Apr 19 2009

Images of the First Space Age Point to the Future

Continuing last week’s mini-tour of Space Age sites associated with the 1960s Apollo Maslow Window, one has to be especially impressed with the spectacular space icons of southern New Mexico and Arizona, and how they point to the approaching, new Space Age near 2015.

The elegant McMath-Pierce Solar Telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory models Camelot-style scientific ebullience. Click mcmath1.jpg.

Alamogordo, NM — just up the road from the White Sands National Monument and Holloman Air Force Base (currently with 2 squadrons of F-22 Raptors) and at the base of the Sacramento Mountains, home of the National Solar and Apache Point observatories — is the site of the New Mexico Museum of Space History.

Boom-town Alamogordo, NM hosts a superb space museum. Click sonmmuseum.jpg.

The Space Museum commemorates everything from Goddard’s early rocket experiments near Roswell to a mockup of the International Space Station. Also included is the International Space Hall of Fame, which honors individuals who’ve made key contributions to the exploration of space. To emerge from this place not excited about the past, present, and future of humans in space…you’d have to be from another planet!

The John P. Stapp Air and Space Park honors the Space Hall of Fame inductee and amazing aeromedical pioneer of the 1950s. Click stapppark.jpg.

As one of the initial superheroes of the 1st Space Age, John Paul Stapp, M.D., Ph.D. is probably not as famous as he should be today. In 1954 he set a world land speed record of 632 mph and then stopped in 1.4 seconds — pulling just over 20 g’s in the process.

In 1954, The Sonic Wind No. 1 rocket sled propelled Dr. Stapp to 632 mph. Click sonicwind.jpg.

Dr. Stapp was initially concerned about the relation of g forces to pilot injuries during plane crashes and later applied his knowledge to car crashes. For his almost unbelievable rocket sled runs he became known as “The Fastest Man on Earth”, made the cover of Time magazine, and subjected himself to a record-setting 46.2 g’s!

Dr. Stapp shows that pulling 20+ g’s is not as easy as it sounds…! Click stappstop.jpg.

Dr. Stapp, who retired as a Colonel in the USAF, also proved that for all the cracked ribs, mild hemorraging, and broken wrists that he experienced, it didn’t affect his longevity one bit. Amazingly, he passed away in his Alamogordo home in 1999, at the age of 89.

About one long wave ago (~ 56 years) Dr. Stapp’s experiments paved the way for high-performance air- and spacecraft of the 1960s Apollo Maslow Window. Today’s analogous technology development phase for the 2015 Maslow Window is continuing in the International Space Station, among space entrepreneurs (e.g., Virgin Galactic), at national space agencies, and elsewhere.

For example, the current headquarters of Spaceport America is in Las Cruces. According to their website, construction of a road to the Spaceport site, about 45 miles north of Las Cruces, should be completed soon.

The remains of this V-2 were recovered at White Sands after testing. Click v2.jpg.

The first Space Age began shortly after W. W. II with test launches of the German V-2 rocket at the White Sands Missile Range, also known as the “Birthplace of the Race to Space.” Some may remember the historic first, and so far only, landing of a Shuttle at White Sands by Gordon Fullerton and Jack Lousma (STS-3) in 1982. The local pop culture space connections also include famous rumors of a UFO landing at Holloman AFB in 1971 (or before) as dramatized by Rod Serling in the 1974 documentary video “UFOs: Past, Present, and Future.”

The XQ-2 Drone beckons to the Tombaugh IMAX Dome Theater and Planetarium. Click xq-2.jpg.

The Tombaugh Theater and Planetarium sits between the Space History Museum and the new Alamogordo campus of the New Mexico State University. As a teenager I met Professor Tombaugh and was invited to his home in Las Cruces during a family vacation (we lived in Michigan) for a peek through his 16″ telescope. The issue of the Journal of the Association of Lunar and Planetary Observers that he autographed for me is understandably still one of my prized possessions.

On the campus of New Mexico State University, the Tombaugh Observatory honors the former NMSU professor and discoverer of Pluto. Click tombaugh.jpg.

Professor Tombaugh was probably most famous as the discoverer of Pluto, but was also a long-time observer of Mars and played an important role developing scientific rationales for human missions to Mars (e.g., see the 1963 Exploration of Mars, Vol. 15, Adv. Astronaut. Scis., Ed. by G.W. Morganthaler) during the 1960s Apollo Maslow Window. Starting in 1949, Tombaugh was comfortable going public about his many observations of UFOs. He supported the Extraterrestrial hypothesis and was an early voice calling for a serious scientific investigation of UFOs, much like the University of Arizona’s Dr. James McDonald later did, and more recently Stanford’s Peter Sturrock.

The House that Gerard Kuiper Built — The Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at the University of Arizona. Click ualunarlab.jpg

Dr. Gerard Kuiper, known as “the Father of Modern Planetary Science,” established the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at the University of Arizona in 1960 to give NASA more scientific information about the Moon and planets. For NASA, the idea was to support the Apollo program and eventually human missions to the planets during the 1960s Apollo Maslow Window.

“…A source of pride to the nation.” President John F. Kennedy, 1960. Click solart.jpg.

To the Camelot-style icon of the 1960s Apollo Maslow Window, President John F. Kennedy, “The great new solar telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona is a source of pride to the nation. The largest instrument for solar research in the world, it presents American astronomers with a unique tool for investigating the nearest of all the stars, our Sun. The project is of exceptional interest to all our citizens…Bold in concept and magnificent in execution, the instrument is the crowning achievement…” Writing in 1960, JFK’s ebullient tone is unmistakable, as it will be near 2015 when the next Space President describes the scientific challenges of the next Space Age.

Every clear day, the secrets of the Sun are revealed in the observers room. Click solarobs.jpg.

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