Everybody's All-American Rocket, Head Transplants, And Cephalopod Cloaking Devices In This Week's Sci-Blog


Hola Wonkeratti! It's time once again for another terrible Wonkette Sci-Blog. Mix yourselves another drink and come on in!

Today, in honor of this week's American Independence Day  we're paying  homage to skyrocket and All-American Success Story,  the Saturn V launch Vehicle. The "Moon Rocket" we all saw (well, some of us saw) launched from Cape Canaveral Florida in the late 60's and early 70's, the "Five" was the largest of NASA's Saturn series of  multistage liquid fueled heavy lift rockets. 13 S-V's were launched, from 1967 until 1973, carrying all of the Apollo Lunar project missions and lifting the Skylab manned research station to orbit. The Saturn V is the current record holder for the heaviest payload ever launched and remains the tallest, most powerful operational rocket ever made.

The 3 stage Saturn V Launch Vehicle stood 363 feet tall, 33 feet wide and weighed out at 6,200,000 pounds, with a capability of lifting 260,000 pounds into Low Earth Orbit. The five F-1 engines of the first stage developed 1,000,000 pounds of thrust by burning almost 2000 metric tons of fuel and oxidizer in 150 seconds and carrying the entire vehicle well past a significant fraction of the atmosphere at supersonic speeds. The second and third stages, burning at 1,000,000 pounds and 225,000 pounds-force respectively, could launch 100,000 pounds of people and equipment into the orbit of the Moon. And did.

Beginning in 1960, a team at the Marshall Spaceflight Center headed by a German immigrant whose job was only to make the rockets go up, began adapting the earlier successful Jupiter series rocket to heavier lift applications. The Saturn series vehicles that resulted eventually compiled an impressive record for safety, with no launch failures or casualties (the tragic loss of Grissom, White and Chafee  in the Apollo 1 fire was during a ground test), in spite of an occasional tendency of the extremely powerful F-1 and J-2 engines to exhibit Pogo Oscillation during flight.  Here is the launch of the Apollo 11 mission, with altitude and velocity data and you can really see how powerful the vehicle was. The only comparable vehicle at the time, the Soviet Union's N-1 moon rocket, was less successful, exhibiting a 100% failure rate during test launches and causing the largest artificial non-nuclear explosion in human history at its last launch.

The Saturn rocketry program was cancelled, in 1974, due to its increasing costs at an economically difficult time and an increasing trend towards smaller scale launch vehicles at NASA. Scrapped were plans for upgraded F-1A engines, automated lunar rover missions, a larger and more capable Voyager planetary probe and a Saturn-Space Shuttle launch concept that would have eliminated the problematic and dangerous solid fuel boosters that destroyed the STS Challenger. 

The Saturn V was succeeded by the Space Shuttle program, which, although a qualified success and an amazing engineering achievement, was essentially a technological cul-de-sac. The Russian space program stuck with continuously upgrading their proven Soyuz family of launch vehicles and spacecraft from the 1960's and they're still flying today. In fact, we're depending upon using the Russian Space Agency as a taxi service to get us to the international Space Station. Now that the Space Shuttle program's been cancelled, America no longer has any heavy lift launch capability for manned missions.

The Saturn rocket family is a proven, reliable design and has been considered as a platform for the next generation of American heavy-lift launch vehicles. The ill-fated Constellation program's Ares booster rockets took major elements of their design from the Saturn series and would have used an improved Saturn-type J-2 engine. Times change, though, and so do missions. The Constellation program was shelved after experiencing huge cost overruns -- never welcome, but a program killer when they come right in the middle of a dramatic recession.  Now the latest heavy lift launch vehicle proposal is the combination Saturn V concept and Space Shuttle system based SLS which, if developed, could be able to lift 150 tons into orbit.

Below is a good video of a Saturn V launch, the first manned flight and the one that carried the Apollo 8 mission to the first orbit around the moon in December, 1968.

Watching this, it's easy to see how people really expected we would have orbital hotels and Moon bases by 2001. Sorry, Dave, we couldn't do that.

You can still see a few Saturn V rockets on display, if you visit the Kennedy Space Center in Florida or the Johnson Spaceflight Center in Houston, Texas.

It's almost as if the Sun is celebrating our July 4th holiday, by unleashing an M1.5-class solar flare the day before. You're never too old for fireworks.

The two newly discovered moons of the minor planet Pluto have finally gotten the names "Kerberous" and "Styx" formally approved by the International Astronomical Union. This in spite of a furious (and scenery-chewing) attempt by William Shatner to game the online naming contest in favor of the name Vulcan. Sorry, Bill, they didn't like my suggestion of "Yuggoth" either.

Bat researchers in Britain have used an extensive database of 15,000 bat recordings to generate an awesome distribution map of bats in the lake District. Thanks, Wonkette Tip Line commenter!

An Italian scientist has claimed to be on track to developing a procedure for successful human head transplants. Uh, anybody else see any problems with this?

Just because you're paranoid, it doesn't mean they're not out to Tap you.

So, exactly how much DNA do we really need, anyhow? Well, it's complicated. Thanks, Not That Dewey for the oddly non poop-related link!

The international organization that's charged with protecting the integrity of the Antarctic areas seems to be on the verge of designating two Antarctic Marine Protected areas for conservation purposes. They would be the largest marine conservation areas on the planet if approved.

A fisherman off the coast of Seattle has caught what may turn out to be a 200 year old Rockfish.

"Samples of the rockfish have been sent to a lab in Juneau, where the actual age of Liebman's fish will be determined, according to the Sentinel."

It would be the oldest rockfish ever landed and a record, so of course he killed and kept it.

This week, 19 of the nation's very best wildland firefighters were killed at Yarnell Hill in Arizona. Here are some ideas on how to avoid that in the future.

Lastly, your Cephalopod Video for the week. Cheers, all!



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