Water Well Journal

November 2016

Water Well Journal

Issue link: http://read.dmtmag.com/i/740475

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Page 64 of 90

A nyone who has read this column knows I am fascinated with science and the practical application of science and technology through engineering—so my interest in the U.S. space program should come as no surprise. As a young kid in the 1960s and still today, I can state I am enamored with our space program. From my earliest recollec- tions of the Gemini launches in the 1960s, to the Apollo mis- sions that first landed on the moon a week before my 11th birthday in 1969, and up to the Space Shuttle missions I have always appreciated the science, engineering, and technology that many thousands of people invested to accomplish a goal established by President John F. Kennedy in 1961: "To send a man to the moon before this decade is out and return him safely to the earth." Even as much as I respect the accomplishments of the "many thousands," I also appreciate the contributions made by a select few who were the true forces behind the moon missions. This month, as a departure from my usual water well–related topics, I want to revisit some of the lore and in- credible engineering from those at Apollo for those who still remember, for those too young to remember, and most impor- tantly, for those who still know how to dream. The rocket had to be created. Many thousands of engineers, scientists, and technicians made the many voyages to the moon and back possible. Here I want to give individual recognition to five of these people who are for the most part unknown. Many people believe the space program began in 1961 with the launch of the first manned Mercury mission. But ac- tually, it started in 1957 with the Soviet launch of the first artificial satellite, Sputnik. This single accomplishment was enough to strike fear in the hearts of many Americans who thereafter worried about possible Soviet invasions on Ameri- can soil from armed Russian cosmonauts. This also caused enough concern to the U.S. government that a new emphasis was applied towards accelerating explo- ration, notably with the creation of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 1958 on the very day in July I was born! Most people also think the United States' dream of going to the moon began with Kennedy's announcement to a joint session of Congress in May of 1961, although the discussions of this potential feat started back in the Eisenhower adminis- tration during the late 1950s. What most do not know is just how woefully unprepared the United States was to make this type of journey. Not only didn't our country have the technology in place to support a manned expedition to and back from the moon—we couldn't even launch a man towards the moon with adequate velocity to escape Earth's formidable gravity at the time. In fact, many knowledgeable individuals did not think such a mission to the moon would even be possible until sometime during the mid or late 1970s due to the lack of adequate rocket technology. Every argument and discussion during those initial days came down to one factor: enough rocket thrust. Getting a rocket off a launchpad with enough thrust to generate the lift required to elevate the roughly 6 million pounds of launch weight needed to overcome Earth's gravity, which requires an escape velocity of about 25,000 miles per hour, would require about 7.5 million pounds of rocket thrust. During the early days of the space program, NASA was fortunate if they could launch a rocket with just 67,000 pounds of thrust from an Atlas rocket sufficient to take a single man into orbit in a Mercury space capsule. In just a few years, however, we got there. The effort was led by replanted scientists from World War II Germany, no- tably Wernher von Braun, who would later become the direc- tor of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center. These scientists led the effort to develop first the single-stage Saturn I and then the Saturn V ("the Saturn five") rocket, a three-stage behemoth that never incurred a failure on the launchpad or in space during a manned mission. Many people felt von Braun and other German engineers should be held responsible for their actions during the war, but his subsequent peacetime service in the development and creation of liquid-fueled rocket technology that would ulti- mately get the United States to the moon first underscored his devotion to his new country. The Saturn V rocket (Figure 1) was a huge technological step ahead in rocket science that used liquid fuel propellants through a combination of five Model F-1 engines in the first stage (the lowest stage), each creating the needed 1.5 million pounds of thrust, as opposed to the later solid-fueled rockets of the Space Shuttle era. A mixture of a kerosene-based fuel combined with liquid oxygen as an oxidizer was needed since there's no air (i.e., oxygen) available in space as with jet engines that fly in the oxygen-rich atmosphere. This development of the combina- tion of these five reliable engines into a single Saturn V rocket ED BUTTS, PE, CPI ENGINEERING YOUR BUSINESS APOLLO REVISITED Looking back at the many people and feats of engineering that made it possible. ENGINEERING continues on page 62 waterwelljournal.com 60 November 2016 WWJ

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