Notes: Episode 17, The Space Race (Part 1)

As with every show, I’ll list any corrections or clarifications here. If there’s anything I’ve overlooked, please contact me by email or in the comments and I’ll edit the notes to reflect the new information.

4:48 – The Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle is the NASA capsule (contracted to Lockheed Martin) that is intended to replace the space shuttle, which has been grounded since 2011, leaving transport of astronauts to the ISS dependant on the Russian Soyuz Launch System. The first unmanned test flight successfully occurred on December 5, 2014, and crewed misions are currently slated for as early as 2021. The capsule has been designed to be modular, serving roles in anything from simple transport missions to low Earth orbit to manned missions to Mars. NASA’s site for Orion isn’t the prettiest I’ve ever seen, but it has tons of information if you’re curious and they need to spend those bucks on cool space stuff, not a website.

7:35 – It’s a bit unfair to say Goddard is inventing ballistics at this point; besides the crude empirical understanding that a projectile follows a parabola that has existed for centuries, the use of cannons in warfare had resulted in some reasonably sophisticated math used for aiming (not just primitive sightings). Also, scientists like Kepler and Newton had worked on math relating to orbital physics. What Goddard specifically developed on his own was a way to calculate the velocity and height of a rocket in vertical flight given the weight of the rocket and the velocity of the exhaust gases.
8:59 – I mean, just look at the beard. C’mon, Lyman. Oh, and his plane was steam powered too.

10:16 – The man’s name was Samuel J. Seymour, and he was 96 when he appeared on the gameshow “I’ve Got A Secret” in 1956. He was 5 when he was in the theatre as Lincoln was killed. I find it fascinating to consider that there was someone who both witnessed the assassination of Lincoln and appeared on television with Lucille Ball; it connects two seemingly very disparate eras in history.

22:33 – Operation Paperclip also forgave lots and lots of doctors, including Erich Traub, who had worked directly for Heinrich Himmler on animal-based bioweaponry projects. Traub would go on to help found the Plum Island germ warfare animal disease lab, which depending on who you believe is either pretty bad or unspeakably horrific. I don’t mean to dwell on this point too much, but the fact is that the impact of the Cold War on the 20th century can’t really be overstated; the United States was so worried that the Soviets might exploit the knowledge of German specialists that they were willing to turn a blind eye to the pasts of some very shady figures just to get ahead of their rivals. Dr Moreau, I mean Traub, was allowed to continue sick experiments of his own design and very much in the vein of the ones he’d performed under Himmler, all under the auspices of keeping an edge in the fight against communism – and he’s one of many. Operation Paperclip had a solid end in most cases, but the means were virtually unforgiveable.
23:07 – Make that 1,500 that were successfully brought to the United States, let alone hundreds more that were not. It also might not be fair to say that none of the applicants fit the criteria of little or no active Nazi involvement, but certainly none of the most influential, skilled, or important applicants would have qualified without having their records altered by the program.

25:07 – I missppoke here; the first iteration of the Redstone was not an ICBM, and in fact only had a range of 200 miles (323 km). To be perfectly candid, I assumed it could reach another continent because it managed to propel a person into outer space, albeit not into orbit. It makes sense now why Alan Shepard only traveled into space rather than into orbit. Technically the Russian R-7 Semyorka was the first ICBM, which served as the launch system for Sputnik and was the first member of the R7 family that carried most of the Soviet program through the 50s and 60s.

35:06 – Okay, so “pacifist” is a pretty big stretch for Ike, seeing as he was literally head of the US army during the largest armed conflict in history. He also had his fingers in a few issues that would later cause worlds of trouble, including the beginnings of the Bay of Pigs invasion in Cuba and some of the first moves toward eventual conflict in Vietnam. Still, no president is lucky enough to avoid some military decisions, and it seemed that he wished to avoid overt conflict whenever possible.

45:33 – It is indeed The Right Stuff (1983), though it’s not at the beginning – it’s well into the second act. If you like, you can see it here.

47:58 – To be more specific, 11 Vanguard rockets were were launched, with only three successfully delivering payloads to orbit. This is a terrible success rate, even in the early days of the space race.

48:45 – I didn’t have dimensions for Explorer 1 written down and was going off memory, which is always a risky thing to do. It was about 80 inches long (6’8″, or 2.03 m) and a little over 6″ in diameter.

49:50 – Why do I say “NASA” so weirdly here? I think I was over-thinking it, but it comes out a lot more like “Nassau” as in the city in the Bahamas, and I’m rather displeased with it. That is all.

57:58 – It’s really difficult to find operational specifics about early Soviet space programs as an amateur, but I did find one person estimating Gagarin’s speed at ejection as being about 500 mph, or a little over 800 km/h.

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