Monday, May 25, 2009

Popular Mechanix: Rocket To The Moon?


Link to some very old (well, WWII-era) art work of rocket ships and the like. Man, what if we really kept up the space race ?

Gimli Glider - Wikipedia

Gimli Glider -

Air Canada Flight 143 shows that the Space Shuttle isn't the only large object that has done a lot of gliding. Sometimes 767s are pressed into that mode of operation.

**excerpt **

The Gimli Glider is the nickname of an Air Canada aircraft which was involved in an infamous aviation incident. On 23 July 1983, a Boeing 767-200 jet, Air Canada Flight 143, ran completely out of fuel at 41,000 feet (12,500 m) altitude, about halfway through its flight from Montreal to Edmonton. The crew was able to glide the aircraft safely to an emergency landing at Gimli Industrial Park Airport, a former airbase at Gimli, Manitoba.[1]

Ranger 3: Facts, Discussion Forum, and Encyclopedia Article

Ranger 3: Facts, Discussion Forum, and Encyclopedia Article

Above link is for a 60's spacecraft program called Ranger. Ranger missions crashed into the moon while making live television transmissions toward the end. Idea being that even "standard definition" TV (I don't have frame rates and resolutions for this yet) was superior to the earth-based telescopic observations of the day.

Now, Ranger 3 carried a "hard lander" built of -- get this -- ordinary balsa wood.

I am going to have to check this out.

YouTube - How to letter with lead

In above link, Doug Patt shows you how to write... like an architect.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Digital Apollo (Part 2)

Okay, so I wrapped up Digital Apollo recently (MIT Press, David Mindell) and I thought it was overall pretty good. The part I enjoyed the most was at the end when he talks you through the landing process and then talks about the landing experienced by each crew. They were all a little different.

You also get a good explanation of the genesis of the Apollo Hardware. Provided I remember some earlier late night reading sessions, the hardware has heritage in a computer intended for a Mars mission. The packing techniques were from guided missiles (makes sense). I'd heard that before. And the software (which was considered something of an afterthought at first) did a lot of simulating analog solutions to problems. This section of the book is something I want to go back over in greater detail sometime. Most other versions of this story concentrate on the word width, memory size, clock speeds, so on and so forth, but not what needed to be done.

Also inside, some good discussion on the X-15 and how much intervention the astronauts wanted. Should the astronauts literally fly the ship or just supervise systems ? Some folks thought you'd use stick and rudder and fly the rocket off the pad, literally. Another camp was for fully automatic (Ranger, Surveyor) operation. What happened was a mix of the two, a sort of semi-automatic mode. Really, I think the Apollo flight software would have been smaller / simpler if the pilot didn't have so much control over the trajectory. Why? Because a lot of points had to be coded into the software where you gave the operator (oops, astronaut) the chance to change control, or edit a setting, so on and so forth. Maybe two separate programs (each on a computer) with a big toggle switch (auto, manual) would have been worth looking at ?

Anyway, it's a fun book if you're into technical history.

Ten beautiful computers | Boing Boing Gadgets

Ten beautiful computers | Boing Boing Gadgets

Above is a link showing "1o Beautiful Computers." Most of these are small British machines. They're worth taking a quick look at.

DHC-2s is one of my favorite aviation websites. I found it after Tiffany and I were up in Canada. See, we were on the ferry from Victoria to Vancouver and they had a Canadian gift and bookshop on the ferry. One of the books I picked up was "The Immortal Beaver". Turns out these are fascinating and rugged bush planes. We had the opportunity to ride later on in the trip. This was "our" plane we rode on:

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Teardrops & Tiny Trailers

Teardrops & Tiny Trailers

Okay, use above link to check out these 'tiny trailers'.

What do we need to make one of these an off-grid power station (wind turbine parts, batteries inside, solar panels on outside surfaces ?) then another trailer to camp in, etc. ? Maybe keep the radios in it ? Could be interesting...

Friday, May 01, 2009

High Power Rocketry: N - Prize

High Power Rocketry: N - Prize

Okay, so in recent posts I talked about ancient and contemporary homebrew rocket efforts. There is an X-Prize (called N-Prize) effort out there to help organize and encourage this mess.

Above link discusses a hybrid approach to an orbital payload using rockets and balloons.

Ham radio folks and the homebrew microprocessor sets have been working in the high altitude balloon area for a while now.

Let's see where this goes !

Scale Saturn V

Baltimore City Paper - News Features: Rocket Men

If you haven't heard by now, Steve Eves just set a 'model' rocket record with a 1700 lb. Saturn V. Check out the above link. This project reminds me of the old BIS Lunar mission that I talked about earlier in the year.

The homebrewers are starting to catch up with the NASAs of the world.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Home-Grown Simulators

Quite a while back in Air & Space Smithsonian, there was an article about folks who built some pretty sophisticated mock-ups so they could better enjoy MS-Flight Simulator and similar products. I was glad to see the article put on the Internet archive.

Some of the folks did jumbo jet bridges with multiple computer monitors.
Note Daren Knightsbridge's simulator:

Others did fighter cockpits that required surrounding themselves with controls.

Additional link:

Monday, April 06, 2009

More Book News: Digital Apollo

I got a Borders gift card from my relatives for my birthday. It didn't take long to check the email for a coupon and get the card emptied out pronto.

Digital Apollo is a book about the history and background behind the Apollo Guidance Computer.

I'm looking forward to checking this out in greater detail. Some time ago, Eldon Hall wrote a book called Journey to the Moon from the AIAA press. It was really good and showed how the AGC had its origins in the Polaris missile and other clever, simple machines like Bush's Differential Analyser.

I'll get into it later, but the AGC has been "resurrected" in both computer simulators and homebrewed hardware...

more to follow...


"Read You Loud And Clear"

Every once in a while, you find something cool and cheap. Or free.

The guys at NASA's history department have done it again. "Read You Loud and Clear" (13 MB Adobe Acrobat ".pdf" format) is about the Minitrack, SATAN, STADAN, Mercury and other tracking and communication networks that were deployed for the space program.

What I've read so far, a variety of frequencies (HF, VHF, SHF) were used as well as a variety of modes. (radar, SSB, teletype) for tracking, telemetry and comms.

Looking forward to exploring the book more. I guess maybe 40 or 50 years later, some of this could be homebrewed... sounds like fun.


Saturday, February 14, 2009

Dreaming and the BIS Lunar Lander

I got caught up on a few back issues of Outside and National Geographic Adventure, then I went for a smoothie. After that, I went for a nice walk today and when I got home, I made some replies to Gene's blog and posted to Stan's a little ditty about the BIS Lunar Lander. It wasn't pretty... but isn't that good enough ? Little steps and all that. Not bad for an afternoon in which the wife was at work.

Scott Haley