Different Worlds
The Dream of Stepping into the Outer Reaches of the Earth's Atmosphere

Different Worlds
The Dream of Stepping into the Outer Reaches of the Earth's Atmosphere

  The V-2 rocket, was a ballistic missile that was developed at the beginning of the Second World War in Germany, specifically targeted at London and later Antwerp.

The liquid-propellant rocket was the world's first long-range combat-ballistic missile and first known non-human-piloted artifact to achieve sub-orbital spaceflight.

The dream of stepping into the outer reaches of the Earth's atmosphere was driven by the fiction of Jules Verne and H.G.Wells, and rocket technology was developed to try and realize this vision.

The German V2 was the first rocket to travel into space, overcoming the problems of thrust and material failure.

During the final days of World War II this technology was obtained by both the Americans and Soviets as were its designers.

The initial driving force for further development of the technology was a weapons race for intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) to be used as long-range carriers for fast nuclear weapon delivery.

But in 1961 when USSR launched the first man into space, the U.S. declared itself to be in a "Space Race" with Russia.

The Space Race can trace its origins to Nazi Germany, beginning in the 1930s and continuing during World War II when Germany researched and built operational ballistic missiles.

Starting in the early 1930s, German aerospace engineers experimented with liquid-fueled rockets, with the goal that one day they would be capable of reaching high altitudes and traversing long distances.

The head of the German Army's Ballistics and Munitions Branch, Lieutenant Colonel Karl Emil Becker, gathered a small team of engineers that included Walter Dornberger and Leo Zanssen, to figure out how to use rockets as long-range artillery in order to get around the Treaty of Versailles' ban on research and development of long-range cannons.

Wernher von Braun, a young engineering prodigy, was recruited by Becker and Dornberger to join their secret army program at Kummersdorf-West in 1932. Von Braun had romantic dreams about conquering outer space with rockets, and did not initially see the military value in missile technology.

During the Second World War, General Dornberger was the military head of the army's rocket program, Zanssen became the commandant of the Peenemünde army rocket centre, and von Braun was the technical director of the ballistic missile program.

They would lead the team that built the Aggregate-4 (A-4) rocket, which became the first vehicle to reach outer space during its test flight program in 1942 and 1943. By 1943, Germany began mass producing the A-4 as the Vergeltungswaffe 2 (“Vengeance Weapon” 2, or more commonly, V2), a ballistic missile with a 320 kilometres (200 miles) range carrying a 1,130 kilograms (2,500 lb) warhead at 4,000 kilometres per hour (2,500 mph). Its supersonic speed meant there was no defense against it, and radar detection provided little warning.

Germany used the weapon to bombard southern England and parts of Allied-liberated western Europe from 1944 until 1945. After the war, the V-2 became the basis of early American and Soviet rocket designs. At war’s end, American, British, and Soviet scientific intelligence teams competed to capture Germany's rocket engineers along with the German rockets themselves and the designs they were based on.

Each of the Allies captured a share of the available members of the German rocket team, but the United States benefited the most with Operation Paperclip, recruiting von Braun and most of his engineering team, who later helped develop the American missile and space exploration programs. The United States also acquired a large number of complete V2 rockets.

First Flights

The first successful orbital launch was of the Soviet unmanned Sputnik 1 ("Satellite 1") mission on October 4, 1957. The satellite weighed about 83 kg (184 pounds), and is believed to have orbited Earth at a height of about 250 km (150 miles).

It had two radio transmitters (20 and 40 MHz), which emitted "beeps" that could be heard by radios around the globe.

Analysis of the radio signals was used to gather information about the electron density of the ionosphere, while temperature and pressure data was encoded in the duration of radio beeps. The results indicated that the satellite was not punctured by a meteoroid. Sputnik 1 was launched by an R-7 rocket.

It burned up upon re-entry on January 3, 1958.

This success led to an escalation of the American space program, which unsuccessfully attempted to launch a Vanguard satellite into orbit two months later. On January 31, 1958, the U.S. successfully orbited Explorer 1 on a Juno rocket. In the meantime, the Soviet dog Laika became the first animal in orbit on November 3, 1957.

Sputnik in Space

Sputnik 2, known to OKB-1 as "PS-2" was launched on November 3, 1957. The hastily constructed PS-2 carried the first living passenger into orbit.

The female dog named Curly or sometimes Little Curly but popularly known as Laika (little barker ) was selected from ten candidates at the Air Force Institute of Aviation Medicine, for it's even temperament.

The mission planners did not provide for the safe atmospheric re-entry of the spacecraft or its passenger due to time constraints and the lack of suitable technology, making Laika the first orbital spaceflight casualty.

The first attempt to launch Sputnik 3, on April 27, 1958, failed, but the second on May 15 succeeded, and it carried a large array of instruments for geophysical research.

Its tape recorder failed, making it unable to measure the Van Allen radiation belts. Sputnik 3, was a development of OKB-1s original "Object D" satellite design. Design of Object D was begun in January 1956 with intent to launch it during the International Geophysical Year.

Object D was the third satellite launched by the Soviet Union due to delays in developing the extensive scientific experiments and their telemetry system. Like it's American counterpart, Vanguard, Object D had succeeded in making it into orbit during the IGY.

First Human Flights

The first successful human spaceflight was Vostok 1 ("East 1"), carrying 27 year old Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin on April 12, 1961. The spacecraft completed one orbit around the globe, lasting about 1 hour and 48 minutes.

