise. While I laud this group’s desire to protect these historic sites, I fear their actions are going to place limits on the freedoms and property rights of future space colonists.

Share

The difficult task of legally preserving the Apollo lunar sites

Link here.

While I heartily agree that these historic sites should be preserved, if you read the article you will notice how the focus with these people is not the future, but preserving relics of the past. I say we don’t need more memorials. The best memorial for Apollo 11 would be thriving city on the Moon, even if it trampled on Tranquility Base.

Note also that the restrictions imposed by the Outer Space Treaty once again make things worse. Under the treaty, there is no way for the U.S. to reasonably preserve these American historical sites, without first getting the approval of the UN. The result? I guarantee that any arrangement we manage to work out will almost certainly restrict the freedoms of future space colonists. This not a good thing, and it certainly isn’t something we here on Earth should be doing to the brave people who will someday want to build new civilizations on other worlds.

Share

An explorer’s club for Mars missions

An international group based in New Zealand has put together a new organization, dubbed the Martian Trust, modeled after National Geographic as a way to privately fund space missions.

The Martian Trust is similar to the early National Geographic Society, a non-profit which funded exploration of the world’s furthest reaches through everyday members, magazine subscribers, and wealthy philanthropists. The intent is to tap into the global space-lovers, who will help fund projects in exchange for martian stories, products and experiences produced.

They are using crowd-funding to obtain funds. Trustees will be picked either by a vote from those who contributed small amounts, or because they themselves contributed more than $5 million.

Share

Solid gold Apollo 11 lunar module replica stolen from Armstrong museum in Ohio

On Friday thieves broke into the Neil Armstrong Museum in Ohio and stole a solid gold miniature replica of the Apollo ll lunar module that had been one of three gifted to the three astronauts in Paris during their post-flight world tour.

Police responded to a burglary alarm at the Armstrong Air and Space Museum in Wapakoneta, Ohio, shortly before midnight on Friday (July 28), where the 18 karat gold, five-inch-high (13 centimeter) miniature lunar lander was found missing. “Entry to the museum was discovered and taken was a solid gold replica of the 1969 Lunar Excursion Module that landed on the moon,” Russel Hunlock, Wapakoneta police chief, stated in a release. “The piece is very rare as it was presented to Neil Armstrong in Paris, France shortly after the moon landing.”

I am not hopeful the replica will be recovered. It was obviously stolen for its gold, and I would expect the thieves to quickly break it apart and melt the gold down for sale.

Share

Brooks and Dunn – Only in America

An evening pause: In honor of what happened today, 48 years ago, when three American astronauts safely landed home on Earth, after walking on the Moon. From the chorus:

Only in America
Dreamin’ in red white and blue
Only in America
Where we dream as big as we want to
We all get a chance
Everybody gets to dance

It will be the American ideas of freedom, individual achievement, and capitalism that will make the settlement of the solar system possible. Other nations will participate, but it will still be these ideas that fuel the journey.

Hat tip Jim Mallamace.

Share

R.I.P. U.R. Rao

U.R. Rao, the man who led the design and construction of India’s first satellite in 1975, has passed away at 85.

After graduation from Madras University and post-graduation from Banaras Hindu University, Rao went to the US in the early 1960s to work in the faculty of MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) at Cambridge in Maryland and as an Assistant Professor at University of Texas in Dallas.

On returning to India in 1966, Rao joined PRL in Ahmedabad as professor under the guidance of Vikram Sarabhai, architect of the Indian space science, and shifted to Bengaluru to work as a space scientist at ISRO’s satellite centre in 1972. “Under Rao’s guidance, the first Indian satellite ‘Aryabhata’ was built in 1975 to use space technology for the country’s socio-economic development. On its success, about 20 satellites were developed and launched for various space applications spanning communications, remote sensing and weather under his supervision,” an official said.

He subsequently became head of ISRO from 1984 to 1994, when they developed their first rocket, the ASLV, which became today’s PSLV, as well as began their development of the GSLV.

Share

Hundreds of NASA videos uploaded to Youtube

Want to look at some old but cool NASA engineering videos? You can! The Armstrong Flight Research Center (formerly Dryden) has uploaded a large number to Youtube.

