50 Years After One Small Step for a Man

By Dave Nordling, Secretary, Reaction Research Society


It was a half century ago today that mankind landed on the Moon. This event has had an impact on both generations present to witness this landmark event and the generations born afterward, such as myself. The Apollo 11 moon landing was a daring extension of an aggressive program that was progressively built from the dawn of the space age with abundant resources, acceptance of risk and political will never seen before (and never since). The herculean task set by the late President Kennedy in 1961 of landing a man on the moon and safely returning him to Earth by the end of the decade (1970) was fulfilled on July 24, 1969.

A grainy image of the American flag planted on the moon.

It was only eight years before that time when manned spaceflight began with the humble beginnings of riding a derivative of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) into low earth orbit scraping the bounds of the upper atmosphere. The journey was fulfilled with the enormous 6,540,000 lbm tower of three stages of the Saturn V vehicle filled with kerosene, liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen that pushed three brave men into a new sphere of influence of the Earth’s closest celestial body just three days away. New systems and new rocket motors were built from scratch and flown in less than a decade. The massive Saturn V rocket could throw an unprecedented 107,100 lbm to trans-lunar injection (TLI) orbit. No other past or operational launch vehicle has surpassed this ability to this very day.

The Saturn V leaves its pad with a thrust of over 7,500,000 lbf.

Looking back, landing a man on the lunar surface appears simple and almost certain. But to those watching from their black and white televisions across the country and to the men and women behind the launch consoles, all of the Apollo missions were truly audacious with the looming deadline, a Cold War rival busy at work to maintain their leadership in space and an ever-present risk for tragedy at every step. Lives were lost, sacrifices were made and the goal remained steadfast. Excellence was demanded from hundreds of thousands of technical professionals, suppliers, shop workers, clerks and everyday people and was delivered such that two astronauts could walk on a foreign world opening the door to our species visiting a place beyond our blue Earth.

Skipping along the lunar surface getting work done. Beyond the human experience and reflection, this was an expedition filled with experiments to extend human knowledge.

At this 50th anniversary, it is interesting to reflect on what has happened since. After six more Apollo flights with five resulting in 10 more Americans walking, even driving over the lunar surface, the program came to an end under the Nixon Administration’s budget cuts. No other nation, including our own, has returned. It is probably due to this fact alone that more and more people begin to doubt whether the moon landing was ever real.

Also, it is the opinion of this author that because the Soviet Union’s then-secret moon program failed to place a cosmonaut into lunar orbit with their massive N-1 rocket, let alone a successful landing on the lunar surface, that our country saw fit to halt the progress of Apollo and turn our back on the Moon for five decades. I can only imagine how history would be different if the any of the four Soviet launches of the N-1 from February 1969 to November of 1972 had been a success.

The first Soviet N-1 rocket sits on its pad at Baikonaur in September 1968.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/N1_%28rocket%29

The first man on the moon, Neil Armstrong, has passed away just a little less than seven years ago. Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins remain as living historical witnesses, but in time, they too will pass on. NASA has a huge discontinuity in their chronology of exploration after the Apollo and Skylab program’s success. A long period of quiet then the Shuttle followed by eight years of paying the Russians for rides to the International Space Station (ISS) from Russia is all that remains. Our unmanned program has continued with ever more impressive returns as we learned about the moon, Mars and places throughout in the solar system, but our manned space program remains at a stand-still.

The legacy of Apollo has been more of historical legend and pride than any tangible progress eclipsing this feat of human achievement. The Space Shuttle program and its nearly four decades of life brought us the historical achievement of the first American woman in space, the first African-American in space, the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope, the first visit to a Russian space station, Mir, the first Russian cosmonaut to fly on an American space vessel, and of course the multi-year construction of the ISS celebrating its third decade of operation even after the Shuttle’s retirement. There are many people who feel that the Shuttle program failed its basic promise of routine access to space and certainly to fulfill the loftier goals of men reaching beyond low Earth orbit.

