Saturday, June 24, 2017

Cosmosphere, 2017: Part 8

If you haven't seen the previous segments, follow the links to part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, and part 7.

When we left off, we had seen everything through the German Wall.  We were now ready to head outside to the Titan Rocket Pit.  But first, we need to refresh ourselves

with Korolev and his mighty rockets

and this authentic RD-107 rocket engine.

In the mid 1950s, the Soviet Union dug a deep pit in central Asia where they tested Korolev's R-7 rockets.  The U.S. desperately looked for this launch site, and they sent Frances Gary Powers to find it in his spy plane.  Unfortunately, he was shot down before he photographed the site.

Keeping the launch site secret was a big priority for the Soviets.  It was the equivalent of the U.S. proving grounds at Cape Canaveral.

The R-107 rocket engine was designed by Valentin Glushko, a bitter rival of Korolev.  However, Korolev needed Glushko's expertise on rocket engines to run his rockets.  Because these two men were such bitter rivals, they actually crippled the Soviet spaceflights.

I wanted to know more about this rivalry, so I went looking for answers.  In 1974, following the successful American moon landings, Leonid Brezhnev decided to cancel the troubled Soviet program to send a man to the Moon.  He put Glushko in charge of all spaceflight.

According to Encyclopedia Astronautica:
Once in charge, Glushko consolidated the Soviet space program, moving Vasily Mishin's OKB-1 (Korolev's former design bureau), as well as other bureaus, into a single bureau.  Glushko's first act, after firing Mishin altogether, was to cancel the N-1 rocket, a program he had long criticized, despite the fact that one of the reasons for its difficulties was his own refusal to design the high power engines Korolev needed because of friction between the two men and ostensibly a disagreement over the use of cryogenic or hypergolic fuel.
This plaque tells and shows the stages in which the first Sputnik was launched.  First, Korolev's R-7 left the launching pad, with Glushko's R-107 engine attached to one part and his R-108 attached to another part.  Once the R-107 had used all its fuel, it detached and fell back to earth landing in the Asian desert.  The R-108 took the rocket into orbit, and once the fuel was used, it, too fell to earth, landing in the Pacific Ocean near Japan.  Once it obtained orbit, Soviet propaganda revealed that it was the first unmanned test of a spacecraft.  As mentioned on the plaque, this sent shock waves through the U.S. space program.  It took less than 15 months for the Soviets to put a man in space.

In 1947, president Harry Truman approved construction of a missile base at Canaveral.  The first rocket launched  was a modified V-2, designed by von Braun.  Although the U.S. kept these missile launches secret, tourists, orange growers, and fishermen in the area were well aware of what was going on. 

In late 1957, Vanguard I was the first rocket launched from what was now being called Cape Canaveral's "spaceport."  It's the one that blew up on the launchpad with the entire world watching.  With Werner von Braun's modified Redstone, Explorer I was the first rocket launched by the U.S.  That was the beginning of the Mercury era.

An authentic (flown) Mercury Redstone rocket sits outside the Cosmosphere as shown in this photo I grabbed from the internet.  We saw how the first Mercury-Atlas Redstone (Mercury-Redstone I) blew up less than a minute after launch and traveled a mere four inches (100 mm).

The Cosmosphere has the remains as I showed in part 7.  Surprisingly, this failure led to the next generation of rockets, which was when von Braun created the increasingly more powerful Saturn rockets.

There were lots of rules we had to follow as we enter the Blockhouse.  The first one was a mere 400 ft. (4000 meters actually 122 meters as pointed out by Valerie) from the launch pad.  When the first blockhouse was built, rocket control circuits used direct current (DC) over copper wires. Due to the resistance of the wires, the voltage to the controlled relays and switches on the rocket was limited to the distance between the control point and the rocket itself.

The walls of the first blockhouse were two feet thick, and the dome-shaped roof varied from approximately five feet thick along the edges to nearly eight feet directly overhead.

I caught my friend Scott taking a photo of the monkey pod in which Mercury-Redstone 2 carried Ham the chimpanzee.  More on this later.  However, if you look carefully at the blockhouse imagery, apparently "Failure IS an option."

I had to skip around because there were so many people also trying to take in the rest of the museum before it closed.  On the right, you see the blockhouse windows.

This is an air supply tank model found in the blockhouse.

This shows the testing of the first successful U.S. spacecraft, which was known as an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile or ICBM.  It was designated Mercury Atlas I.

The Mercury-Redstone I actually came before the Mercury-Atlas.  It was borne out of WWII, and was nicknamed the  "American V-2."  It was designed by von Braun.

This shows the various Redstone Rockets, and the "Four Inch Rocket," the first Redstone that blew up on the launch pad.

Finally an interactive exhibit.  You could press the red buttons and see the various lift-offs from the blockhouse of each of the Mercury launches.  It was what they looked like from the person viewing it from the blockhouse.

Definitely not the best photo in the world of the capsule that took Ham, the first of three monkey's in space.   The enclosed capsule held the monkey in a specially designed chair inside the hard case.

