What's your little evil genius plan
6 insane schemes tried to start space travel
The Soviet Union defined pretty insane when it came to space travel. But they weren't the only ones: many other space projects around the globe were suggested, to say the least, pants-chewing, horse-bolting, face-tattooing psychotic. How...
# 6. Zambia Space Agency
In the 1960s, there were three main groups trying to win the race. It was the Soviet Union that was quickly out of the gate with the first satellites and humans in space, but pale in the way of landing someone on the moon. There was the United States, which was more or less head-to-head with the USSR. And of course there was Zambia.
What? Don't you remember Zambia's contributions to the next challenge?
This is understandable: Zambia's National Academy of Science, Space Research and Philosophy doesn't have small niceties like "financial support" or "minimal security requirements." But they have Edward Nkoloso. Nkoloso was a teacher who saw the race and thought, "Looks like fun." So practically grabbed a lark, he grabbed a few bored soldiers, a woman (named "Spacegirl," no less) and two of the most ambitious cats he could find and began to train them with the best facilities their meager UN financial support could afford . Not much when you consider the U.N. never agreed to fund them.
For the weightlessness training, they went into the "anti-gravity simulator", aka the budding astronaut himself stuffed into an oil drum and rolled down a slope. And if that was off the commission, just cutting the ropes on the swing properly as they hit their tip would work too. She tirelessly drilled handstands because, possibly through a translation error, Nkoloso thought that was the only way to be able to run there. However, Nkoloso managed to put together preliminary rocket designs that actually looked half as bad. And "not bad" is more than good enough to start a risky space, apparently, dare, so the agency planned for Independence Day 1964.
So forget that you are betraying the poor African country that is establishing the first colony on Mars? Nobody: The Academy occupies a strange limbo between serious ambition and crazy cult. Most sane Zambians thought they were more with just one choose some influential government employee will ever give them a lot of faith. Inevitably, with all of her fictional money falling through and his only female astronaut now pregnant and training (Spacegirl, no! She seemed so dedicated), Nkoloso Academy in 1964 collapsed. Not dissuaded by his many massive, ridiculous failures and shameful waste of other people's money, Nkoloso did not go long into politics.
# 5. The huge donut in the room
In 1975, Stanford designers proposed a donut-shaped space station to simulate artificial gravity. Not a bad idea, is it? It's good enough for a batter-fried pastry, it's good enough for space. NASA approved the plan, and by the summer of 1975, the space station, code-named Stanford Torus, was the front runner. So she turned her attention to the artificial gravity, sunlight, food and water required to support the 10,000 people who would live there.
Uh? We wanted to go from zero manned space stations to a friggin 'heavenly city in a single step? Yep And it was looks good, even if you don't test it from real-life, then at least from the bitchin 'Stoners-dorm-room-caliber concept art.
Everything went groovy ... that's until someone thought about asking about the ridiculous typo in the household.
Even with the Soviet and European space programs in collaboration with NASA, launching every 10 million tons of building material would take decades, and do so with rockets that are launched every week. Total cost: $ 200 billion! That's in 1975 dollars, which today would translate about ... everything. All the money that has ever been printed or that would possibly be printed in the future, forever and ever, amen.
It was a crazy number, is what we're saying here.
With pressure to develop the much cheaper space shuttle program, the city-size donut in space lost a bit of its luster.
# 4. The Soviet Union tried to bring warfare into space
There were many space stations launched into orbit, and most of them had peaceful intentions and were used for important scientific inquiries like "Dude, how hard is it to put socks on in weightlessness?"
Then you have Salyut 3.
Thrown into orbit by the Soviet Union in 1974, Salyut 3 was armed with an army of cameras to take photos of US military installations and other targets of value. But that's pretty standard cold war antics, right? Now...
The Soviets were paranoid enough to believe that someone could somehow attack the station, so they equipped it with an anti-aircraft gun to shoot down potential enemies, and space invaders. That's right: this battle station was fully armed and operational.
Fortunately, the gun was never used, for the time it saved test-fired and destroyed a satellite. Since that time, no space station has been armed again, but your inner nerd knowing full well that no matter how disappointing it might have been, there has been at least one real space battle in our history.
