of the week
06:23:12 - 08:04:12
06:23:12 -- PICTURES OF THE WEEK: From 2011. NASA's Systems Engineering Simulator (SES) Alpha Dome is a real-time, crew-in-the-loop engineering simulator for the space station and advanced programs. It provides the ability to test changes to existing space vehicles and flight software, test the interaction of a new vehicle system with existing systems, create models of new vehicles (which may or may not exist yet) for engineering analysis, and evaluate display and control concepts and modifications. The SES Alpha Dome pictured gives a 180° horizontal viewing angle and a -30° to 105° vertical viewing angle. The Alpha Dome diameter is 24' and can accommodate cockpit-mockup volumes of 8' x 8' x 8'. Its visual system utilizes eight projectors with a visual resolution of 1600 x 1200 pixels each. Altogether there are three domes, the larger ones labeled Alpha Dome and Beta Dome, and a third, smaller Mini Dome. Amongst the three the interior of every active space vehicle can be replicated. Each dome also provides Dolby 5.1 surround sound which simulates the audio experience for each activity. The domes are located at the Johnson Space Center in Texas.
06:30:12 -- PICTURE OF THE WEEK: From 1952, a Bell X-2 rocket plane after a hard landing at Edwards Air Force Base following the X-2's first-ever non-powered glide flight. The X-2 was a research aircraft built by Bell Aircraft Company, Buffalo, New York, for exploring flight dynamics at two to three times the speed of sound. The fuselage was constructed of K-monel (a copper and nickel alloy) to resist the ultra-high temperatures from air friction in flight. The swept wings and control surfaces were constructed from stainless steel. Its propulsion system premiered the first-ever "throttable" rocket thrust. The X-2 had an ejectable nose capsule because the development of ejection seats had not reached maturity at the time the X-2 was conceived. Two X-2s were manufactured and the photograph above shows the X-2 Number 2. The aircraft pitched at landing, slid along its main skid (used for landing instead of wheels to provide room for more fuel) and contacted the ground with the right wingtip bumper skid causing it to break off. The nose support wheel also collapsed upon contacting the ground. There would be four more years development before the first successful powered flying. All flights were "captive", requiring ascent and release from a "mother-ship". The plane above was lost on May 12, 1953, on a captive flight over Lake Ontario when the airplane exploded during a liquid-oxygen top-off test, killing the test pilot, Jean Ziegler, and "mother-ship" crewman Frank Wolko. Almost no debris was recovered from Lake Ontario, so no cause for the explosion could be determined. Later, however, investigations of similar explosions in the X-1 Number 3, X-1A, and X-1D traced the problem to Ulmer leather gaskets, which exuded tricresyl phosphate. This substance caused detonations in the super-cold atmosphere of the airplanes' liquid oxygen tanks. As the X-2 Number 2 also had these gaskets, they were probably the cause of the explosion in that aircraft as well. The X-2 Number 1 made its first unpowered glide flight on Aug. 5, 1954, and made a total of 17 (4 glide and 13 powered) flights before it was lost Sept. 27, 1956. The test pilot, Capt. Milburn Apt, had flown the aircraft to a record speed of Mach 3.2 (2,094 mph), becoming the first person to exceed Mach 3. During that last flight, inertial coupling occurred and the pilot was killed. The aircraft suffered little damage in the crash, resulting in proposals (never implemented) from the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory, Hampton, Virginia, to rebuild it for use in a hypersonic (Mach 5) test program.
