Evolution Of NASA Rocket Programs Research Paper
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The launch by the Soviet Union on October 4, 1958 of the world's first artificial satellite has created shock waves among the population of the United States. A nation that considers itself as the state with the most advanced science and technology was shocked by the fact that its main opponent was ahead of it even in a separate, but very important technology area (Garber and Launius)
And the US with the dignity of a great nation took up the challenge. In October, 1958, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was tasked to develop the ambitious programs for the manned flights to the Moon, Mars Exploration, Venus, Saturn and other planets in the solar system. And there was a great space race between the USSR and the USA for the first output of the person from the ship into the space, for the first woman-cosmonaut, for the records of the duration of the flight, as well as for the first pictures of the Moon and nearby planets (Burrows).
The members of this race from the beginning were at the unequal position: the Americans did everything openly, published their plans and saw the distance they needed to pass. All can see their mistakes and failures. On the Soviet side, everything was shrouded in the great mystery, even the names of the main designers. It was reported about the flying only after the successful completion, the failures were shown only in those cases where it was impossible to hide them. And, despite the less-developed industry and the poverty of the population, the communist rulers have released such a great amounts of money on the development of rocket and space technology, that the Soviet Union was the leader in the space exploration for many years, until the Americans first landed on the Moon.
The ‘Mercury’ Project
According to NASA’s plans, formulated by the end of 1958, the first manned space flight was to take place in the first half of 1960. However, in the stated period, Americans did not manage to implement their plan, though they have been working with the admirable zeal and scope. Before the first manned flight program ‘Mercury,’ it was held on 17 test launches, during which it was tested the individual vehicle systems, as well as it was worked out the scheme of the future flight (Swenson, Grimwood and Charles).
The first starts of the program ‘Mercury’ have been more or less normal. However, the list of small precautions during each start-up consisted of dozens of positions, but there were no precautions that would require the suspension of work. This was encouraging, and it seemed to Americans that this success will continue. Unfortunately, here it began a series of misfortunes (Garber and Launius).
In July, 1960, it was made the first start of the rocket ‘Atlas-D’ mounted with a full-scale model of the ship ‘Mercury.’ During the flight it was supposed to experience all of the major systems of the spacecraft. If the flight is successful, it is likely to be that the Americans have been able to implement at least a ‘leap into the space’ until the end of 1960. However the ‘Atlas-D’ rocket exploded after 58 seconds of flight. ‘Mercury-1’ was lost. It was impossible to determine the cause of the failure, thus, it was developed the very general recommendations to improve the reliability of the carrier (Swenson, Grimwood and Charles).
The start on 9 November ended also by the accident. At the time, the engineers intended to test the ship on the maximum overload, through putting it on the rocket ‘Little Joe.’ However, the rocket could lift the load to a height of only 16 kilometers, and then was crashed. On November 21, the layout of the ship ‘Mercury’ has been installed on the rocket ‘Redstone,’ which already after 2 seconds after liftoff showed the shutdown of the rocket’s engines; and the emergency rescue system shoot off the capsule (Burrows).
Three consecutive failures puzzled NASA’s leadership, which was to think about the correctness of the choice of the carrier and the ship. It was difficult to foresee to what would lead these thoughts in the case of another failure. However, then fortune turned to American designers face and the next launch, held on 19 December 1960, dispelled the last doubts of the skeptics about the possibility of the human space flight. At this time, NASA managed to fully test the suborbital scheme. The rocket ‘Redstone’ has brought the ship to the ballistic trajectory, at the right time and at the correct height, it was separated from the carrier, and then under the canopy descended safely in the Atlantic Ocean not far from the waiting US Navy ships. The flight was surprisingly successful. It was not recorded any serious failure of systems or carrier ship (Swenson, Grimwood and Charles).
The next launch took place on January 31, 1961. The objectives of this flight were basically identical to those that were at the time of the final launch of the previous year. The difference was one - in the cockpit was a chimpanzee Ham. This flight was generally successful. Only because of the increased flow of liquid oxygen, the rocket engine shut down for a few seconds earlier, and the automatic control system shoot the capsule with ‘astronaut.’
In that race, which was held for the first man in space, all these troubles could not be taken into account, and it was possible to try the next time ‘to jump into space.’ However, Americans decided not to take the risk. In this case, Werner von Braun insisted on another test launch of ‘Redstone,’ and thus, he misses the last chance to get ahead of their competitors from the Soviet Union. Later, von Braun was blamed for the fact that the Americans lost the race for the first manned space flight. Nevertheless, first and foremost he concerned about the safety of the pilots of ‘Mercury,’ and therefore insisted on new trials (Burrows).
