Moments in History

Big Bad Blackbirds

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The alternate title for this post should probably be Bill Weaver: The Biggest Badass You Might Not Know. What most of you likely do know is that the SR-71 was a) awesome, and b) developed after/with the single-seat A-12. Mr. Weaver’s tale harkens back to the early days of testing and wringing out the kinks of the SR-71. I don’t want to retell the entire tale, just wet your whistle and send you over to read for yourself, but let me assure you, the whole story is definitely worth reading!

The flight in question, which Weaver calls his “most memorable”, occurred on Jan. 25, 1966, and along with him was Jim Zwayer, who was a Lockheed flight test reconnaissance and navigation systems specialist. Those recon and nav systems were one test focus, and the other bits of beta testing were “procedures designed to reduce trim drag and improve high-Mach cruise performance. The latter involved flying with the center-of-gravity (CG) located further aft than normal, which reduced the Blackbird’s longitudinal stability.” Reducing stability usually doesn’t sound like a good idea, but it can offer performance enhancements in certain flight regimes, much like having a racecar drive “loose” can make a car a faster on a given track.

After in-flight refuelling for the second leg of their flight, and accelerating to Mach 3.18, they initiated a 35 degree banked right turn. It was at this point they experienced a benign sounding “inlet unstart”. That unstart was actually a bit of a big deal. In Weaver’s words, “the right engine inlet’s automatic control system malfunctioned, requiring a switch to manual control. The SR-71′s inlet configuration was automatically adjusted during supersonic flight to decelerate air flow in the duct, slowing it to subsonic speed before reaching the engine’s face. This was accomplished by the inlet’s center-body spike translating aft, and by modulating the inlet’s forward bypass doors. Normally, these actions were scheduled automatically as a function of Mach number, positioning the normal shock wave (where air flow becomes subsonic) inside the inlet to ensure optimum engine performance.

Without proper scheduling, disturbances inside the inlet could result in the shock wave being expelled forward–a phenomenon known as an “inlet unstart.” That causes an instantaneous loss of engine thrust, explosive banging noises and violent yawing of the aircraft–like being in a train wreck. Unstarts were not uncommon at that time in the SR-71′s development, but a properly functioning system would recapture the shock wave and restore normal operation.”

What if the aircraft was in a relatively hard right turn and the right engine unstart did not clear? Here is your teaser: “AS FULL AWARENESS took hold, I realized I was not dead, but had somehow separated from the airplane.” Got you curious to read the rest? Hit the jump and follow the link, plus bonus SR-71 links!!

Continue reading Big Bad Blackbirds

Airborne Awesomosity

BAC TSR-2: When An Aircraft Plays (Political) Football

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The aeronautical landscape is littered with the rotting shells and mylar prints of cancelled aircraft programs. Setting out to push the boundaries of man’s capability often goes hand in hand with rising costs and lengthened schedules. These two things also give opponents of said programs leverage to do away with them at their first opportunity. Such is the story of the British Aircraft Corporation TSR-2.

Continue reading BAC TSR-2: When An Aircraft Plays (Political) Football

Spaceheads

By the Light of the Moon

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The passion that those who feel ‘the Apollo record is full of anomalies and inconsistencies’ still surprises me at times. The idea that it is easier to believe that hundreds, if not thousands, of folks involved with NASA and the Apollo program pulled off the greatest hoax in history and managed to keep the secret, even to this day, than it is to believe those same hundreds and thousands put forth their best effort and took risks and accomplished one of the biggest technological challenges of the last century, well it quite honestly astounds me.

Yesterday I came across a video from computer graphics company NVIDIA that purports to: “Explore the truth behind the iconic Buzz Aldrin moon landing photo. See how modern graphics innovations can shed new light on a 35-year-old conspiracy theory.
Learn more about Maxwell, the new GPU architecture powering the GeForce GTX 980 and GTX 970.”

It is a piece of advertising for their new gear, but I think re-creating a 45 year old scene rock by rock digitally is quite an interesting tech accomplishment, and if they get a little bit of advertising by aiming the ad at a controversy that has arguably gained traction in the age of the internet, well there you go. The video has been on YouTube for less than a week, and the amount of comments, many of which argue very strongly against the assumptions made by NVIDIA and discussing how it in no way proves anything, are quite impressive. Even more fascinating to me, the first comment links to a site, aulis.com, that has quite the discussion about those Apollo program ‘inconsistencies’. One of the recent posts is also a discussion of how NVIDIA attempted to rope a skeptic in for exploitation, for one assumes just this video advertising campaign. But the skeptic in question was not fooled, oh no. Conspiracies within conspiracies, Egad!

Hit the just to see the video, and decide for yourself if you want to believe!

Continue reading By the Light of the Moon

Genius Innovators

Chertok’s Mustache

Hopefully you all got the chance to read the article linked in yesterday’s post, about the Soviet mission to resuscitate the Salyut 7 Space Station. In the comments of that article, the author, Nickolai Belakovski, mentioned this little story from Boris Chertok, a senior official at Energiya, a major Russian space company. (“Formed […]

Old School Gaming

Would You Like to Play a Game?

