Confessions of a Rocket Scientist
Wednesday, November 24, 2004
  Some More Rocket Pictures
Heres a few more of my rockets.

This is my NCR Archer.

This is the Archer lifting off under "H" power.

This is The Dancing Bears. Can you tell I'm a Grateful Dead fan?

A Super Big Bertha waiting for launch.

This is my LOC Legacy.

I'll be posting pictures of the Space Ark as I build it. Check in for updates.
Tuesday, November 23, 2004
  Pictures of my Rockets
Somebody asked me to put up some pictures of my rockets. Okay, here's a few, as they appear on the PARA website.

This is a picture of my LOC Graduator lifting off. This is a veteran of many flights.

This is my V2 sport scale model. This is a nice performer. On this flight it recovered near the highway and I arrived just in time to see somebody trying to make off with it! He claimed that he had no idea that it belonged to somebody! Yeah. Right.

Another shot of my LOC graduator, this time flying with a Dark Star motor.

I'll put up some more pictures later.
Monday, November 15, 2004
  Silver Spaceships of the 50's
I'm 52. I am officially old. This is not necessarily a bad thing. It means that in 52 years I have not died. That's bad? What annoys me is when people ask me how "young" I am, as though I need to be in denial about my many years on this planet. Please do not patronize me. It took me a long time to get this old, and I intend to enjoy it.
One of my fondest memories of youth is the old science fiction movies and television programs. Mine was the first generation to grow up with TV, and I simply loved stuff like Space Patrol, Tom Corbett, and Rocky Jones. I just found a Rocky Jones DVD and was reminiscing about the old time shows with the cheap sets, corny costumes, and hokey ray guns.
But there is one part of these old sci-fi shows I still love, and that is their silver space ships.
Our concept of space travel in the 50's was really naive. We envisioned aerodynamic craft with sweeping fins and silvery metal skin blasting off on a fiery tail and roaring through the stars. The reality of space flight, the utilitarian shape of the Mercury space capsule, the Saturn rockets, the Lunar Lander, and the improbable sideway stack of the Space Shuttle, had just not occured to us. Instead we foresaw a double ogive profile with fins and wings.
Big screen movies fed this image. Films such as When Worlds Collide and Destination Moon reinforced the iconic image of just what a rocketship ought to look like. And Disney's Moonliner decorated the entrance to its famed "Rocket to the Moon" attraction in the late 50's and early 60's.
The reality of space travel, however, is that the silver rockets make no sense. There is no air in space, and a spaceship spends most of its time outside of the Earth's atmosphere. Likewise, there is no real need for fins, which require an atmosphere to do their job of stabilizing the spaceship. Thus, the sleek cigar-shaped aerodynamic spaceships are not very practical. Just look at the Lunar Lander, which had absolutely no aerodynamic qualities at all.
These days, anybody who would try to produce a movie or a TV program that used a silver rocket would be laughed out of town. Movies such as Star Wars and programs like Star Trek and Babylon 5 have created a more sophisticated audience. This was not always the case. One of Gene Roddenberry's biggest battles with the network (besides his battle to keep Star Trek on the air) had to do with the design of the Enterprise. He envisioned something different, a design that was at once futuristic and at the same time reminiscent of the era of wooden ships and iron men. The brass at NBC could not understand his vision. "Come on, Gene, just put some fins on a cigar and you have your space ship. What's the problem?"
I would probably laugh at such a show myself. But I admit to a certain level of nostalgia.
The Silver Spaceships will live on, as long as we have videos and DVD's. And if I can help it, they will fly. The double-ogive shape is not easy to model, but it isn't impossible. So I have decided to make a model based on the Space Ark from When Worlds Collide. And if that turns out well, maybe Rocky Jones' Orbit Jet might fly.
Monday, November 08, 2004
  Back To Normal
Well, the election's over. Everybody is screaming about how nasty the election was and about how divided the country is. Wow, what a short memory these morons have. Don't they remember the last election? Or the one before that? Or the one before that?
Come on, people, do you really expect the average American to consider the issues in a civil manner, to calmly exercise his or her soverign franchise, and to calmly accept the results as "the voice of the people?"
Don't make me laugh.
Elections have always been damn nasty affairs.
Does anybody remember all of the anti-Catholic bigotry that was dished out wholesale when John Kennedy ran? Does anybody forget for one second the famous LBJ Daisy commercial? Can anybody forget the divisiveness of the Vietnam era? How about all of the rabid predictions of doom and gloom promulgated by Rush Limbaugh et al when Bill Clinton got elected? And then he got re-elected! How in a christian nation could this possibly happen?
Fact is, folks, people get a kind of religious fervor over these elections. They get so wrapped up in the correctness of their own position that they blind themselves to reality. We have survived some pretty bad presidents. Like Warren G. Harding, for instance.
Look, gang, I was for Kerry, and I am as disappointed as all hell that he lost. I really think he would have been better for the country than Dubbya. But he lost, and Bush won, and I still have to go to work every day. That's reality, folks.
For what it's worth, I managed to land a new gig when the last one imploded. I hope this one lasts for about 15 years or so so I can retire without having to go look for another job. But it probably won't happen. In about 5 years or so I will probably end up looking for work again. It's not because George Bush got elected, or because I'm a bad worker, or I'm incompetent or anything like that. It's just the new reality, and I can't do a whole lot about it. Except maybe vote for some folks who just might be able to reverse this trend, and hope that enough of my fellow Americans will do likewise. In the meantime, I gotta go to work and earn a living. I hope you can do likewise.
The continuing story of a man, his hobby, and the search for a really good cup of coffee.

"The first cup of coffee in the morning recapitulates Phylogeny." -J. Pournelle

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Location: Quakertown, Pennsylvania, United States

Two time cancer survivor, happily married, LaSalle Alumnus

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