If you still need consolation, this photo of a prototype starfighter may help:
This is not a movie prop: some Western intelligence agencies are convinced that the Soviet Union is the world's first and so far developed only space fighter because they feared the space shuttle (yes, the space shuttle, the friendly metal orca of the skies) would be considered an orbital used bombers and they looked for a way to shoot it down. It may even have had two successful test launches in 1987 (though the Soviets insist they only test their own shuttles) before it was reasonably aborted.
It's about stupid sensitivity, again awesome in style.
# 3. Earth had a copper ring in the 1960s
By the early 60s, Plain Jane Earth was sick and tired of that curled astronomical hussy Saturn is shown above, and so the Department of Defense decided that Earth needed bling as well. Long story short, the DOD wanted to implement a makeshift global communications system by littering earth's orbit with half a billion tiny copper wires.
Project West Ford was launched in 1963 with the hope that millions of copper whiskers orbiting together would form the largest antenna we have ever seen, securing our communications in the event of a Russian EMP attack. We're not sure which is crazier: the fact that she's trying to give something as crazy as Earth, an artificial ring, or the fact that it's actually kind of ... for a second. Although copper dipoles don't quite form the reflective tape they planned, the scientists were able to successfully deliver a message from California, Massachusetts, presumably to no one's surprise anymore than their own. Let's face it, "What if we fired trash into space to make a planet-wide orbital radio?" the idea is that it sounds a lot better the night before with a bag from Funyuns firmly under control.
With increasing pressure from the international community to "stop trashing space" and the rise of the modern communications satellite, the project was eventually scrapped. Most of the copper pieces have since fallen back to earth, but some are still out there, just waiting to relay a dire alien message to our wayward planet. Or totally screw up your cell phone signal in Malibu. Probably the latter.
# 2. Catch a spaceship ... When using Hollywood stuntmen
In 2001, NASA launched Genesis on a dangerous mission towards the sun.
Genesis aim to collect solar wind particles in a canister and bring them back to earth? Kind of like Fang farts in a bottle, only slightly raised. Amazing, the first part went smoothly, but on the way home there was a small problem: the parachute for the canister was too small and would act more like a fluttering distress signal than anything else. NASA needed help. And that's when an unexpected hero got in the fold: Hollywood.
NASA hired dozens of Hollywood stuntmen flying helicopters armed with pool hooks near the proposed landing site where they would attempt to catch a sinking satellite before it crashed Earth.
It had to be done perfectly. You know the scene: "We only get one shot at this person. Luckily we hired the best. It's called Brick Manhowitzer here once leaned out of a Blackhawk and snatched his own wedding ring out of a pigeon's mouth using just dental floss and chewing gum. Hopefully he can do it again or ... God have mercy on us all. "
But that's where the film similaires ended, because this is real life, and real life is always a lot worse than it first seems. The helicopters were in place, the pilots' years of training ready to pay off, when Genesis decided not to open its slide, so racing past the stuntmen too quickly to catch and descend right into the Utah desert with one huge burst of bursting open on impact .
Brick Manhowitzer couldn't shame and tragically drank himself to death not long after.
#1. The original NASA Apollo program
Stage one of the Apollo program was to send someone to the moon - check to orbit it. Phase 2 was landing on the moon - six checks, with a seventh being scribbled off. And level 3? Chill out.
On the moon.
With all of your friends.
We're talking about a full-on lunar colony. After Apollo 17, more Apollos should land and stay there, eventually culminating in a 180-day mission with six people on the moon long enough to qualify for lunar citizenship. Lunar vehicles would be sent out for locomotion, while giant space stations orbiting were also planned as a kind of lounge stopover. If Pie in the Sky isn't overzealous enough, Apollo also extended to Venus, where a manned skill orbit of the planet with a live crew was supposed to be housed in the empty fuel tanks. These monumental plans were approved by the committee after committee in Congress before a vote. Somehow, Congress representatives actually bothered to look at the multibillion dollar price tag and chopped off Apollo bit by bit until only Apollos 11-17 remained.
God dammit. Is there some kind of fairy tale or talk, cricket or evil spirit we can hire to teach Congress that money is not everything?
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