Since the days of Apollo, there have been new discoveries about the Moon. Thanks to the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) launched in 2009, the Apollo launch sites have been seen in higher detail.

https://www.space.com/14874-apollo-11-landing-site

The Apollo 11 landing site and the crew’s discarded equipment as seen from lunar orbit courtesy of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.

The Indian ISRO Chandrayaan-1 lunar orbiter, the Japanese Kaguya lunar orbiter and the American LRO have each found evidence of lunar lava tubes and “moon caves” in several places along the lunar surface which offers a tantalizing possibility of a ready-made shelter for future manned exploration.

An excellent new point of interest on the Moon’s surface, lunar lava tubes found by orbiting spacecraft.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lunar_lava_tube

Further evidence of ancient lunar lava tubes as seen from orbit.

The discovery of water ice in the permanent shadow in craters at the Moon’s poles starting from the Soviet Luna 24 probe to the ISRO Chandrayaan-1 orbiter provided strong evidence of an important resource awaiting future lunar explorers. .

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lunar_water

Distribution of water ice at the Moon’s South and North poles

Most recently, on January 3 of this year, the Chinese with the Chang’e 4 have soft-landed a rover (Yutu-2) on the far side of the Moon, a first for any nation.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chang%27e_4

Lunar tracks by the Chinese Yutu-2 rover in the soil at the von Karman crater in the South-Pole Aitken Basin region on the far side of the moon.

With the end of the Space Shuttle program in 2011, planned since the Columbia disaster of 2003, the Constellation program, later renamed the Space Launch System (SLS) was built and extended from legacy technologies with years of flight experience.
At this moment in time, NASA has redoubled its commitment to returning people to the surface of the moon in just five years from now, 2024. It is possible this goal can be realized, but there are abundant reasons to be skeptical.

Technology is no longer the perceived barrier to finding our way back to the Moon. The ability of any government or administration to muster the cohesive, sustained political will and necessary funding to build and fly the SLS program to put men back on the moon is the question that remains unanswered. More so, will we have the fortitude to recover from failures should they occur and surmount them to make a permanent colony as was envisioned for after Apollo? To date, my generation has waited in vain on the many promises from NASA to deliver something of the magnitude of Apollo.

There is no shortage of passionate, intelligent people in this world. Many share the vision of mankind becoming an interplanetary species. Our art and culture have been permanently changed from seeing the whole of our world as a small blue marble against the enormous blackness of space. The true legacy of Apollo is the inspiration that was given to this nation’s people and any nation seeking to find pride in their abilities to put their citizens in space. Regardless of what may come in the next few years with NASA, the dream is alive with the people of the Earth to be explorers. To move beyond dreams is what will extend mankind to the Moon and beyond.


100 Years Ago: A Method of Reaching Extreme Altitudes

Dave Nordling, Secretary, Reaction Research Society


The pioneering theoretical and experimental work that formed the basis for the modern practical liquid rocket was published 100 years ago today.

A Method of Reaching Extreme Altitudes, by Robert Hutchings Goddard (1882-1945), was published by the Smithsonian Institution, on May 26, 1919. Considered the father of American rocketry, Goddard developed the theory of his work while at Princeton University in 1912-1913 with experiments undertaken during 1915-1916 at Clark University.

http://www2.clarku.edu/research/archives/pdf/ext_altitudes.pdf

This 79-page paper described a series of practical experiments using nitrocellulose “smokeless” powder combusted within an enclosed chamber through a de Laval nozzle both in the ambient environment and under vacuum conditions. This paper also included mathematical derivations to develop a theory of rocket action taking in account air resistance and gravity with the goal of determining the minimum initial mass necessary for an ideal rocket to deliver a final mass of one pound to any desired altitude.