The flight of March 24 was normal and removed the last doubts about the reality of the planned manned mission. It was decided to hold thus mission in the second half of April, 1961, but it took place only on May 5, and has become the event which the whole world was talking about. At that moment, Yuri Gagarin had visited the space, eclipsing by his accomplishment all that has been done on the other side of the Atlantic.
The ‘Apollo’ Project
Two defeats, which the United States suffered from at the beginning of the space age (the first satellite and the first man), put the Americans in a very unpleasant situation. In order to restore its reputation, they needed to make something unimaginable in space, for example, to fly to the Moon. This task was set by the US President John F. Kennedy to the nation (Siddiqi).
The brainchild of President Kennedy's speech to Congress was a program of ‘Apollo.’ However, it was born before the name was approved in July, 1960. And four months before, NASA management approved a three-step program of creation of the powerful rockets of ‘Saturn’ series. In fact, it was the beginning of the lunar epic. At the initial stage, it was supposed to create a two-stage rocket ‘Saturn C-1’ with the first launch already in 1961. In the second stage, it was supposed to create a three-stage ‘Saturn-2.’ The first flight of the carrier was supposed to conduct in 1963. In the third phase, it was planned to create the five-rocket ‘Saturn C-3’ (Chaikin, Hanks).
According to preliminary calculations, ‘Saturn C-3’ was able to put the payload of 50 tons into orbit around the Earth and to send a ship to the Moon with a mass of 13.5 tons. This was not enough for the landing on the Moon, so the scope of work was expanded. Moreover, all the beginnings of NASA at the time were under the unconditional support of the White House (Burrows).
An official project of the lunar spacecraft was approved on July 5, 1962. It was supposed to design a two-module version. The ship was supposed to bring to the lunar orbit by a third-stage engine and vehicle engines command module. Then the two astronauts were to go into the lunar module, undock from the main ship and land on the Moon. The third astronaut remained in the command module in orbit. After completion of the lunar expedition cabin with astronauts had to launch from the Moon and to dock with the module, waiting for it to orbit. Then it was planned to separate the ‘lunar taxi’ from the ship, on which the astronauts had to return to Earth (Siddiqi).
The alternative to program ‘Apollo’ could be, but did not, the program ‘Lunex’ (short for ‘Lunar Expedition’). It was prepared in an atmosphere of high secrecy among the Air Force command. The program was submitted to the President Kennedy in May, 1961, a few days before his speech in Congress. However, apparently, by the time the White House has made a choice, so ‘Lunex’ remained to be on the paper. The aim of the program ‘Luneks’ was the landing of American astronauts on the Moon before the end of 1967 in order to demonstrate the technical superiority of the United States over the Soviet Union. The goals of ‘Lunex’ were similar to the goals of ‘Apollo,’ but to achieve them it offers a different solution (Chaikin, Hanks).
The program ‘Gemini’ can be viewed as the development of the ‘Mercury,’ and as a preliminary stage of the American lunar program. This was a kind of interim project that incorporates everything what has been done and what remained to be done, and not only within the frames of the lunar program. The debates about what should be the next American manned spacecraft began long before the flight test of ‘Mercury.’ The winner was three-seater ‘Apollo,’ which was to deliver astronauts to the lunar surface. However, between the dingle ‘Mercury,’ able to be on the orbit the entire day and the moon ship was a huge gulf, which was impossible to overcome in one jump (Shayler).
The main tasks of the ship were formulated in 1959: 14-days flight, maneuvering in orbit, on-board navigation system, controlled descent and landing on the land. In the spring of 1961 these plans were again relevant, and it was added to them the task of docking of two spacecraft. At the end of the same year the company ‘McDonnell’ started creating a new ship. And on January 3, 1962 the project was called ‘Gemini,’ which was included in the first unmanned spacecraft scheduled to launch at the end of July, 1963. The second ‘Gemini’ with two astronauts was \ to start in September. In the third and fourth flight it was planned to achieve the flight duration for fourteen days. A series of eight flights for testing the rendezvous and docking scheduled to begin in March, 1964 (Shayler).
However, the reality, as always, was different. The lack of funding of the project, the difficulties in flight tests of the rocket ‘Titan-2,’ a slow off-board of the engines - all this has led to the fact that the terms of the first flight began to pull away further and further. It was decided to postpone the first launch to 1964 and to make it a suborbital. As it has been said, ‘Gemini’ was an intermediate step between the programs ‘Mercury’ and ‘Apollo.’ Under the certain circumstances it could become ‘a lunar option.’ Most likely, the Americans would use the lunar craft of the series ‘Gemini,’ if the ‘Apollo’ would not succeed (Shayler). The last attempts to revive the program ‘Gemini’ were designed on the basis of its rescue ships, but in the whole, the program, as well as the previous ones, was unsuccessful. After the ‘Apollo’ went into the space in October, 1968, all the talk about the easiest and cheapest orbiting the Moon was completely stopped.
