|The ASTRONAUT, August 1938 | FOOTNOTES Page | Obituary Page ||
Although Venus approaches the earth more closely than any other planet, our knowledge of physical conditions on its surface is meagre. Slipher terms it "this very difficult planet." And no wonder! For Venus, when nearest to us, lies between us and the sun, and is thus very unfavourably placed for observation. Moreover, the planet's surface shows hardly any identifiable markings, albeit under favourable conditions certain faint markings or shadings can be seen. So indefinite are they, however, that no conclusions can be drawn from them regarding the planet's period of rotation. Attempts to determine this period have so far failed. Spectrograms taken with the object of revealingby means of the Doppler effectthe velocities of approach and recession of opposite limbs of the presumably rotating planet yield negative results. From this it may be concluded that the rotation, if any, must be slow, with a period exceeding ten days. It has even been suggested that Venus, like Mercury, turns one face always to the sun, merely rotating on its axis in the same time that it takes to revolve round the sun, i.e. 225 days. Radiometric observations of temperature, however, do not support this suggestion. The temperature of the dark side is probably about minus 25 degrees Centigrade, while that of the bright side is about 50 degrees Centigrade. And if the two hemispheres of the planet were permanently turned to and away from the sun, the difference in temperature would undoubtedly be very much greater. A surface in permanent darkness would endure a temperature well below minus 150 degrees Centigrade. Probably the rotative period lies somewhere between 2 and 16 weeks.
those normally evident. The origin of these markings, which appear to suffer a rapid change, is unknown, but their impermanence suggests cloud. And it is, indeed, well established that the surface of Venus is completely cloud-covered. Strong evidence of this is its very high reflecting power60 per cent., as against Mars' 15 per cent., and the moon's 7 per cent. Above the visible surface of cloud is a transparent atmosphere which reveals itself in the ring of light which surrounds Venus when the planet encroaches on the sun's disc at times of transit. Sunlight, reflected by the atmosphere, produces a twilight actually observable in the prolongation of the horns of the crescent Venus, beyond the geometrical limit ascrible to an airless sphere. Measurements of this effect indicate that the height of the atmosphere producing it is about 4,000 feet.
Spectroscopic study, conducted with the object of determining the chemical constitution of the atmosphere, is much hampered by the difficulty of disentangling the spectrum lines of our own atmosphere from those of Venus. Certain results. however, seem to be clear. There is no evidence of oxygen or water vapour; if these exist at all above the level of the cloudy surface, the quantity must be minute. Spectra taken at Mount Wilson show certain dark bands, the origin of which was at one time unknown. The bands have now been identified with carbon dioxide, and their intensity indicates that the gas must be present in considerable quantity. Hence the suggested production of a "greenhouse effect" of some magnitude. Which is to say, the gas, though transparent to incoming solar energy, prevents the escape of reflected heat rays. and thus warms the surface by entrapping heat. It is possible that the surface temperature may be as high as 100 degrees Centigrade.
If the constitution of the atmosphere is as spectroscopic evidence suggests, the existence of life on Venus seems very unlikely. The absence of water vapour and oxygen, and the presence of carbon dioxide in large quantities, seem to indicate an absence of both animal and vegetable life. On the other hand, it has been suggested that much, if not all, of the free oxygen in the earth's atmosphere was produced by the action of vegetation on carbon dioxide. Hence, the lack of oxygen on Venus may be a consequence, rather than the cause, of an absence of life on the planet.
HYMN TO PROGRESS
The original propounder of the idea of making a journey through space is unknown, and the probability is that his name is forever lost. But so venturesome a specimen of the animal that thinks, we may be sure, was promptly rewarded for his mental pains in the immemorial mannerdecapitation by forty-five blows of a stone axe if it happened that he graced this ball during the Neolithic Age, and burning alive at the stake if, perchance, he shared the benefits of our now perfected Christian civilisation. But though he justly died the death for his unbounded temerity of thought, the impiety he uttered lived unaccountably on, and even came to be recorded on the tablets of the race . . .
Before Interplanetary Travel
May 3rd: A rocket-propelled stratosphere plane, flown under the auspices of the International Rocket Society, achieves a height of 25 miles, and attains a speed in excess of 13,000 miles an hour. The Governments of the world pronounce the vessel to be "of no practical use."
February 10th : The InternationaI Rocket Society announces that the construction has begun of a rocket vessel capable of reaching the moon.