07:07:12 -- PICTURES OF THE WEEK: From April 22, 1952. Top picture -- Major John R. McCoombs climbs out of his Lockheed Shooting Star following the filming of an above-ground atomic bomb test (the film equipment can be seen under the open hatch in the front of the plane). The bomb was dropped from 30,000 feet by a four-engined B-50 bomber and detonated 3,000 feet above the desert floor of the Nevada Proving Grounds -- the 15th such above-ground test at the 640 square-mile range located 65 miles outside of Las Vegas. The nuclear blast, code named "Tumbler Charlie", was the first A-bomb explosion to be televised live, with an estimated 12 million viewers nationwide experiencing it simultaneously. In addition, the blast was widely covered on radio, and the 31-kiloton flash was reported seen from hundreds of miles away. Between 1,500 and 2,000 Army and Air Force troops lay in nearby foxholes, and 58 minutes following the blast approached to within 150 yards of the blast site, while 120 paratroopers from the 82nd airborne division made the first-ever jump into an area in which an atomic bomb had just been detonated. Speaking to reporters about the maneuvers, General Joseph M. Swing, 6th Army commander, said, "This one was rather large for intimate close support, although actually we could have been closer to the burst, without danger, than we were this morning. We'll need an entire series of maneuvers to determine what size bomb can be dropped, with precision of delivery, to cause maximum enemy destruction with a minimum of disruption of ground activity." Bottom pictures -- Hundreds of reporters, broadcasters and dignitaries arrived for the occasion via a bus convoy, then were given a tour of the facilities before the big event, viewing from the ground what Major McCoombs was filming from tens of thousands of feet above. Describing the experience from the ground -- with the viewing zone 10 miles distant from the blast -- one reporter wrote, "You put on the dark goggles, turn your head, and wait for the signal. Now -- the bomb has been dropped. You wait the prescribed time, then turn your head and look. A fantastically bright cloud is climbing upward like a huge umbrella.... You brace yourself against the shock wave that follows an atomic explosion. A heat wave comes first, then the shock, strong enough to knock an unprepared man down. Then, after what seems like hours, the man-made sunburst fades away." Over the course of 12 years, 235 above-ground tests would take place at the site -- an average of nearly 20 each year.
07:14:12 -- PICTURE OF THE WEEK: From 1952. The Boeing YB-52 Stratofortress prototype (center) next to a B-17 Flying Fortress (bottom), with a B-50 Superfortress in the background. The YB-52 made its maiden flight on April, 15, 1952 -- the first ever for the B-52 series, in themselves the first jet-powered strategic bombers. Designed to carry nuclear weapons, the B-52 entered into service under the Strategic Air Command (SAC) and was intended to deter and counteract the vast and modernizing Soviet military. As the Soviet Union increased its nuclear capabilities, destroying or "countering" the forces that would deliver nuclear strikes became of ultimate strategic importance. The Boeing YB-52 was the second prototype aircraft built and was virtually identical to the XB-52, its predecessor (the YB-52 was initially ordered as the second XB-52, but various changes incorporated into the aircraft on the assembly line warranted a designation change). The aircraft was completed and rolled out for ground testing on March 15, 1952. The first flight of the YB-52 was one month later on April 15 (the XB-52's wings had been damaged during its ground test phase, so the YB-52 was the first B-52-type to fly). Flight testing of the YB-52 (and XB-52 starting Oct. 2, 1952) showed the aircraft to be very fast for its size. In a "fast speed run" from the Boeing facilities in Seattle, Wash., to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, the YB-52 averaged nearly 625 mph. The B-52 has been in active service with the USAF since 1955. The bombers flew under the Strategic Air Command (SAC) until it was disestablished in 1992 and its aircraft absorbed into the Air Combat Command (ACC); in 2010 all B-52 Stratofortresses were transferred from the ACC to the new Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC). A total of 744 B-52s were built with the last, a B-52H, delivered in October 1962. Approximately 90 remain in active service today.
07:21:12 -- PICTURES OF THE WEEK: From May 4, 1952, two reproductions of a single photo found in the files of Project Blue Book. The photograph was originally attached to a letter sent to "Civilian Saucer Investigators", the private group investigating "flying saucer" reports. The letter gave the subject as "Object seen and photographed by Paul Eisenberg (12 years old) in the early afternoon of Sunday, May 4, 1952." The body of the letter read... "While playing in his backyard at 235-A Courtland Street, San Francisco, in the early afternoon of Sunday, May 4, Paul Eisenberg (age 12) reported he saw a whitish-orange object, which could have been round but from the angle he saw it it appeared to be oblong, descend rapidly from the sky and stop stationary over the neighbor's house. He is not sure how large it was nor how far away, but he thought it could have been anywhere from 100 to 1000 feet in the air. With great presence of mind he ran into the house and grabbed his Brownie camera, came out and pointed it in the direction of the object, which he said changed its attitude and started to rise; however, he snapped one exposure. He told the kids in his classroom about it and took a lot of kidding, and everyone told him nothing would show up on the film when developed. However, he was sure of what he had seen, and when the film was developed an oval object showed on the photograph which is attached to this report. I am sure in talking to Paul Eisenberg that he is truthful and sincere and he believes the object is a secret device of our air force. We are indebted to Mrs. Margaret Rinken, Paul Eisenberg's teacher, for the information leading to this report." There was no follow-up by Blue Book. The name "Civilian Saucer Investigators" was one of the variations by which the group "Civilian Saucer Investigations" was commonly referred.