One of the important stages of preparation for the landing on the Moon was the organization of unmanned missions to the night luminary. Their main task was to collect the maximum possible amount of information about our natural satellite and space near the Moon. Thus, it was expected to decide, in the first instance, the questions of the safety of lunar missions (Shayler).
‘Ranger,’ ‘Surveyor,’ ‘Lunar Orbiter’ Projects
The first program, which received the name ‘Ranger,’ provided the following objectives: to get the television images of the lunar surface, carrying of the radar sounding of the Moon and to study the properties of solid using gamma spectrometer, to deliver to the Moon of the instrument container with a seismometer. The soft landing on the lunar surface was not planned (Burrows).
The program, under which it was solved the problem of a safe landing on the Moon, was called ‘Surveyor.’ Originally it was planned to produce such devices, which allow to explore the Moon from both the orbit (orbital modules) and its surface (land modules). However, in the design process, developers were faced with a number of difficulties that led to abandonment of a comprehensive study of the natural satellite. As a result, the program ‘Surveyor’ split into two separate programs: the programs of soft landing, keeping its original name, and the program of study of the lunar surface from lunar orbit, called ‘Lunar Orbiter’ (Burrows).
The main flight of the late 1960s began on July 16, 1969. On the board of the launched from Cape Canaveral ‘Apollo 11’ were Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Edwin Aldrin. Two of them had to be the first earthlings to walk on the surface of another celestial body (Burrows).
The landing took place on the well-established scheme. However, there were two things that made crew members and employees of the Mission Control Center to be worried. When the lunar module was already on the trigger, the failure occurred in the onboard computer. This trouble could lead to anything, including the abolition of the landing. On Earth, the members of the Mission Control Center quickly understood the situation and gave the command to Armstrong for the continuation of the planned operations. On July 20, 1969, at 20:17:39 UTC the crew commander Neil Armstrong and the pilot Edwin Aldrin successfully landed the lunar module spacecraft in the southwestern region of the Sea of Tranquility of the Moon.
The system of reusable ‘Space Shuttle’ can rightly be called the brainchild of the Cold War. Not only because its creation was carried out during the ‘great confrontation’ of superpowers, but also because of its development ideologues involved the active use of shuttles for the military purposes. Although the practice has shown the little use of shuttles as the weapons, there was an extensive program of the Pentagon that was seeking to use shuttles for the combat missions (Jenkins).
The official date of commencement of works on creation of shuttles is considered to be 5 January 1972. On this day, the US President Richard Nixon approved the program ‘Space Shuttle’ of the aerospace agency, agreed with the Ministry of Defense. However, the actual search for the technical aspect and feasibility of this type of missile and space systems at NASA began in September 1969, i.e., only two months after the first landing on the lunar surface (Jenkins). For the development of the ‘Space Shuttle’ and ground facilities to ensure its operation, as well as for the carrying of all sorts of trials and crew training it took nine years. Its main task, which was to replace the other one-off boosters, the shuttle has never fulfilled. The system ‘Space Shuttle’ was conceived as a comprehensive replacement of all that has been done in the US space program to the 1970s. On its basis in the future it was supposed to build the ships that were supposed to go to other planets, which undoubtedly were the great achievements in the US rocket programs (Burrows).
The disaster of the spaceship ‘Challenger’ has become a landmark for the US space program. For a long time the whole history of the ‘Space Shuttle’ was divided into two periods: what was before and what happened after the crash of the ‘Challenger.’ This went on for seventeen years until the exploded ‘Columbia.’ The catastrophe of ‘Challenger’ abruptly changed the development of the American and world cosmonautics. Despite a number of the failed programs and large losses, NASA continues to develop the space rocket programs, and in recent years the development of American space exploration reveals new progressive achievements in the missile programs.
Burrows, William E. This new ocean : the story of the first space age. New York: Modern library, 1999. Print.
Chaikin, Andrew, and Tom Hanks. A man on the Moon : the voyages of the Apollo astronauts. New York, N.Y: Penguin Books, 1998. Print.
Garber, Steve, and Roger Launius. 'A Brief History Of NASA'. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (2005): n. pag. Web. 19 Mar. 2015.
Jenkins, Dennis R. Space shuttle : the history of the National Space Transportation System : the first 100 missions. Cape Canaveral, Fla: D.R. Jenkins, 2001. Print
Shayler, David. Gemini : steps to the moon. London New York Chichester England: Springer Published in association with Praxis Pub, 2001. Print.
Siddiqi, Asif A. The Soviet space race with Apollo. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2003. Print.
Swenson, Loyd S., James M. Grimwood, and Charles C. Alexander. This new ocean : a history of Project Mercury. St Petersburg, Fla: Red and Black Publishers, 2010. Print.
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