Below the fold is one example, a tow test of one of the early lifting body spacecraft, the M2-F1, a prototype of the kind of spacecraft Dream Chaser is trying to be. What makes the video most interesting is the vehicle used to do the towing, a Pontiac Catalina convertible, and that it actually pulls it fast enough for the spacecraft to lift off the ground.

The archive can be found here.
» Read more

Share

White House rejects House proposal to create a military “Space Corps”

The White House today objected to a House defense policy bill that included a number of provisions, including the creation of a separate “Space Corps.”

Proposals to build the “Space Corps,” to prohibit a military base closure round, levy notification requirements for military cyber operations, develop a ground-launched cruise missile — and to “misuse” wartime funds for enduring needs — were some of the Trump administration targets.

The White House stopped short of threatening a veto, however, and said it looks forward to working with Congress to address the concerns. Still, the list will provide ammunition to Democrats and Republicans who hope to pick off provisions of the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act when it comes to the House floor on Wednesday.

The idea at this time of establishing a separate military division devoted to space military operations is absurd, a waste of money, and would only create an additional bureaucracy that no one needs right now. However, in reading this op-ed by retired Air Force colonel M.V. “Coyote” Smith, one of the early proponents of this idea, I am not surprised to learn that one of the key good reasons for creating such a force is the Outer Space Treaty. As Smith notes,

Created at the height of the moon race between the two principle [sic] Cold War antagonists and others, the Outer Space Treaty was designed to prevent either power from claiming sovereignty over the entire moon upon arriving first. It succeeded. Unfortunately, it forbids any national appropriation of real estate and resources in space.

This prevents the issuance of property deeds and the awarding of resource rights to any part of the planets, moons and asteroids, without a potential legal contest. This also frustrates commercial and private entities whose business plans require legal clarity.

Thus, the limitations of the Outer Space Treaty forces the need for a military force to protect the rights of any American individual or businesses in space. As I said today in my op-ed for The Federalist:

The Outer Space Treaty poses limits on property rights. It also does not provide any mechanism for peacefully establishing sovereignty for any nation on any territory in space. Yet national sovereignty and territorial control is a given in all human societies. If we do nothing to establish a peaceful method for creating sovereignty and national territories in space, nations are going to find their own way to do it, often by force and violence.

Thus, no one should be surprised by this first proposal. It might be too soon, but it probably is not as soon as many critics claim. Unless we get the Outer Space Treaty revised to allow the establishment of internationally recognized borders, the need by everyone for a military in space to defend their holdings will become essential. And what a messy process that will be.

Share

“People were different, not only from Swedes, but from each other.”

For the Fourth of July. Link here. Key quote:

I’m not sure if I can fully convey the cultural shock of going from Sweden to Dallas in the 1990s, or if it is even wise to try. Because how can I describe what it is to taste your very first doughnut or go to Toys R Us at that age [9 years old] and see row after row of wonderfully girly Barbie dolls? I came from the country of meh to the nation of yeah. And it was nothing short of magnificent.

I was lucky enough to spend my summers there, in the heart of Texas, and with every visit I gained a growing awareness of the differences between your country and mine. America was loud. It was uncomfortable and alive. People were different, not only from Swedes, but from each other. [emphasis in original]

Share

A close look at the first paragraph of the Declaration of Independence

For the Fourth of July: Link here. The author discusses it phrase by phrase, placing the words in their historical context so there will be no confusion. For anyone who is intellectually honest, however, I think the meaning is quite clear.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Share

“It took two wars to make me an American.”

For the Fourth of July. Link here. Key quote:

My parents were born in the north, and when an international summit divided the country into communist North Vietnam and non-communist South Vietnam in 1954, their families were among a million who left all they owned to flee south away from Ho Chi Minh’s troops — troops whom my dad once had idolized as nationalist boy and girl scouts. Scouts honor no more. Escaping to America in ’75 was the second time my parents sacrificed the past to save their future. Second. Anything but communism.

Share

Becoming American

For the Fourth of July. Link here. Key quote:

The process of being an American goes on, though. As almost everyone here should be aware, being an American – not just fitting in the culture, and because that’s regional it means I’ll need to learn to talk and walk again if I move across the country again – is an ongoing process, an ongoing fight between liberty and totalitarian impulses which exist in every society and possibly in every human. And it is a struggle to free yourself from the inherited nonsense that has plagued other societies too: ideas of class and inherited rank or ability.