Gagarin's flight resonated around the world; it was a demonstration of the advanced Soviet space program and it opened an entirely new era in space exploration: human spaceflight.

The 27 year-old Yuri Gagarin was the only crew member of Vostok 1. The Vostok spacecraft were designed to carry a single cosmonaut. The primary and secondary backup cosmonauts for the mission were Gherman Titov and Grigori Nelyubov.

The assignments were formally made on April 8, four days before the mission, but Gagarin had been a favourite among the cosmonaut candidates for at least several months.

The final decision of who would fly the mission relied heavily on the opinion of Nikolai Kamanin.

In an April 5 diary entry, Kamanin wrote that he was still undecided between Gagarin and Titov. He wrote: "The only thing that keeps me from picking [Titov] is the need to have the stronger person for the one day flight."

First Orbit

Kamanin was referring to the second mission, Vostok 2, which would last a full day, compared to the relatively short single-orbit mission of Vostok 1.

When Gagarin and Titov were informed of the decision during a meeting on April 9, Gagarin was very happy, and Titov was disappointed.

On April 10, this meeting was reenacted in front of television cameras, so there would be official footage of the event.

This included an acceptance speech by Gagarin. As an indication of the level of secrecy involved, one of the other cosmonaut candidates, Alexey Leonov, later recalled that he didn't know who was chosen for the mission until after the spaceflight had begun.

The U.S. first launched a person into space within a month of Vostok 1 with Alan Shepard's suborbital flight in Mercury-Redstone 3. Orbital flight was achieved by the United States when John Glenn's Mercury-Atlas 6 orbited the Earth on February 20, 1962.

Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space, orbited the Earth 48 times aboard Vostok 6 on June 16, 1963. China first launched a person into space 42 years after the launch of Vostok 1, on October 15, 2003, with the flight of Yang Liwei aboard the Shenzhou 5 (Spaceboat 5) spacecraft.

First Planetary Explorations

The first artificial object to reach another celestial body was Luna 2 in 1959. The first automatic landing on another celestial body was performed by Luna 9 in 1966.

Luna 10 became the first artificial satellite of another celestial body. The first manned landing on another celestial body was performed by Apollo 11 in its lunar landing on July 20, 1969.

The first successful interplanetary flyby was the 1962 Mariner 2 flyby of Venus (closest approach 34,773 kilometers). Flybys for the other planets were first achieved in 1965 for Mars by Mariner 4, 1973 for Jupiter by Pioneer 10, 1974 for Mercury by Mariner 10, 1979 for Saturn by Pioneer 11, 1986 for Uranus by Voyager 2, and 1989 for Neptune by Voyager 2.

The first interplanetary surface mission to return at least limited surface data from another planet was the 1970 landing of Venera 7 on Venus which returned data to earth for 23 minutes. In 1971 the Mars 3 mission achieved the first soft landing on Mars returning data for almost 20 seconds.

Later much longer duration surface missions were achieved, including over 6 years of Mars surface operation by Viking 1 from 1975 to 1982 and over 2 hours of transmission from the surface of Venus by Venera 13 in 1982 (the longest ever Soviet planetary surface mission).

Luna 2 showed time variations in the electron flux and energy spectrum in the Van Allen radiation belt. Luna 2 was instrumented with a three component fluxgate magnetometer, similar to that used on Luna 1, but with the dynamic range reduced by a factor of 4 to -750 to +750 nanoteslas (gammas) so that the quantization uncertainty was -12 to +12 nT.

The spacecraft spin period was 840 seconds about the major axis, and there was a precession with a period of 86 seconds. The sampling rate of the instrument was approximately once per minute. According to the Principal Investigator, the errors associated with the experiment zero levels and spacecraft fields were such that the accuracy was approximately 50 to 100 nT.

Luna 2

The spacecraft gave results similar to those of Luna 1 in the Earth's radiation belts and, upon impact, placed an upper limit of 100 nT on the lunar magnetic field at the surface.

The spacecraft also carried Soviet pennants. Two of them, located in the spacecraft, were sphere-shaped, with the surface covered by identical pentagonal elements. In the center of this sphere was an explosive for the purpose of slowing the huge impact velocity.

This was designed as a very simple way to provide the last necessary delta-v for those elements on the retro side of the sphere to not get vaporized.

Each pentagonal element was made of stainless steel and had the USSR Coat of Arms and the Cyrillic letters СССР (Russian; it translates into English as USSR) relief engraved on one side, and the words СССР СЕНТЯБРЬ 1959 (English: USSR SEPTEMBER 1959) relief engraved on the other side.

The third pennant was located in the last stage of the Luna 2 rocket, which collided with the moon's surface 30 minutes after the spacecraft did. It was a capsule filled with liquid, with aluminium strips placed into it. On each of these strips the USSR Coat of Arms, the words 1959 СЕНТЯБРЬ (English: 1959 SEPTEMBER) and the words СОЮЗ СОВЕТСКИХ СОЦИАЛИСТИЧЕСКИХ РЕСПУБЛИК (English: UNION OF SOVIET SOCIALIST REPUBLICS) were engraved.

On September 15, 1959, the premier of the USSR, Nikita Khrushchev, presented to the American president Dwight D. Eisenhower a copy of the spherical pennant as a gift. That sphere is located at the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum in Abilene, Kansas. The only other known copy of the spherical pennant is located at the Kansas Cosmosphere in Hutchinson, Kansas.