In his research, Goddard sought to devise a practical means to send instruments above the range of sounding balloons (about 20 miles) to explore the upper atmosphere. What makes this work fascinating is how much was known at the time of his paper’s publication versus how much was yet to be learned and become common knowledge in our time. Very little was known about the nature of the upper atmosphere in 1919. Yet, the basic concept of a rocket with a restrictive nozzle was known for centuries in the Chinese civilization and later in Europe with the 19th century British Congreve rockets.

In this scientific work, Goddard meticulously lays out his plan of research and the incremental progress he made to verify each of his claims. Most significant is his first conclusion on page 34 that his experiments in air and in vacuum prove that the propulsive force from a rocket is really based on a jet of gas having an extremely high exhaust velocity and is NOT merely an affect of reaction against the air.

Goddard’s work did not receive much funding during his lifetime. His work in rocketry even invited the ignorant criticism of the New York Times and others in the public which had a profound affect on Goddard in his lack of willingness to collaborate even until his death in 1945. In all fairness, it should be noted that the New York Times did see fit to offer an apology to Goddard 24 years after his death and only 50 years ago (in 1969) in the weeks before the Apollo 11 flight that landed the first two men on the moon by a multi-stage rocket operating quite well in the vacuum of space without a media for the vehicle to react against.

Air & Space Magazine, The Misunderstood Professor

by Frank H. Winter, May 2008

https://www.airspacemag.com/space/the-misunderstood-professor-26066829/

Goddard was awarded two patents in 1914, one for a multi-stage rocket and one for a liquid-fuel rocket. Considered an iconic work of 20th century science, all rocketry enthusiasts, students and professionals owe themselves the privilege of reading Dr. Goddard’s 1919 monograph which would lead to the first successful test of a liquid rocket flight in 1923 and the first successful liquid rocket flight on March 16, 1926 in Auburn, Massachusetts.

Goddard’s early discoveries included the determination that fins on a rocket by themselves were not sufficient to stabilize a rocket in flight. Goddard’s inventions included movable vanes to vector the rocket exhaust stream in flight and a gyroscope-based control system to effectively guide a rocket in flight.

Although relatively unappreciated in his home country, Goddard’s work was noticed by the Germans and in years later leading to their own rocket development program leading to the V-2 ballistic missile used to terrifying effect during the latter portion of the Second World War. During the Cold War, the V-2 was the heritage of the first rockets by the first space-faring nations.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_H._Goddard


2019 RRS Symposium was a success!

Dave Nordling, RRS Secretary


For the third year in a row, the RRS held its annual space and rocketry symposium at the Ken Nakaoka Community Center in Gardena on Saturday, April 27, 2019. We had over 200 people come to share the event with us. This was slightly larger from last year’s 75th anniversary celebration which marked this event as a big success. We’re glad to bring our public audience new things to see at each of these events.

The RRS logo proudly displayed at the 2019 Space and Rocketry Symposium
The power of teamwork. Folding RRS brochures on the night before the 2019 Space and Rocketry Symposium.

Our membership really delivered on setting up the ballroom for the event in record time. The RRS thanks our volunteer organization for donating their time in the night before and in the long day ahead.

The weather was cool in the night before. We set up in record time thanks to our membership.
After the audio and video checks in the ballroom, the RRS test fired our paper rocket launcher. Everything was ready.
The RRS symposium banner stands ready at the entrance of the Ken Nakaoka Community Center in Gardena, California

The RRS was glad to welcome many of our returning presenters and exhibitors such as the Rocketry Organization of California (ROC), US Rockets, Aerospace Corporation of El Segundo, Northrop Grumman of Redondo Beach, USAF SMC Heritage Center, UCLA, USC RPL, UC Irvine, UC San Diego, Additive Rocket Corporation (ARC) and Bill Claybaugh’s Space Transportation Institute.

We had many new presenters join us for the first time such as AFRL Edwards AFB, Leo Aerospace and CSU Fullerton. We were also glad to have Spaceport LA, Columbia Memorial Space Center and Outside the Lines Arts Education join us in the exhibitors hall.