It is our solemn duty, no matter how many of our compatriots fail at it, to live up to our amazing luck in being citizens of the greatest nation on Earth, one founded on the belief that individuals can be self-governing and are the bosses of their own government.

Share

Digitizing Venice’s 1,000-year-old archives

Link here. The article describes an ambitious effort to make this archive, much of which has never been read, easily accessible and searchable using modern digital technology.

As Venice’s empire grew, it developed administrative systems that recorded vast amounts of information: who lived where, the details of every boat that entered or left the harbour, every alteration made to buildings or canals. Modern banking was invented in the Rialto, one of Venice’s oldest quarters, and notaries there recorded all trading exchanges and financial transactions.

Crucially, those records survived through turbulent centuries. While the rest of Europe was roiled by its perpetually warring monarchs, from the eighth century onwards Venice began to develop into a stable republic that provided the peace and order required for trade to flourish. In many ways it was a model democracy. The people elected a leader — the doge — supported by various councils, whose members were also usually elected. Governance was secular, but for the most part co-existed tolerantly with religion.

French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte put an end to the Serene Republic in 1797. En route to Vienna during his attempt to conquer the Austro-Hungarian Empire, he declared Venice’s secular and democratic governance to be a form of autocracy, and the city to be an enemy of the revolution. He forced the republic to dissolve itself. In 1815, the old Frari was turned into the State Archives of Venice. Over the next decades, all state administrative documents, including death registers, were transferred there, along with medical records, notary records, maps and architectural plans, patent registers and a miscellany of other documentation, some from elsewhere in Italy. Particularly significant are ambassadors’ reports from wider Europe and the Ottoman Empire, providing a unique source of detailed information about daily life. “Venetian ambassadors were the most observant travellers, trained to find out things like what was being unloaded at the docks, or what a prince or other high-up was like as a person,” says Daston. “Their reports were full of gossip and intrigue.”

Most of the archive, predominantly written in Latin or the Venetian dialect, has never been read by modern historians. Now it will all be systematically fed into the Venice Time Machine, along with more unconventional sources of data, such as paintings and travellers’ logs.

Venice is a particularly important component of European history, as in many ways it was the last remnant of the Roman Empire, founded by Romans even as their empire was collapsing around them. It then lasted almost a thousand years, and became throughout the Middle Ages a powerful and important center of European trade. Moreover, the growth of this strange city in a bog is in many ways a mystery. This archive will actually allow researchers and historians to finally begin to understand how these events unfolded.

Share

The atomic rocket that never was

Link here. The article is filled with overstatements and even a few outright errors, such as in the second paragraph when it makes the false assertion that SLS will be “the largest booster ever built.” (The Saturn 5 was more powerful. So was the Soviet Union’s Energia.)

Furthermore, the key to understanding how minor and inconsequencial Project Orion was is to note the total amount of money spent: only $10.5 million. This was merely a design study, something that NASA did (and still does) routinely, most of which never get beyond power-point presentations. Project Orion was similar, never reaching project stage. If it had been done today it would have also been nothing more than a power point presentation.

I also remember when this whole concept got cancelled and was revealed. No one took it seriously, since everyone understood that the technology available in the 1960s was simply not ready for such a project.

Nonetheless, it is interesting reading, especially since the technology today is significantly advanced. We might actually be approaching a time where this concept can finally move to design and construction.

Share

Civil War museum closes rather than remove its Confederate flags

The coming dark age: A Civil War museum is forced to close when Virginia county officials ordered them to remove all Confederate flags.

A Henry County commissioner requested a few months ago that a local Civil War museum remove its Confederate flags.

But without that symbol, the Nash Farm Battlefield and Museum announced that it can’t conduct its mission properly and will close June 1. In a Facebook post, the museum’s directors cited the request by District 2 Commissioner Dee Clemmons that all Confederate flags be removed from the museum, in addition to the gift shop, “in an effort not to offend anyone.”

“To exclude any Confederate flag would mean the historical value has been taken from our exhibits, and a fair interpretation could not be presented to each guest,” the post read. “Confederate flags were on this hallowed ground, as were the Union flags. To remove either of them would be a dishonor.”

In other words, it is better now for people to be ignorant of history so that they might avoid looking at a flag.

Share
1 2 3 20