February 11th : The Churches of the world temporarily unite solemnly to proclaim that had it been intended that man should engage in interplanetary exploration, he would have been fashioned with a rocket, instead of a tail, between his legs.
February 12th : A group of eminent professors demonstrate, to the entire satisfaction of themselves and the world, that an extra-terrestial voyage is physically, chemically, and biologically impossible.
March 25th : The International Rocket Society announces that an attempt to reach the moon will be made within a week.
March 27th : A frantic, semi-Christian mob, ten thousand strong, wrecks the completed space-ship.
April 5th : The building of a second ship is begun.
March 25th : The second ship, shot secretly moonwards, backfires at a height of 53 miles, and crashes in flames on the British House of Lords, causing the untimely demise of five bishops, eight peers of the realm, and a charlady.
March 27th : Rocket research, by international agreement, is prohibited throughout the world.
March 28th : All books on space travel are placed on the Index Librorum Expurgandorum.
April 1st : The Archbishop of Canterbury, after due prayer, denounces the interplanetary idea as impious and against God.
January 1st : The construction of a third rocket vessel is secretly begun.
35 B. I .T.
June 10th : The third space-ship, after a secret launch. falls into the Atlantic. with the loss of all hands.
June 11th : All known members of the International Rocket Society are imprisoned without trial.
June 12th : By international law, the conducting of rocket research is made a capital offence.
June 13th : A group of eminent professors demonstrate, to the entire satisfaction of themselves and the world, that an extra-terrestrial voyage is physically, chemically, and biologically impossible.
December 25th : Forty-five rocket experimenters escape from jail.
May 4th : The construction of a fourth rocket-ship is secretly begun.
December 31st : Man reaches moon
After Interplanetary Travel
January 5th : A group of eminent professors demonstrate, to the entire satisfaction of themselves and the
world, that an extra-terrestrial voyage is physically, chemically, and biologically impossible.
May 7th : The Governments of the world, suddenly aroused by the thought of planetary colonisation, release all imprisoned rocket experimenters.
June 15th : Unlimited funds are placed at the disposal of the International Rocket Society for the purpose of constructing a space-ship capable of reaching Mars.
June 16th : The Pope denounces the enterprise as an attempt to defeat the plain intent of God, and calls upon the nations to forsake "this wicked project, this new Babel."
November 12th : The space-ship departs for Mars.
November 13th : The Archbishop of Canterbury, after due prayer, predicts the end of the world within forty-eight hours.
November 14th : A member of the Church of England is excommunicated for publicly quoting Newton's Third Law of Motion.
February 27th : The Martian expedition effects a landing, and radios the discovery of intelligent beings.
October 3rd : The adventurers return to earth, bringing two Martians with them.
November 2nd : An obscure monk, delving into Holy Writ in his gloomy cell, discovers that mention of space travel is actually made therein, and quotes 2 Kings, ii, 9-14.
November 3rd : The Archbishop of Canterbury, after due prayer, declares that he knew it all along.
December 25th : The Poet Laureate composes a new hymn, entitled Rocket of Ages.
December 26th : From the Vatican comes the glad tidings that a Herald Angel, swooping low over the City, has let it be known that interplanetary travel is no longer an abomination in the sight of the Lord.
December 27th : A Fundamentalist is lynched during a Thanksgiving Service for declaring that had it been intended that man should engage in interplanetary exploration, he would have been fashioned with it rocket, instead of a tail, between his legs.
January 19th : The whole of Christendom is profoundly shocked to learn from the Martian visitors, who boast three legs, five eyes, seven noses, one ear, and two tails apiece, that they are made in the image of God.
January 23rd : Plans are made to organise a united missionary expedition for the benefit of the poor, unfortunate heathen Martians.
December 13th : The good ship Hallelujah sets off for Mars, overloaded with representatives of the ninety-nine One and Only True Cults, three dozen Y.M.C.A. secretaries, the entire Salvation Army, Navy, and Air Force, 5,000 repeating rifles, 350 machine-guns, 3 tanks, a submarine, 10 hand grenades, 300 gallons of poison gas, 10,000,000 rounds of ammunition, and two dozen copies of the Bible, translated into Martian.
January 3rd : The good ship Hallelujah returns to earth with a cargo of Martian missionaries, itching to convert. the poor, deluded, pagan peoples of this ball.
January 4th : The visiting missionaries solemnly proclaim Bunkum-Bunkum to be the One True God.