Peace, Love and Rockets: my pick for best T-shirt at the 2019 RRS symposium. Many thanks to Rocketry Organization of California (ROC) for having one of the biggest displays for three years running.
Rocketry Organization of California (ROC) is set up for the event to begin shortly.
Rocketry Organization of California at the 2019 RRS symposium
Jerry Irvine of US Rockets at the 2019 RRS symposium; manufacturer of high power solid motors

The RRS was glad to welcome several presenters from the local aerospace industry. Aerospace Corporation, a federally-funded research and development center (FFRDC), based in El Segundo and supporting mission assurance and research for the United State Air Force was a return visitor to our humble forum. We thank Dr. Christopher Zeineh for bringing another exciting current topic (MarsHop) in Aerospace’s research, this time with NASA and their Mars Exploration program.

Dr. Chris Zeineh of Aerospace Corporation presents at the 2019 RRS symposium on a project to increase the quantity of Mars soil samples in upcoming missions including Mars 2020.

Also, the RRS would like to thank Jacky Calvignac of Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems (NGIS) from their Redondo Beach office giving an excellent presentation on spacecraft refueling systems. Northrop Grumman (formerly TRW many years ago) has been a big supporter of Los Angeles community events and we are blessed to have them share their work with our public audience.

The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) at Edwards AFB, CA, was another one of our featured presenters at the RRS symposium. The RRS thanks Nils Sedano and Phuoc Hai Tran for making the long journey from the high desert of Mojave to be with us and share the exciting research done at AFRL Edwards AFB.

Leo Aerospace, a Gardena-based start-up company, was another one of the RRS’s presenters at the symposium. Leo Aerospace founders, Abishek Murali and Dane Rudy, gave our audience an exciting description of their low-cost concept to sending cubesats to low-earth orbit. Their unconventional hybrid approach uses a hot air balloon to lift a small launch vehicle above most of the atmosphere then using a small rocket to reach space. The launcher concept is sometimes referred to as a “rockoon”.

Additive Rocket Corporation (ARC) of San Diego, California, made an excellent presentation of their patented approach to advanced rocket engine design through the amazing possibilities of 3D metal printing.

Additive Rocket Corporation (ARC) of San Diego discuss their advanced technology at their exhibit
Additive Rocket Corporation at the 2019 RRS symposium

RRS member, Alastair Martin, was exhibiting his company, Production Tribe LLC, and WatchHollywood.TV. He was filming many of the presentations during the symposium. His latest project, Rocket Talk Radio, is a podcast program discussing current topics in rocketry and space exploration.

Alastair Martin and his exhibit at the 2019 RRS symposium
Alastair Martin films a presentation at the 2019 RRS symposium

The Los Angeles Police Department’s Community Safety Partnership (LAPD CSP) were our honored guests and exhibitors in the main lobby. LAPD CSP helped the RRS in welcoming our visitors and showcasing the fun we’ve all shared. For almost two years, the RRS has conducted educational programs with local schools in Watts, Compton and others across Los Angeles. The “Rockets in the Projects” program continues to go strong with another program planned for this summer, and possibly again in the fall.

LAPD officers at the Ken Nakaoka Community Center in Gardena supporting the 2019 RRS symposium

We also were glad to welcome Mad Mike Hughes and new member, Waldo Stakes, to the symposium for the first time. Mad Mike brought his latest manned suborbital steam rocket vehicle for display in the north parking lot of the Ken Nakaoka Community Center in Gardena.

Mad Mike Hughes (left) and Waldo Stakes (right) stand in front of “Juan Pollo” the manned steam rocket being tested and flown.

The Titan rover team of CSU Fullerton had their rover on display with frequent demonstrations of its agility and ability to test technologies for future Mars and Moon exploration.

The Titan Rover team of CSU Fullerton was a big hit at the 2019 RRS symposium. Their engineers gave demonstrations out front of the community center for most of the day.
CSU Fullerton presents their Titan Rover project at the 2019 RRS symposium

The RRS was glad to welcome back the Columbia Memorial Space Center of Downey, California. Similar to the RRS, they are an educational non-profit group working with local schools throughout the Los Angeles area.

