Happy weekend, everyone.
On May 28, 1940 representatives from the U.S. Army met with super-genius Robert Goddard and they talked about rockets. At the time Professor Goddard was the world’s foremost expert on liquid-fueled rockets. How do I know this? Because he, um, invented the the first liquid-fueled rocket and had only spent his entire life working with them? Duh.
In the meeting Mr. Goddard offered all his research data, patents, and facilities for use by the military. For free. We can only presume he did this to not only advance the development of the technology (something he was passionate about) but also because war had broken out in Europe and maybe a giant tube filled with explosives might be useful in a future war?
What did the military say? They sort of scratched their heads, thought about it, and couldn’t figure out any good uses for rocket technology. They basically said no thanks. Seriously.
How might the world have been different if the military had accepted Goddard’s offer? Might World War 2 have ended sooner? Would nuclear-tipped ICBMs have been developed faster, putting the world at greater risk? Might humanity have reached the moon earlier?
On May 21, 2005 the NASA space probe Cassini performed a fly-by maneuver in the vicinity of the moon Enceladus. Enceladus is a moon around the planet Saturn.
Why do we care about little ol’ Enceladus? Well, as a result of this fly-by (and other fly-bys as well as a ton of scientific analysis) we learned that Enceladus has an ocean of salty water underneath the ice on its surface. It’s also very seismically active, so active in fact that ‘cryovolcanoes’ shoot geysers of mineral-laden water thousands of miles up into space. It’s these cryovolcanoes that are feeding material into space that eventually coalesce to form one of the rings of Saturn. How cool is that?!?
You might be saying, Well, yeah that’s cool but so what?! Here is the bottom line: Because of all this water and seismic activity, scientists think that Enceladus is a prime candidate for hosting extraterrestrial microbial life. In short, Enceladus may be home to aliens! Little creepy crawly bacteria sized aliens, but aliens nonetheless.
This is why we care about Enceladus. Cassini is still active and the probe continues to study the Saturn ‘system.’ Who knows what other incredible discoveries it may make?
hat tip: Encyclopedia Astronautica
On May 14, 1933 a bunch of crazy science fiction writers built a rocket and launched it from a beach in Staten Island, NY. The group, known then as the American Interplanetary Society, would later become the American Rocket Society, a premier association of rocket scientists.
At the time, though, they were all amateurs with a crazy dream to go into space. So, over the objections of their significant others, they built their own rocket and fueled it with gasoline and liquid oxygen. Not surprisingly their first rocket, AIS-1, blew up during ground tests. But the second one went a little further before blowing up. It launched successfully and reached an altitude of 240 feet. This was one of the earliest rocket launches in the United States, and probably the first by a group of relative amateurs. It almost certainly inspired many young Americans to pursue rocketry and, eventually, aerospace engineering.
Here’s a nice summary of the American Interplanetary Society from the Smithsonian:
A group comprised mostly of science fiction writers formed the American Interplanetary Society in New York City in 1930. The fact that science fiction writers predominated was unique to America. It reflected that genre’s flourishing and the dearth—with the exception of Robert Goddard—of serious space theoreticians in America.
This explosion of space fantasy in the 1920s and ’30s was a double-edged sword for spaceflight advocates. It inspired young people to believe in the possibility of space travel but convinced many adults that the idea was absurd.
Hmmm sort of sounds like the state of space settlement today…
Today is the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe. On May 7, 1945 the German military surrendered to the Americans. The next day the Germans surrendered to the Soviets.
But, very shortly thereafter began a covert struggle by the erstwhile allies to evacuate as many German missile experts as possible to their respective countries. Both sides were trying to deny the other access to the knowledge gained by the twisted Nazi scientists during the course of World War II. The United States in particular hoped to use German rocket expertise to develop weapons that might be effective against the Japanese in the Pacific theater. Thus today we mark the beginning of the first phase of what would later be called the Space Race. A race that the United States would ultimately win – on the Moon.
Wouldn’t it be great if you could get high-speed internet anywhere? In the middle of the ocean, in the desert, on the mountains, literally anywhere? Why hasn’t someone fixed this problem and built a global, high-speed satellite internet network?