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Introduction        Why Beyond Rocket Science?           Questions??

This Page is in Draft Form, and will be Updated 

(1/31/10)  Comments are Welcome

And why "Beyond Rocket Science!"?Van Allen et al with Explorer I Rocket

Two reasons:

First: Because it was rocket science that made it possible. 

it is the NASA programs that have collected the data that we needed to begin to really understand how our world works.  And it is new!:  barely 50 years since we had our first real data.

Marconi invented the the radio in the late 1800s, without really knowing how the signals traveled.  Theories were that they were bouncing off of the atmosphere for some reason -- but it worked, that was the important thing. 

Fast forward to the 1950s: on October 4, 1957, Russia shocked the world with the launch of Sputnik 1, beeping out proof of its success.  The U.S. rushed to hold its own in the new "space race", and on December 6, 1957, launched the Vanguard TV3, a small satellite designed to test the launch capabilities of the three-stage Vanguard rocket.  The launch failed: After booster ignition it lifted off to a height of four feet, then fell to the ground, where the fuel tanks ruptured and exploded.  The rocket was damaged too badly to be used quickly. 

A group of physicists at JPL were called to do a favor -- to their delight.  They had their own rocket designed and ready in order to collect data on the upper atmosphere.  Their rocket was the Explorer I, with a Cosmic Ray Instrument, designed and built at the University of Iowa, where James Van Allen, one of the JPL team, worked.  This instrument was essentially a Geiger counter: Van Allen had a theory that there was an outer layer of the atmosphere that was highly ionized due to the solar radiation.  He was right, and after a few more flights, the existence of the ionosphere was confirmed -- the very layer that Marconi's radio waves were bouncing off of for more than fifty years.   

In July, Congress established a new agency, the National Aeronautics and Space Agency, which became operational on October 1, 1958.  Although we remember the first man to walk on the moon, 40 years ago this summer, it is the many other NASA missions that have revolutionized our understanding of our planet: satallites collecting data of all types at all atmosheric levels; probes to other planets that returned data on their atmospheres; even probes to our own sun. 

See NASA Resources below.     Photo Above: William Pickering, James Van Allen, and Werner Von Braun with Explorer I, JPL Archives. 

Second: Because systems science, including climate science, is the new frontier in science. 

 

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