Columbia Memorial Space Center of Downey, California, at the 2019 RRS symposium

One of our special guests at the RRS symposium was Deputy Fire Marshal, Ramiro Rodriguez of the California Fire Marshal’s (CALFIRE) office in Hollywood. Ramiro gave a great presentation to our amateur and professional rocketry audience on the subject of state regulations as they apply to our hobby and the licensing of pyrotechnic operators in the state of California. Ramiro has been very helpful with the RRS and is an advocate of rocketry in California. Ramiro was available to discuss licensing and permitting processes with our public audience throughout the day in the exhibition hall.

Ramiro Rodriguez of CALFIRE presents at the 2019 RRS Space and Rocketry Symposium

We had many university teams willing to share their latest success and challenges with their solid and liquid rocket projects.

University of California at Irvine showed up in force to support the 2019 RRS symposium

The UCLA Rocket Project is growing strong thanks to RRS member, Dave Crisalli. UCLA had a lot of new liquid rocket hardware on display at the exhibition.

UCLA Rocket Project on display at the 2019 RRS symposium
USC Rocket Propulsion Laboratory (RPL) shows the latest static hot-fire results from their Traveller IV vehicle; The RRS MTA was glad to support USC
University of California San Diego presents their Collossus portable and modular thrust stand for small liquid rocket testing

The United States Air Force was one of featured guests at the exhibition. Lt. Col. Porter of Los Angeles AFB was giving demonstrations all day to our public audience.

Lt Col. Porter of the USAF Space and Missile Command at LA AFB gives a demonstration at the 2019 RRS symposium

Next to Lt. Col. Porter was Karen Austin of the USAF Space and Missile Center’s (SMC) Heritage Center dedicated to showcasing the long history of the US Air Force and our national defense in space. Her presentation at the symposium on the US Air Force in Space was very well received. The RRS is very grateful to the USAF SMC at LA AFB for supporting our event.

Karen Austin of the SMC Heritage Center at Los Angeles AFB at her exhibit in the 2019 RRS symposium

The events at the 2019 RRS symposium were not limited to the exhibition hall, ballroom and lobby. We had several outdoor demonstrations of a pneumatic paper rocket launcher. This is always a big hit. The popularity was so great that the RRS had to build one of our own!

Lunch time break at the symposium brought most people outside to enjoy the cool weather in late April 2019

I have several more photos from other people who were kind enough to document the event. I would like to thank all who came to the event and hope we’ll see everyone back at our next symposium. The RRS was glad to welcome new members and returning members throughout the day. Some of our members traveled far to be with us for this special annual event. We were also glad to receive a few membership applications at the event. The RRS is glad to welcome new members anytime.

RRS president, Osvaldo Tarditti (left) and new member, Joseph Maydell, joining us from Tampa, Florida
James Cox stands before his small copper thrust chamber at the RRS welcoming table at the 2019 symposium
RRS Treasurer, Chris Lujan, manages the audio, video and projection for the presentations.

The RRS membership voted last year that we would not hold our symposium in 2020. We will be focusing on our current projects and saving our resources for an even larger symposium event in 2021. The RRS is glad to have had three solid years of the symposium and great support from our participants.

The RRS front table welcomes our guests as the 2019 RRS symposium begins
The Reaction Research Society exhibit in the main lobby of the Ken Nakaoka Community Center

Our next monthly meeting of the RRS will be May 10th at 7:30pm, following our standard 2nd Friday convention. We meet at the same place, the Ken Nakaoka Community Center in Gardena. Please stop by if you’re interested in learning more. We’ll be discussing the symposium and the many projects we have in store for this summer.

The RRS flag flies above the door into the exhibition hall at the Ken Nakaoka Community Center at the 2019 Space and Rocketry Symposium