07:28:12 -- PICTURES OF THE WEEK: On May 2, 1952, the de Havilland D.H. 106 Comet was launched as the world's first commercial jet airliner by British Overseas Airways Corporation, widely called "BOAC". BOAC's jet service was viewed as a considerable coup in airline circles. The Far Eastern Economic Review said, "The year 1952 will be memorable in aviation history as the 'year of the Comet' -- the year when B.O.A.C., as the first airline in the world to operate a pure-jet aircraft on regular service, gave Great Britain a lead over all other countries." Carrying up to 44 passengers, the Comet cruised at 480 mph, 300 miles per hour faster than the piston engine DC-3, its nearest competitor. In addition, the Comet's vibration-free flight was a huge leap forward in passenger comfort. In their first year of service, Comets carried 30,000 passengers, and in June 1953 flew Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret from London to Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia, covering the 6,071 miles in 21 hours. Following the flight, the BOAC press release stated, "Crossing the English Coast near Brighton and the French Coast near Dieppe, it passed the western suburbs of Paris at 35,500ft . . . the Comet touched down at Rome, the first stop, 2 hr 28 min after its departure from London Airport. After an hour's stay at Rome the Royal party was again airborne, soon crossing the Italian coast at the toe of Italy and flying over the Ionian sea towards Greece. One hour 23 minutes after leaving Rome the Comet, in clear weather, was flying over Athens and shortly afterwards passed over Rhodes Island at 35,500ft. The aircraft touched down at Beirut at 1955 hr (G.M.T.) and just over an hour later was on its way. Thirty-five minutes after leaving Beirut the Comet was 67 miles north-east of Port Said, at a cruising altitude of 33,000ft, and after passing over the Port turned direct south to fly over the Arabian desert, the Royal party retiring for the night. The aircraft crossed and re-crossed the bends in the River Nile near Luxor, and again met the river further south at Wadi Haifa. Still in clear weather, the Comet started its descent for Khartoum, touching down there 11 hr 20 min after it left London. Here a new crew, under the command of Capt. E.E. Rodley, took over. After an hour and a half's halt at Khartoum the Comet was off again, and 1 hr 47 min later was flying over Juba, on the White Nile, near the border of Sudan and Uganda. The next and final stop before the Comet's destination was Entebbe on the northern shore of Lake Victoria. There, almost on the equator, the Royal party disembarked to have breakfast at Government House. Just under two hours afterwards the aircraft was again airborne, flying south across Lake Victoria and passing the southern tip of Lake Tanganyika and the Zambesi River. The Comet touched down at Salisbury, as planned, at 0952 hr (G.M.T.) on Wednesday and at 1000 hr (G.M.T.), exactly on schedule, the doors of the aircraft were opened for the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret to alight." A series of runway accidents and in-flight crashes -- later found to be variously caused by faulty wing design or metal fatigue from repeated pressurizations -- grounded the Comet fleet in 1954. Though improved successors to the original Comet restored the Comet fleet to BOAC's service, by 1958 the Boeing 707 and the Douglas DC-10 emerged as the commercial jets of choice.
08:04:12 -- PICTURES OF THE WEEK: From June 1952, a report on a letter received by the Air Force. The letter itself read:
Since Energy & Mass are different manifestations of the same thing it is my belief that submittal of the following theory to Mr. Albert Einstein will insure his endorsement in principal.
The flying saucers can very easily be actual objects that have mass and are maneuvered by negating some of the natural forces.
Gravity as an exposition of energy should be expressable as an electrical force. As such its energy can be minimized or increased by the simple laws of magnetism. Likes attract and unlikes repel.
Therefor an object that can control its polarity could fly in any direction -- possibly by very simple means, quietly, and would be able to change direction immediately and of course approach the speed of light.
A saucer shape would present the least resistance to flight in a plane horizontal to or parallel to the earth's surface. While the flat surface would offer the greatest area toward the earth for attraction or repulsion between itself & the earth. Newton's laws of motion would not be interfered with.
Such a ship could possibly operate without fuel if a means of utilizing existing forces is developed that does not require the reliance of any initial energy.
Kindly advise me of your reaction to this letter as I am intensely interested in this type of flight & believe it is an ultimate method of propulsion.
It is unknown if the letter ever made its way into the great physicist's hands.
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