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With the recent craziness of the political world, one of the phrases that gets thrown about is a ‘return to the Cold War’. Who can really say for sure? But with the internet and world connectivity and cell phones (and Russian dash cams, they seriously love those things), it seems pretty clear that a Next Generation Cold War–Russian Refreeze!–will be lacking in the same Iron Curtain information blackout that the previous version held. That Iron Curtain kept the prying eyes of the West out from not only the military workings of the USSR, but also kept the everyday life and times of the ordinary citizens hidden as well. One such area that remained largely unknown was that of video games! The Soviets weren’t really keen to import Atari’s and Nintendo’s, so they made their own. Although, those game systems were more products of the Far East than of decadent Western culture, but hey, I don’t make the rules. Let’s take a look at a few arcade posters from Soviet Russia!

Continue reading Would You Like to Play a Game?

Spaceheads

I Heard You Like Space

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My kids happen to all be huge fans of the Disney Buddies franchise. Now, I would imagine side of you probably missed out on the whole Buddies thing and have no idea what I am talking about, so let me briefly explain. At some point in the 90s, Disney made a movie about a dog, a golden retriever to be specific, that could play sports. And then he could do more things, which meant more movies. Then, they hit on the true genius of the form, the only thing cuter than a golden retriever doing human things and talking–golden retriever puppies talking and having adventures. To date, there have been something like 12 Buddies movies made (I have no idea what the actual number is, but it is seriously a bunch, they are trying to give The Land Before Time a run for their money), and one of those movies just happens to involve space. And a Russian space dog that gets rescued from Mir. Also, one of the friends from the Drew Carey show lives on Mir and is crazy Russian cosmonaut!

My point with all this being, the dogs in said film wear cheesy, fake looking space suits. But there have been actual dogs sent to actual outer space wearing actual pressure suits! And now, thanks to to victory of capitalism over communism, you have the chance to own one! You will have to hurry, because the auction it’s this weekend! And in Berlin.

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Continue reading I Heard You Like Space

Moments in History, Uncategorized

“LEFT FULL RUDDER!”

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Carrier donuts

U-turn!

USS Coral Sea (CV-43) – the 3rd and final ship of the WWII era Midway class Aircraft Carriers, shows off with a demonstration of just how incredibly maneuverable these ships were, 1953.

Along with her older sisters USS Midway (CV-41) and USS Franklin D Rosevelt (CV-42), these triplets were the US Navy’s first “Super-carriers” as they were then known, a superlative that would eventually come to describe the much larger Forrestal design, and even more so those that followed. But for nearly a decade, these three remained the largest and most capable warships in the world.

They had some inherent sea-keeping issues such as a low freeboard – the flightdeck wasn’t very high so bluewater (unbroken waves) would regularly crash over the bow in high seas. And they tended to bob like corks… especially the Midway which had its hull widened to address the freeboard issue, only to create an even bigger monster with a fast roll center, which also caused the ship to corkscrew in rough weather.  It was such a wild ride our system’s gyros would regularly go on the fritz during storms, necessitating a trip up the aft radar tower to fix them, in the rain, in the dark, with only a red penlight to see with, trying not to short anything out or electrocute yourself while planes tried in vain to land down below you. Good times!

These 3 sisters were known to cause the sea-legs of even the saltiest sailors to wobble as they chewed on crackers, even more so than the smaller escort ships that accompanied her (which we joked went over one wave, then under two). They certainly put hair on the chest of all who sailed upon her decks.

BUT, they could also turn on Neptune’s dime.

Nearly 40 years after the lead photo was taken, in February 1991 we would have some fun with that maneuverability Continue reading “LEFT FULL RUDDER!”

Moments in History

Mysteries of the Moon

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This afternoon I am going to run the first of a couple of posts that I have been kicking around for quite some time now, but just have never gotten around to. (Be sure to tune in next week for more!) The Professor’s User Input on the question of the current state of NASA and the future thereof reminded me of them. First up, when we remember back to the space race it’s culmination with the Moon landing, I think that we tend to view it as a period of triumph and success. But I think it is important to recall that at the time, the neither the success of these ventures nor the victory over the Russians in the Cold War were in any way assured. When it came to the Moon landing, did you ever wonder what sort of back up plans might have been in place in the event of mission failure?

The possibility had been considered that a problem with the lunar lander could have stranded the intrepid astronauts on the Moon, and a memo outlining actions to be taken and the speech that the president would make if such an unfortunate incident occurred were written.  The previously unpublished documents were found by LA Times columnist Jim Mann, in a file titled, “IN THE EVENT OF MOON DISASTER.”

President Richard Nixon would have informed the country that night on television:

Before giving the speech, the President would have made telephone calls to the “widows to be” to offer condolences. After final goodbyes, and perhaps recommendations to the astronauts on how to close their lives, the plans called for Mission Control to “close down communications” with the Lunar Module. In a public ritual likened to burial at sea, clergyman would then have commended their souls to “the deepest of the deep”. (motherboard.vice.com)

Continue reading Mysteries of the Moon

Shutdown

Shutdown: Timeless

SundialToday we had a bit of a chat here about that odious headcrusher, the forward spring of the clock that accompanies Daylight Saving Time. As a hideous troglodyte northern-dweller, I for one appreciate the sudden appearance of the sun after dinner caused by this artificial construct because it makes me feel like I can stay up past 6pm. Continue reading Shutdown: Timeless

Startup

Startup: Research or Punishment

Despite all the amazing technology that exists and currently in development, the beginning of the Cold War always felt to me like the Great Era of American innovation. There’s were piles of government funding available to answer any crazy question… and give us photos like this. What the hell is going on here? My […]

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