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The Rocket Ship
September 1936 Boys' Life Article

September 1936 Boys' Life

September 1936 Boys' Life - Airplanes and RocketsTable of Contents

The Boy Scouts of America has published Boys' Life since January 1, 1911. I received it for a couple years in the late 1960s while in the Scouts. I have begun buying copies on eBay to look for useful articles. As time permits, I will be glad to scan articles for you. All copyrights (if any) are hereby acknowledged. Here are the Boys' Life issues I have so far.

It was on March 16, 1926, that Robert Goddard made history in Auburn, Massachusetts, by successfully launching the world's first liquid fueled rocket. The propellant was a mixture of gasoline and liquid oxygen. That was a mere ten year prior to this article that appeared in Boys' Life magazine. Author T.E. Mussen comments that as of the writing, "thus far the rocket has carried neither men nor recording instruments, nothing more than the source of its own propelling power." Breathtaking speeds of 700 mph had been attained and altitudes of 7,500 feet staggered the imagination with impossible proposals - like someday sending human beings to the moon. The oft referenced American Rocket Society (ARS) was created in 1930, and was the leading professional group for advancing rocket science. The group was planning for such missions three decades before they became reality. ARS was merged with the Institute of Aerospace Sciences in 1963 to become the present day American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA).

The Rocket Ship

By T. E. Mussen

Dr. Robert Goddard (NASA image) - Airplanes and RocketsThe fastest man-made vehicle ever built is the rocket. It has already achieved the speed of 700 miles per hour - 1000 feet per second - or nearly the velocity of sound in air. But thus far the rocket has carried neither men nor recording instruments, nothing more than the source of its own propelling power. However, the possibilities of the rocket are not entirely fictional, startling as they may seem.

The experimental models now in use are aluminum tubes, seven feet long and four inches in diameter by the American Rocket Society, twelve feet long and nine inches in diameter by Professor Goddard in New Mexico.

The driving mechanism or motor, which is really nothing more than a firing chamber, is at the head of the tube. Behind it are three chambers containing gasoline, liquid oxygen and nitrogen respectively. Tubes lead from the gasoline and oxygen into the firing chamber. The nitrogen is used simply to create pressure, and also because it is itself an inert, non-reactive gas.

The gasoline is pushed by the nitrogen in a small, steady stream into the firing chamber. The oxygen is pushed by its own pressure. Mixed, fired, they expand like gasoline and air in an automobile cylinder. But instead of pushing a piston as in the gasoline engine, the expanding gases in the rocket rush out through nozzles like exhaust pipes.

The recoil from this release propels the rocket - the phenomenon belonging to the class described in Newton's law that every action has its equal and opposite reaction. The revolving nozzles of a lawn-watering apparatus are an example of this law, the nozzles revolving in a direction opposite to the ejection of the water. The recoil of a gun just fired is another example. The rocket can be thought of as a gun stock moving backward through space, firing as it moves. In the rocket the gas molecules can be conceived of as the bullets pushing toward the earth while the rocket is pushed away, with nothing to stop it except decreasing air resistance.

Comic from the September 1936 Boys' Life - Airplanes and RocketsThe rocket operates twenty per cent more efficiently in a vacuum. It needs no medium for traction. And its basic propelling device requires no moving parts. Thus far it has been fired to altitudes of from a few thousand to 7500 feet, but that has been done for recovery purposes, since the results of each flight must be studied. And the Rocket Society has built its rockets so that they float and has then fired them toward the sea, that they may be more easily recovered.

But the rocket's possibilities in covering great distances in a very short time have been approximately calculated.

The theory, for instance, of a rocket flight from New York to Paris is that only a brief part of the flight will be power driven, the rocket coasting after its initial impulse. The rocket would be shot through the layer of dense atmosphere into the high, rare altitudes. It would be aimed. It would still be travelling upward after the initial charge was exhausted, later curving down toward its destination. The path of its flight has been calculated like the trajectory of a shell.

The Rocket Society has estimated that the time of flight from New York to Paris would be an hour and a half.

Light-sensitive cells would be used for accurate flight and landing. The rocket would be aimed at a fixed star. The sensitive cells would be "tuned" to the light from that particular star, much as a beam from Arcturus was used to open the Chicago World's Fair. The cells could be connected to mechanisms in the rocket, switching off nozzles on one side when the rocket veers, thus turning the rocket back to its course.

By a time-clock device a new set of cells could be cut in when the rocket neared the vicinity of Paris. These cells would be sensitive to a special light, such as from a colored searchlight beam at the landing field. At a predetermined point they would activate the release of a parachute, so that the rocket could float to earth.

The problems confronting a rocket flight to the moon, let us say, are far greater. However, the flight has been contemplated and the American Rocket Society has in its files the names of dozens of volunteers for such a flight.

In the first place, because, to effect such a flight, it would be necessary to escape the field of the earth's gravitational attraction, a much greater initial speed would be required. It has been calculated that that speed should be 25,000 miles per hour or seven miles per second. At that speed the rocket would be beyond the force of the earth's attraction in about eight minutes. Thereafter, the original aim and automatic navigation would guide it.

What seems most practicable is a step-rocket, that is, three or four rockets hooked in series, firing consecutively. Three would be fired to reach the moon and one to return. Getting back should be easier because of the lesser pull (because lesser mass) of the moon, where an initial speed of only one mile per second would be required.

Parachutes could not be used for landing on the moon, because there is no atmosphere on the moon to support a parachute. It is thought, therefore, that reverse nozzles would be used to check the speed - that is, nozzles exhausting the gas in the direction of the rocket's motion.

But compounding rockets and mechanisms increases the load in a geometric ratio. And with scientists, crew, food, instruments, oxygen aboard - 40,000 tons might be the weight of such a rocket to the moon, such an "Astro-plane". That is as big as the biggest battleship. And its cost would mount to thirty or forty million dollars.

So that a flight to the moon is at the moment very much an idle dream. But rockets will be fired at the moon. And the first will no doubt be equipped with magnesium flares that will go off automatically on landing. In that way we will know whether we've hit the mark. And that will be a first step.



Posted August 3, 2022
(updated from original post on 7/17/2014)

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