Carnivalia — 10/08 – 10/14/2014

The past week’s selection of (mostly) science-related blog carnivals for you:

Carnival of Space #375

Friday Ark #493

Health Wonk Review

Morsels for the Mind — 10/10/2014

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The scientific tourist #335 — the Apollo 14 capsule

On display at the Kennedy Space Center near Titusville, Florida — it’s the Apollo 14 capsule (command module), a.k.a. Kitty Hawk:

Apollo 14 capsule

Apollo 14 was the fourth Apollo to leave Earth orbit, and carried the crew for what would be the third manned lunar landing.  The Apollo 14 crew of Alan Shepard, Stuart Roosa, and Ed Mitchell launched on January 31, 1971.  Shepard and Mitchell landed on February 5 in the Fra Mauro highlands, the planned landing site for the aborted Apollo 13 mission. Their lunar lander Antares touched down within 50 meters of its planned target point.

After 33 hours on the lunar surface, Shepard and Mitchell rejoined Roosa in Kitty Hawk and returned to earth, splashing down in the Pacific Ocean on February 9, 1971.

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Carnivalia — 10/01 – 10/07/2014

The past week’s crop of (mostly) science-related blog carnivals for you:

Carnival of Evolution #76

Carnival of Space #374

Friday Ark #492

History Carnival #138

Morsels for the Mind – 03/10/2014

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The scientific tourist #334 — the SM-64 Navaho Cruise Missile

Standing guard outside the entrance gate to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, it’s a Navaho cruise missile:

SM-64 Navaho Cruise Missile

If there were an award for the most successful failed development program, I’m pretty confident that the seldom-mentioned Navaho would win it decisively.  While never being fielded, it helped pioneer technologies that had a huge range of application in subsequent years.

But let’s start at the beginning.

After the end of the Second World War, the U. S. Army Air Force saw the need for long-range missiles — but the technology was so immature that they opted to pursue three parallel (and very different) approaches in the hope that at least one would succeed.  The one felt least likely to succeed was that of intercontinental ballistic missiles, building upon the German V-2.  The most conservative approach was that of subsonic cruise missiles — essentially, improving upon the German V-1 missile with a longer-range design that eventually led to the ill-fated Snark.  The third approach was to build a supersonic cruise missile.

North American Aviation won this third contract, and began their work in 1946 by proposing an Americanized development of / improvement on Von Braun’s A4b / A9 boost-glide missile designs.  But the original surplus V-2 rocket engines proved too heavy and the A9 design was unstable at some speeds — so this idea gradually changed into what was essentially a better A9.  Subsequent requirement changes driven by the Air Force (similar to the ones that impacted the Snark‘s development) then extended its required range from 800 km to 1600 km to 4800 km to 8000 km, and its payload from 900 kg to 1360 kg to 4500 kg.

In the process, the Navaho missile morphed into a two-staged tandem affair — a liquid-propellant rocket carrying a ramjet-propelled Mach 3 cruise missile on its back.  The idea was that the pair would launch from the ground under rocket power, then at about 50,000 ft. altitude the ramjets would be ignited and the rocket booster discarded, with the jet-propelled missile taking its warhead to its target.

Development of the missile’s ground-breaking navigation system, its booster rocket engines, and ramjet cruise engines all moved forward in parallel, but with a dizzying array of problems to match their complexity.  Four unsuccessful test flights were launched from Cape Canaveral in 1956 and 1957, not to mention many failed attempts at launches that never got off the ground (earning the program the nickname “Never Go, Navaho”).  By the time the program was cancelled in July of 1957, it was obvious that ICBMs had won the “race” to provide the U.S. a long-range strategic deterrent (even after cancellation, seven more test flights were conducted using already-build Navahos, none of which were 100% successful).

But you can’t say that Navaho died without leaving descendants.  The rocket engine technology it drove would propel the missiles that replaced it (Atlas, Titan, and Thor), as well as the Jupiter and Redstone boosters used by NASA.  The Navaho navigation system would find use in bombers and submarines (and the Hound Dog), with later derivatives finding their way into commercial craft.  Materials and techniques pioneered by the Navaho development paved the way for the aerospace technologies we take for granted today.

The lonely Navaho missile on display outside the CCAFS gate is significant for more than the program’s history, and for the fact that CCAFS was home to the Navaho test launches.  This missile is the sole surviving Navaho airframe.

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Carnivalia — 9/24 – 9/30/2014

The past week’s selection of (mostly) science-related blog carnivals for you:

Carnival of Space #373

Friday Ark #491

Health Wonk Review – T.G.I.R. Edition

Morsels for the Mind – 26/09/2014

 

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The scientific tourist #333 — King of Copan

Another impressive piece of work displayed in the “Maya: Hidden Worlds Revealed” traveling exhibit, it’s a beautiful sculpture of one of the Kings of the ancient Maya city of Copan:

King of Copan

Discovered in the ruins of Copan’s Temple 22, this finely carved figure is thought to be a portrait of the kingdom’s 13th (of 16) ruler, Waxaklajuun U’baah K’awiil. His elaborate headdress features a mask of the Celestial Bird (beak broken away), topped by the heads of three other gods that indicate royalty.

This portrait was one of eight full-body sculptures that symbolically protected the temple built in honor of Waxaklajuun U’baah K’awiil (and accordingly, this was originally located directly above the doorway into the temple).

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Carnivalia — 9/17 – 9/23/2014

The past week’s selection of (mostly) science-related blog carnivals for you:

Carnivalesque #105 (medieval history)

Carnival of Space #372

Friday Ark #490

Math Teachers at Play #78

Morsels for the Mind 19/09/2014

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The scientific tourist #332 — the Jupiter IRBM

On display at the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History (in Albuquerque, New Mexico), it’s a Jupiter IRBM:

Jupiter IRBM

The Jupiter has to have one of the oddest and most confusing histories of any missile ever fielded.  And this, for a weapon that was strategically useless, nearly started World War III, and which was retired within a few years of its introduction to service.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Continue reading

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The scientific tourist #331 — The Rheintochter R I, redux

Years ago, I told you about the Rheintochter R1 (or R I) surface-to-air missile, and in particular, the example on display at the Deutsches Museum in Munich, Germany.  But there’s also one of them at the National Air and Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy center in Chantilly, Virginia:

Rheintochter R I Missile

The German Air Ministry started development of the Rheintochter R I in 1942, and 82 test missiles were launched from 1943 through 1944. Its planned successor (the R II) showed no improvement in performance, while only six of the next variant (R III) were ever flown before the program was cancelled in February of 1945.

The R I weighed 748 kg (1650 lbs) and was 5.9 meters (19.5 feet) long.

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Carnivalia — 9/03 – 9/09/2014

The past week’s selection of science-related blog carnivals for you:

Berry Go Round

Carnival of Space #370

Friday Ark #488

Morsels for the Mind – 05/09/2014

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