January 5th : Earth declares Holy War on Mars.
January 6th : Escaping in the good ship Hallelujah, the ambassadors of Bunkum-Bunkum proceed systematically to exterminate the barbarian peoples of earth with the aid of a lethal ray.
Janary 12th : Satisfied that the delousing is complete, the triumphant Martians depart for home. Behind them, the earth burns merrily for forty days and forty nights . . .
To a lusty bawling of "Noah, Noah, a thousand times Noah!" the space-ark glided earthwards, alighted elumsily on a mountain top, and disgorged its psalm-singing occupantsa Sunday School Superintendent, his neighbour's wife, their three sons, a couple of blondes, and a brunette. Then emerged specimens of every living thingtwo elephants, a couple of tetanus bacilli, a brave of pheasants, a pair of kipperseverything, in brief, from two tapeworms to a double dose of chicken-pox. And so it came to pass that life on this sterile ball began anew . . .
(Back to Prologue, and repeat ad libitum, ad infinitum, for ever and ever, Amen.)
TEMPERATURE IN SPACE
Temperature is a quality of matter ; only where matter exists can temperature be spoken of in the ordinary sense. But despite the fact that empty space does not possess this quality, we often encounter literary discussions on the temperature of space, and even find it erroneously stated to be minus 273 degrees Centigrade. Such a statement is absurd, assuming that space is devoid of any material substance.
It can he seen that the space-temperature is considerably higher than absolute zero (minus 273 degrees Centigrade), even at the distance of Neptune from the sun.
In the immediate neighbourhood of a reflecting celestial body, the intensity of radiation is increased by its reflection, thereby increasing the space-temperature. The increase depends upon the nature of the reflecting surface, but it is, at most, 19 per cent. of the absolute space-temperature which exists without the reflecting influence.
In the space between the earth and moon, the influence
of the radiation reflected from these two bodies varies according to their position relative to the sun. Midway between earth and its satellite, that influence is very small ; at that point the space-temperature is about 282 degrees Centigrade Absolute. Near the moon's surface it is about 330 degrees Centigrade Absolute, and in the immediate neighbourhood of the earth's atmosphere, a little less. So that the temperature of a body going between earth and moon is between 9 and 50 degrees Centigrade above freezing point, provided it is not in the shadow, where its temperature would be in much lower. However, a direct line between the illuminated hemispheres of earth and moon is only entirely in shadow during the new moon or an eclipse of the moon by the earth's shadow; at all other times this line is within the sphere of sunlight.
THE STORY OF THE ROCKET AEROPLANE
On March 22nd, 1918, Professor Nikolai Alekseyevitch Rynin, of the Technical High School in Leningrad, received a letter from Professor Pyotr Ssergeyevitch Shtegoloff, editor-in-chief of the monthly Builoye (The Past). It stated that Comrade Shtegoloff would be glad to receive Comrade Rynin's criticism of a manuscript, which was enclosed, and which had been found among certain documents of the Secret Police of the late Czar. Professor Rynin opened the document and began to read. And he was amazed to discover that this manuscript, dug out from a pile of documents concerning cases of high treason during the Czarist epoch, contained a description of the world's first rocket aeroplane!
technical experts were summoned ; he argued about technical details, and asked many questions about explosives which even the experts could not readily answer. The second time he asked for paper, pen and ink, and for permission to write in his cell.
He wished to record the preliminary design of an invention before the death sentence he expected was executed. Kibaltchitch was promised that his manuscript would he submitted to a committee of technical experts immediately. Actually. it was simply attached to the documents among which it was found, it being considered that the matter would merely arouse "undesirable public interest."
of the investigators, Dr. Robert H. Goddard, demonstrated this fact experimentally. Rocket aeroplanes, therefore, could operate at altitudes inaccessible to ordinary aircraft.
venturi nozzle it was of small mass and high speed; when it left the last, it was of large mass and slow speed.
destination. The ship would have gathered sufficient momentum on its upward flight to carry it, without further expenditure of fuel, across the distance to be flown, there being very little air-resistance. The small amount of air-resistance encountered would retard the ship gradually as it approached the Tropopausethe transitional layer between Stratosphere and Troposphere. The ship would enter this layer, continuously decreasing its speed until it finally reached the Troposphere near its destination, with a speed about equal to that of ordinary fast aircraft. The landing would be made in the fashion of aeroplanes, assisted by the expenditure of a small amount of fuel saved for this purpose.
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