The Age Of Aerospace- Learning from the Past


Human beings have always been fascinated by flight. Cave people carved, sculpted, and painted winged creatures soaring through the sky. Greek mythology tells of the winged horse Pegasus, ancient Persian myths tell of winged bulls that guarded the royal halls, and a 4000 year old Chinese story, from the Annals of The Bamboo Books, describes how the Emperor Shun escaped from captivity by "donning the work-clothes of a bird." People struggled for centuries to make human flight a reality, and they succeeded. Man worked for decades to bring about the first space flight, and as the 20th century draws to an end, we look to Mars and beyond in hopes of success.

Throughout this document you will find that the following three fundamental concepts, when applied in conjunction with one another, have lead to the most dramatic aerospace advances.

1. Public awareness and excitement.
2. International and intranational competition.
3. Motivation to set and attain goals.

Areas of interest
This document will delve into the following areas, in an effort to learn from the successes and failures of our predecessors.

1. The history of flight.
2. The history of the U.S. space program.
3. Current aerospace technologies.

This knowledge will then be used to glimpse into man\'s future in the Age of Aerospace.

Figure 1: The Egyptian goddess Isis. (1)


Mans\' early attempts at flight met with utter disaster. People would climb high cliffs or towers, armed with magic spells, homemade wings, or a combination of the two, and plunge to their deaths as they attempted to fly. Figure 2 illustrates an apparatus designed for such a tower flight. The American Heritage History of Flight credits Roger Bacon as the first man to take a scientific approach to flying. Bacon described a machine that would use man powered artificial wings to beat the air like the wings of a bird. Although Bacon envisioned a flying machine, he made no attempt to create one. The first great scientific pioneer of aviation would not come along until 150 years after Roger Bacon.

Figure 2: A flying apparatus designed by the French locksmith Besnier.
AH PG 28.

Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci was an artist, architect, musician, and mathematician. He detailed his ideas and inventions in a series of manuscripts and drawings, Figure 3, which he left with a friend. These documents did not receive serious consideration until the late 19th century. Although science had overtaken most of his ideas by this time, his towering genius resounded from his works. Da Vinci\'s manuscripts detailed designs for the following:

1. Parachute
2. Ornithopters (flapping wing devices)
3. Balloons
4. Kites
5. Helicopter

Da Vinci\'s ideas were followed by years of ludicrous theories of flight. These theories, and the tales of those who attempted to validate them, receive some credit for keeping people interested in flying. Man wouldn\'t fly until the late 18th century, and it wouldn\'t be an ornithopter or a helicopter that would take him up, but a balloon.

Figure 3: 3 of Da Vinci\'s designs, the ornithopter, the parachute, and the
helicopter. AH PG 26

The earliest balloons were manufactured in the late 18th century. These early balloons were primitively designed with the following characteristics:

1. Linen or paper construction.
2. Hot air used to create lift.

As with other aerospace technologies, balloons were constantly evolved by their creators. By the beginning of the 19th century, balloons had taken on the following characteristics:

1. Silk or rubber construction.
2. Hydrogen used to create lift.

As balloon flights became more popular, the stories of these flights spread around the world. This sparked great interest in flight and led many scientists and inventors to try their hand at human flight.
Balloons brought in the Aerospace age and they continue to be used today. From the hot air balloons of recreational enthusiasts to the scientific weather balloons of NASA, balloons continually prove to be an integral part of mans\' technological aerospace arsenal.

Balloons were followed by dirigibles, which were large aerodynamically designed balloons with some method of propulsion attached to them. Dirigibles were used as:

1. Transports
2. Machines of war

Their main contribution to aerospace came from the engines that were designed for them. The design and implementation of light and powerful engines would prove to be one of the largest contributing factors in the development of the airplane.

Orville and Wilbur Wright
Orville and