Sunday, November 09, 2003

Our abandoned Birthright and the ........

Plus Space Art!!!

Anna has her weekly "bad" movie review up. Problem is, that Destination Moon doesn't suck. Not that she suggests it does but it is the BAD movie shrine.....

OK, I'm nitpicking. She gives a very good overview of the film including its alternate plotline...yalls gonna hafta pay her site a visit to find out about it... She also points out the subplot of the communist saboteurs....which had been edited from the version I saw on TV.

All well and good but why am I blogging about it you may ask?

Because she links to the coolest thing ever.....well it's really kewel anyway.

Seems that several Aussies are putting together a film set in the alternate reality of what would have happened had the space program proposed in the 1954 Colliers articles about which more hereFor those that don't know, this series of stories in the then popular magazine laid out a rational and achievable vision of the space program cumilating with expeditions to Mars. The tech was off the shelf extrapolations of basically '40s technology. A few visuals were changed for aesthetic reasons. But the physics were sound, it could have been done and we would have a real space infrastructure now if it had been. Note second link is 5 pages...warning both are picture rich

The Colliers article was influential for another reason....they were illustrated by great artists...including Chelsey Bonnestell the GAWD of scifi art. No one did more to set the standard for classic Sci-Fi visuals than Bonestell.

That link on scroll down to the Saturn pictures... see the one with Saturn in a blue sky? Bonnestell was so attentive to detail that he realized when Nitrogen was discovered in Titans atmoshere in the 40s that it would produce a blue sky like earths so he put a blue sky on Titan. We now know that the surface of Titan is a pea soup fog, but the upper reaches of the atmosphere are believed to have a blue sky (albiet a dark one). Because Bonnestell got it right before anyone, scientists have named this layer of Titans atmosphere the Bonestellesphere....I'm not making this up!! Oh you're still on the link....scroll on down to the bottom of the page click the next page....and the next...paitence friend, there are 13 pages of this glorious stuff to wade through :) sorry about the Italian (unless you're Itallian in which case...hey:)

I am digressing .

The point is that we've had the tech to make the big leap for years. Here is a good overview of Vaun Brauns Rocket designs from the forties and fifties showing the artistic liscence taken with them for films as well as the tweaking done as understanding of the tecnology increased. It shows that as hands on experience was aquired the designs evolved....that's how engineering works.

Note that the state of the art has not changed much; our space shuttle is not a big improvement on the Von Braun ferry rocket, and deep space missions operate on the same principals as Von Braun envisioned with a few refinements like the Apollo programs Lunar Orbit Rendevouz or Zubrins Mars Direct also discussed here, but the spaceship of science fiction that maintains thrust long enough to attain truely high speeds and has enough reserve fuel to make casual course corrections is fantasy....isn't it?

Er no....
In the late 1950s and early 1960s there were several designs for harnessing atomic power for spaceflight. Most of these centered around using a reactor to power an ion engine or heat a working fluid to steam (like the rocket in Destination Moon....see we're still on topic) after all it's not like you could really harness an atomic explosion for power.....

Wrong!! PROJECT ORION was a plan to use exploding atom bombs to propel a ship into space. The vessel would have been protected by a tremendous heat/blast shield and the mother of all shock absorbers. In the late 50's it was assumed that Saturn (well, its moons anyway) could be reached in the early 70s :o

The system worked as far as the tests went and there is no reason to believe that the design couldn't work. It would have opened up not just Space, but the whole frigging Solar System!!!

Of course there were drawbacks. Fallout from the ground launches originally assumed while not great would have a cumulitave effect and in the well founded angst after the Army found out just what effect ground burst fallout had, the ground launch idea was quietly shelved. This cut back on its apeal as one could no longer launch the weight equivalent of a battleship or ocean liner into space.

However, if the atomic pogosticks candle could be lit in space it would still have a tremendous advantage to getting anywhere in the solar system.

An Orion powered vehicle was designed that could be launched by the larger versions of the trusty old (then new) Saturn series of rockets. A picture of the Saturn boosted Orion vehichle is here.

Naturally, Kennedy (or mabey Johnson) killed the idea at the behest of MacNamerra.

Note that assuming we could build the Saturn 5 or equivalent system the above interplanetary bangboat is still eminently doable.

There has actually been a good deal of progress since the '60s and even Orion is getting improved. though with little or no help from the govt. 'till recently.

Mini Mag Orion uses much smaller throttlerable charges that are the closest thing yet to real science fiction ships. They also don't have the problem of lots of space truckers having complete atom bombs:) (Yep a bunch of capitalists are working on a revolutionary atomic rocket engine....just like in Project Moonbase...Heinlein just rocked.)

There is hope with project Prometheus being pushed by the Bush administration, the rockets of futures past may yet come to pass.

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