Featured 6 Nov 2007 Print
The Wright Brothers First Heavier-than-air Flight
On December 17, 1903, at 10:30 am at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, this airplane arose for a few seconds to make the first powered, heavier-than-air controlled flight in history. The first flight lasted 12 seconds and flew a distance of 120 feet. Orville Wright piloted the historic flight while his brother, Wilbur, observed. The brothers took three other flights that day, each flight lasting longer than the other with the final flight going a distance of 852 feet in 59 seconds. This flight was the culmination of a number of years of research on gliders.
Orville and Wilbur Wright's curiosity with flight began in 1878 when their father, Milton, gave them a rubber band powered toy helicopter. Although they were never formally educated, the self-taught engineers constantly experimented with kites and gliders. Bicycle shop owners by occupation, the brothers spent years designing, testing and redesigning their gliders and planes. After the successful flights of December 17, 1903, Orville and Wilbur continued to perfect their plane. In 1909 the Army Signal Corps purchased a Wright Flyer, creating the first military airplane. Although Wilbur passed away May 30, 1912, from typhoid fever, Orville remained an active promoter of aviation until his death on January 30, 1948.
The Air Age truly began with that historic flight on December 17, 1903. In 1908 the Wright Brothers designed the first military aircraft for the Army Signal Corps. Seven years later, in 1915, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) became the nations leading aviation research organization, of which Orville was a member for 28 years. As the airplane became more aerodynamic and technically advanced, its uses expanded into many different directions. Military aircraft played significant roles in both World War I and World War II. The airplane made worldwide travel and exploration possible. Spaceflight would never have been realized without the pioneering achievements of the Wright Brothers
Featured 6 Nov 2007 Print
Pioneer F Plaque Symbology
The Pioneer F spacecraft, destined to be the first man made object to escape from the solar system into interstellar space, carries this pictorial plaque. It is designed to show scientifically educated inhabitants of some other star system, who might intercept it millions of years from now, when Pioneer was launched, from where, and by what kind of beings. (With the hope that they would not invade Earth.) The design is etched into a 6 inch by 9 inch gold-anodized aluminum plate, attached to the spacecraft's attenna support struts in a position to help shield it from erosion by interstellar dust. The radiating lines at left represents the positions of 14 pulsars, a cosmic source of radio energy, arranged to indicate our sun as the home star of our civilization. The "1-" symbols at the ends of the lines are binary numbers that represent the frequencies of these pulsars at the time of launch of Pioneer F relative of that to the hydrogen atom shown at the upper left with a "1" unity symbol. The hydrogen atom is thus used as a "universal clock, " and the regular decrease in the frequencies of the pulsars will enable another civilization to determine the time that has elapsed since Pioneer F was launched. The hydrogen is also used as a "universal yardstick" for sizing the human figures and outline of the spacecraft shown on the right. The hydrogen wavelength, about 8 inches, multiplied by the binary number representing "8" shown next to the woman gives her height, 64 inches. The figures represent the type of creature that created Pioneer. The man's hand is raised in a gesture of good will. Across the bottom are the planets, ranging outward from the Sun, with the spacecraft trajectory arching away from Earth, passing Mars, and swinging by Jupiter
Featured 6 Nov 2007 Print
Lunar Landing Research Vehicle in Flight
In this 1965 NASA Flight Research Center photograph the Lunar Landing Research Vehicle (LLRV) is shown at near maximum altitude over the south base at Edwards Air Force Base. Built of tubular aluminum like a giant four-legged bedstead, the vehicle was to simulate a lunar landing profile from around 1500 feet to the moon's surface. To do this, the LLRV had a General Electric CF- 700-2V turbofan engine mounted vertically in gimbals, with 4200 pounds of thrust. The engine, using JP-4 fuel, got the vehicle up to the test altitude and was then throttled back to support five-sixths of the vehicle's weight, simulating the reduced gravity of the moon. Two hydrogen-peroxide lift rockets with thrust that could be varied from 100 to 500 pounds handled the LLRV's rate of descent and horizontal translations. Sixteen smaller hydrogen-peroxide rockets, mounted in pairs, gave the pilot control in pitch, yaw, and roll. On the LLRV, in case of jet engine failure, six 500-pounds-of thrust rockets could be used by the pilot to carefully apply lift thrust during the rapid descent to hopefully achieve a controllable landing. The pilot's platform extended forward between two legs while an electronics platform, similarly located, extended rearward. The pilot had a zero-zero ejection seat that would lift him away to safety. Weight and balance design constraints were among the most challenging to meet for all phases of the program (design, development, operations)