Some of you will remember I told you about Dr. Randy Chambers who sat on my dissertation committee.  He told us these same types of cases he and his team designed, were first used to test bears that he and others pushed out of high altitude airplanes prior to any space mission.  At a certain height, parachutes were deployed and the bears, just like Ham in space, were returned safely to earth.   No bears were ever harmed in the testing.

In later years, Chambers continued to argue that IF the hard bodied capsules had not been scrapped in later flights, all the members of the doomed Challenger that exploded shortly after take-off years later would have survived.  He had seen data that showed they had survived the explosion, but died as they plummeted to earth.

On the left is an Atlas mixing fuel tank and on the right is an Atlas engine.  Both were authentic and flown in space.

In the course of no more than a few feet in this room, we went from the 1950s Mercury unmanned ICBMs to the manned Gemini-Titans of the mid to late 1960s.  Note the blockhouse has been replaced by a huge mission control room.

After launching nine other Titan rockets, NASA engineers finally discovered a problem during take-off.   After reviewing the other launches, they determined the problem was not significant.  Thus, ignorance truly was bliss.

It was now time to venture outside to see an authentic Titan rocket that had flown in space.  Talk about making a person feel small!

The rocket is genuine, but the pit it sits in is a reproduction.

I could have climbed much higher, but was wearing a very loose fitting dress, and was a bit afraid of exposure in the event someone else came out at the same time.

Back inside we stepped back into the 1950s again.  I'm not sure who designed this area, but the layout was so convoluted and jumped from era to era so quickly, you soon got quite confused unless you were a space history buff.

Flying in the Freedom 7 capsule aboard the Mercury-Redstone 3, Alan Shepard was the first American in space in May, 1961.  However, he was not the first human in space.  That role went once again to the Soviets five months earlier.

You don't need to speak or read Russian to understand the Soviets beat the U.S. into space again, this time with the first human.

In April, 1961, Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space.  His Vostok spacecraft completed a 108 minute orbit of the Earth.

He became an international hero

and won many honors before he was killed in a MiG training jet he was testing in 1968.

Once again, the Soviets were first and were all too quick to let the world know it.

As much as I would love to finish this before the end of the month, I don't want to overload you with too much information and facts.  I think this is a good time to stop.

Thanks for joining me today in this next installation of the Cosmosphere.  When we take up the venture again, we will see the Vostok (a genuine back-up) that Gagarin took into outer space, along with other artifacts from behind the Iron Curtain.

10 thoughtful remarks:

Valerie-Jael said...

Thanks for sharing all the photos, you really had a good time there. By the way, 400 feet is about 122 meters, not 4000 as you wrote above about the blockhouse. Have a fun day, take care, hugs, Valerie

chrissie said...

It must have been amazing to see the actual things and not just replicas. You remember it all for many years to come I'm sure

Have a great weekend

Love Chrissie xx

kaybee said...

I'm loving your in-depth tour over several posts. Makes up for not being able to get to it myself!

Sami said...

Great exhibition Elizabeth.
It was sad to read that the changes made to the Challenger contributed to the crew not have been able to be saved when the it exploded.

CJ Kennedy said...

The rockets are amazing. Your photographs really capture the immense size. All that is lost watching on television.

Going from large to tiny, I found a .pdf file on plants to attract hummingbirds in KS.

My name is Erika. said...

I've learned a lot reading these posts. 😀 I didn't know about the hard rocket and the challenger deaths. It was a huge deal in NH because of course the teacher in space was from NH. I was a fairly new teacher at the time and so the whole thing started off exciting and ended so sadly. And we never hear much about the internal soviet engineering rivalries. It was all very national and egocentric back in my school days. Hope you are having a great weekend and thanks for sharing hugs erika

nanskidrewski said...

Thank you so much for sharing this Elizabeth. The size and scope is just overwhelming. I am awestruck to say the least. Years ago, I visited the space center in Houston, it is amazing to be near such amazing technology/aircraft/space craft. Like Erica, I think of Christa McAuliffe's mission. There is a McAuliffe Shepard Discovery Center in Concord NH. I will have to check it out. Wishing you a happy weekend.

Meggymay said...

What amazing memories you must have of this visit Elizabeth. The height of that rocket is mind bending to say the least, the TV shots were good but up close is so much more realistic.
Have a good weekend.
Yvonne xx

pearshapedcrafting said...

Oh Elizabeth! Once again I am following you around this fantastic museum and enjoying the learning experiences! Being a teen in the early 60's I remember the TV coverage here in the UK! We have a Science and Industry Museum here in Manchester but there is not a great deal on Space travel as we were never part of the race! I remember seeing people on the ground near the rockets and being amazed at the size but your photos show it much better! There seems to be so much to see - I am impressed you did it all in a day! Hugs, Chrisx

Jeanie said...

Wow, Elizabeth. This is pretty amazing. The whole thing is amazing. I really appreciate your in-depth posts here. It seems enormous. Did you do all this in a day, I can't remember! No matter, you absorbed a whole lot in addition to taking a lot of terrific photos!