Bob reaches for the stars! And eats barbecue!
pat's pub said...
Apparelntly they [Geneva and Vaud cantons] do have their own censorship Boards, I wasn't aware of that. Who cares about these ratings anyway.. And Calvin is still dead, thankfully . He was a stupid git anyway.
Ever been to Cape Kennedy ? Taken the tour where they give you the History of NASA ? Apparently they used to sit in a bunker at the beach and fire rockets into the sky. If you get there on a good day you can even talk to some eye witnesses (my guide claimed that he named one of the monkeys they shot into space).
(I think it's time for an episode of X Minus One for me now....)
Florida is completely flat just about everywhere. Before Disney World was built, my brother went to Rollins College in Orlando in the 1960s. They could see night launches from Cape Canaveral, I guess 50 miles away, a spectacular free fireworks show.
The screwy thing about these model rockets -- they are small compared to the Space Shuttle or orbital rockets, but they are Not Toys -- is that while we're all having fun and screaming and laughing as we launch these things in the middle of the football field, this is exactly the way the origins of rocketry began in the 1920s.
Except for the absence of laughter and barbecue, Werner von Braun and his pals in the Verein für Raumschiffahrt -- the German Amateur Rocket Society -- were exactly like the Planet Mongo Rocket Forces, talking about the same things, solving the same problems, organizing their activities exactly the same way, concerned about peoples' safety the same way (and wondering where they were going to get the money for their rockets -- eventually the German Army solved their money problems).
VLEEPTRON HISTORICAL NOTE: One of the luckiest things that happened to the German Amateur Rocket Club was the Treaty of Versailles. After World War One, the Allied victors forbade defeated Germany from re-militarizing in just about every major war technology -- no new, bigger Navy, no new bigger Air Force, no bigger, better Artillery. But in 1920, rockets played almost no role in warfare -- they were somewhere between toys and flares, the Treaty did not forbid Germany from trying to develop this technology and explore its role in the aggressive warfare of the future.
When the Nazis / National Socialists took control of the government, they had allies already waiting for them in the professional military corps -- soldiers and sailors who were asphyxiating under the punitive demilitarization requirements of the Treaty. Then someone in the military heard about and started observing at launches and meetings of the Amateur Rocket Club. The military had the Secret Ingredient that the Rocket Club didn't: Money. And in those days, the Verein could be made Happy, delirious with a check for today's U$500, these were totally focused nerds who just wanted to know how to build a bigger or better liquid fuel pump. That their New Friends with Money had swastikas all over their uniforms (though they usually visited the Verein in plain clothes) -- well, what the hell, the Quakers weren't offering to pay for the new pump.
When the Meme jumps into a person's head that with a lot of money, a slide rule, and a metal shop and garage, that person could travel off the Earth and visit other moons, planets and stars, something has happened to his head that is Much Bigger than Religion or Politics. The Geist von Mongo ist der Geist von der Verein fur Raumsschiffahrt -- the Society for Space Navigation. Space Navigation. Space Navigation. I have a slide rule, this guy is writing me checks. Space Navigation. Navigation.
Quite frankly I am drunk on this idea -- that things my buddies and I could do in the machine shop (if we had lots of money and then quit our jobs so we could work on this idea more) could end up with a couple of us climbing into a tiny tin can and being shot into space for a year on a voyage to Mars ... Oh yes I got totally (apolitically, like Wernher) drunk on this idea the very first time I saw the rock musicians in Marin County, California set these rockets off. The Act of Launching a Rocket is thrilling all by itself. The idea that if you just keep building bigger and bigger rockets and solving all the little problems that keep cropping up as you invent a new technology, ten, twenty, thirty years later, you (or maybe your college niece or nephew) could take a Voyage to Mars. (Walt Disney was also drunk on this idea, decades ahead of the US government, and worked ceaselessly to push Space Travel into the US government agenda. He was close friends with Edwin Hubble.) So far no human entity has taken a Voyage to Mars, although all the technology required has already been sufficiently perfected. All it requires is Money and Will and Vision. The US Government has other things occupying its attention this decade. So maybe the first flag to go up on the Sands of Mars will be the Planet Mongo Flag, or the Peche-Fuchsia-and-Cobalt (sniff) of Vleeptron.
Mongo, in conjuction with the High Non-Junk-Science & Engineering Council of Vleeptron, has strict controls and regulations to see that we do not persue our Hobby in such a way that ten years later, major cities are being rained on by ballistic missiles packed with high explosives.
50 miles east of me in Worcester Massachusetts, a physics professor at Clark University was doing weird rocket stuph in cow fields in the 1920s -- Robert Goddard. The Worcester local government got complaints that he was scaring the cows and they warned him to stop. Eventually he took his experiments to the wilderness of New Mexico, some little dot barely on the map called Roswell.
When the Americans captured the German rocket scientists (the ones the Soviets didn't capture) from Peenemunde in 1945, they interrogated the scientists. "Who invented this? Where did you get this technology? Who's the big brain behind all this rocket stuff?" The Germans whose V1 and V2 rockets had been pounding the crap out of UK (they were all veterans of the old amateur Verein rocket club) thought the American interrogators were insane -- the Americans had never heard of their own Robert Goddard, whom the Germans worshipped as The God of Rocketry. In America his rocket work was completely ignored, and there's a very famous New York Times editorial ridiculing the whole idea of a rocket flying into space.
If this photo magically succeeds, it shows Goddard about to launch "Nell" (and frighten some nice cows) on 16 March 1926. The big stuff is just a metal framework for launch stability, but the rocket itself -- Mongo has launched several rockets bigger than that. And I think they're saying that Nell's first launch went 41 feet (12.5 meters) high. Huh. Hah. 41 feet -- Mongo routinely hits 0.75 mile.
Of course ours are solid fuel engines, and Goddard was developing liquid fuel rockets, kerosene, liquid oxygen, pumps to mix them and control the ignition. Once you press the Mongo Launch Button, the engine can't be turned off or controlled or steered. Goddard and the Verein were trying for something a bit fancier. But give Mongo time! (And a budget of a few billion dollars!)
You like those old Tom Lehrer songs, like the patriotic song for World War III (written in advance, no time to write or sing it after war starts). Here's Lehrer's encomium to Our Great National Space Genius (also immortalized by Kurt Jurgens in the movie "I Reach for the Stars.")
TOM LEHRER: And what is it that put America in the forefront of the nuclear nations? And what is it that will make it possible to spend twenty billion dollars of your money to put some clown on the moon? Well, it was good old American know-how, that's what, as provided by good old Americans like Dr. Wernher von Braun!
Gather 'round while I sing you of Wernher von Braun,
A man whose allegiance
Is ruled by expedience.
Call him a Nazi, he won't even frown,
"Ha, Nazi, Schmazi," says Wernher von Braun.
Don't say that he's hypocritical,
Say rather that he's apolitical.
"Once the rockets are up, who cares where they come down? That's not my department," says Wernher von Braun.
Some have harsh words for this man of renown,
But some think our attitude
Should be one of gratitude,
Like the widows and cripples in old London town,
Who owe their large pensions to Wernher von Braun.
You too may be a big hero,
Once you've learned to count backwards to zero.
"In German oder English I know how to count down,
Und I'm learning Chinese!" says Wernher von Braun.