of the week
03:01:14 - 05:03:14
03:01:14 - 04:05:14 -- PICTURES OF THE WEEK: Top, an SCR-268 radar unit in the field. The SCR (Signal Corps Radio) 268 was the Army's first operational radar, used for aiming both guns and searchlights in anti-aircraft operations. In 1937 a prototype SCR-268 was set up for a demonstration to Army brass of its potential value against enemy air attacks. A Martin B-10 bomber was intended to fly on a pre-arranged course for the demonstration. When the radar showed nothing where the B-10 was supposed to be, a radar "hunt" ensued and the B-10 was found to have been blown 10 miles off course, its real position now showing strongly on the radar unit -- greatly impressing the assembled brass. Although soon "outdated" by new designs, the SCR-268 remained in use throughout the war, with 3100 units produced by Western Electric through 1945. The SCR-270 (pictures two through four) was the first of the Army's "early warning" radars, capable of scanning the skies to a height of 25,000 feet at a distance of 110 miles. Its design and capabilities dictated that it be used to defend permanent emplacements such as ports and cities, and it was an SCR-270 unit which first picked up the coming Japanese wave of planes at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Pictures five through eleven show the SCR-584, the first microwave radar system. Like the SCR-268, it was a shorter-range anti-aircraft radar for aiming both guns and searchlights. The SCR-584 made a late entrance but is considered the most effective of the war. Note that in the left foreground of the bottom two pictures of SCR-584 units (camouflaged by netting and protected by sandbags) there is a separate IFF ("Identify Friend or Foe") radar, which automatically sent off a signal to identify friendly aircraft through their preprogrammed transponder units. There were also plane-based radar systems used by the Army Air Forces. Meanwhile the United States Navy -- which in fact had first developed radar starting in 1922 -- had its own complement of radar systems geared towards its specific needs, both offensive and defensive.
04:12:14 -- PICTURES OF THE WEEK: Top image, from 1952, cover for The Mars Project by Dr. Wernher von Braun. The book had been written in 1948 as a science fiction novel describing a manned mission to Mars -- with von Braun basing his story on comprehensive engineering diagrams and calculations, which he included as an appendix to the manuscript. The novel was rejected by multiple publishers, but the appendix formed the basis of a lecture given by von Braun at the First Symposium on Spaceflight held at the Hayden Planetarium in New York City in 1951. The next year von Braun's diagrams and calculations for manned flight to Mars -- taken directly from the appendix of the rejected novel -- were published in a special edition of the German space flight journal Weltraumfahrt, and later in 1952 in hardback by Umschau Verlag in West Germany as Das Marsprojekt. It was translated into English by Henry J. White and published in the United States in 1953 by the University of Illinois Press as The Mars Project. From Encyclopedia Astronautica...
Von Braun envisioned not a simple preliminary voyage to Mars, but an enormous scientific expedition modeled on the Antarctic model. His Mars expedition was to consist of 70 crew members aboard ten spacecraft - each spacecraft with a mass of 3720 metric tons! To assemble this armada in earth orbit, Von Braun proposed a fully recoverable, reusable three-stage launch vehicle, which was designed to deliver 25 metric tons of cargo plus 14.5 metric tons of 'excess propellant' for the Mars fleet with each launch. Assembly of the expedition would take 950 launches of 46 these reusable space shuttles over eight months from a very busy base at Johnston Island in the Pacific Ocean. The first and second stages would splash down under parachutes 304 and 1459 km downrange, then be towed back to the launch site by a tug. The winged third stage, after dumping its cargo at the assembly point and pumping its excess propellants to the Mars ships, would glide to a landing on Johnston Island. All three stages would be refurbished at the island, stacked, and reused.
The expedition would use minimum-energy Hohmann trajectories to Mars and return, requiring a long stay at Mars, which was certainly appropriate for an expedition of this scale. The expedition fleet would consist of seven passenger ships and three cargo ships, all of the same starting mass. The passenger ships were equipped with 20-m-diameter habitation spheres for ten men per ship, and an extra 356.5 metric tons of propellant for the return trip home. The three unmanned cargo ships would each carry a 200-metric ton winged lander and 195-metric tons of reserve supplies to Mars orbit, and then be left there. There was no thought of automated precursor missions in the days before solid-state electronics.
The proposed passenger and cargo spacecraft -- all assembled in orbit -- would be repurposed as a proposed manned mission to Earth's moon as part of a Colliers magazine series entitled Man Will Conquer Space Soon!. The series ran from March, 1952, through April, 1954. The image above was an illustration from October, 1952. From False Steps: The Space Race As It Might Have Been...
Two of the "passenger" version would have carried a total of 50 scientists and technicians between them, while the "cargo" version would have been on a one-way trip to the Moon carrying the supplies the 50 men (and the title of the series leaves little doubt that it would have been only men) would need for a six-week stay on Earth's nearest neighbour. Their goal would have been the Sinus Roris near the Moon's North Pole -- and later used by Arthur C. Clarke as the setting of his A Fall of Moondust, in all likelihood because of its mention in this article.
The ships are 160 feet tall, which is to say just about the same height as the entire Space Shuttle stack. They were to have burned nitric acid and hydrazine, which was quite prescient on the part of Dr. von Braun as that's one of the three most popular rocket fuel combinations (along with LOX/LH2 and LOX/Kerosene) down to the modern day. Less prescient is its mercury-vapour powered turbine, which uses the parabolically concentrated light from the Sun to evaporate liquid mercury and generate 35 kilowatts. They were the hot new thing in 1952, but fell out of favour not long after. So far as I know there's never been one in space.
Naturally on arriving at the Moon, the astronauts would set about building a Moon base using the cargo they brought as well as the one ship that brought it. From there von Braun confidently predicted that it would not be too much longer before the first manned trip to Mars ensued.
04:19:14 -- PICTURE OF THE WEEK: From 1942, an Office of War Information press photo with the caption "Training high school boys to identify planes. There's no question about these young people's ability to recognize airplanes by their silhouettes. They're learning this and other essential facts of aviation at Weequahic High School, Newark, New Jersey, in a course designed to teach students the fundamentals of flying." The training no doubt was also intended to prepare students to be members of the Ground Observation Corps -- a civilian defense watch of the skies which trained 1.5 million citizens to search the skies for enemy aircraft and report any unusual observances. The program would end in 1944, but be revived in 1952 as "Operation Skywatch" -- ostensibly to guard against surprise Soviet attack but without question spurred by the surge of reports of unidentified aerial intruders maneuvering through U.S. airspace.
04:26:14 -- PICTURES OF THE WEEK: From 1964, images from the future-focused New York World's Fair, which opened 50 years ago this week.
05:03:14 -- PICTURES OF THE WEEK: The Convair F-102 Delta Dagger was an American interceptor aircraft built as part of the backbone of the United States Air Force's air defenses in the late 1950s. It's first flight occurred in October, 1953, but it didn't enter service until 1956. The Delta Dagger's main purpose was to intercept invading Soviet bomber fleets. Designed and manufactured by Convair, 1,000 F-102s were eventually built. The F-102 was retired from service in 1969. Top image: Date unknown, a pilot enters his aircraft. Middle images: From 1959, future astronaut and first American into space Alan Shepard prepares to pilot the supersonic craft. Bottom image: Date unknown, the F-102 in flight.
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