Zenith Pioneering the Space Travel with Sky Climbers and Thunder Riders

Sean_VictorydawnStarred Page By Sean_Victorydawn, 17th Apr 2016 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL http://nut.bz/216_s720/
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>Science>Physical Forces

This research article puts together documents, resources and archival materials in history of Aero-Navigation by two of the heroic and iconic memoirs like no other.

The Daredevils of the Skies

Being daredevil is all about the bet. In one of the top most sold classic adventure novels of all time, Jules Verne's famous Around The World In 80 Days, the story has been set-up when two opposing groups of adventurists argued on a crazy idea whether a hot-air balloon can travel the world less than 3 months or not, and they ended up betting for it. Remember: Only the winning party can write the history.

Truth is stranger than fiction. Noone could have dreamed riding a lightning, unless it was a song(*1), and it sounds an impossible achievement to bet on. When World War II and Korean War veteran Lieutenant William Rankin flew the 1952 Vought Fighter class-32 design F8-U(photo on the side), in July-26th,1959, he would also have never dreamed it. But today that is exactly what he is known for being to have accomplished that impossibility.

Lieutenant Rankin was serving as a Marine Corps Pilot, and on his off-duty day, Sunday-July26th,1959 a partly cloudy afternoon, he was returning to his base in North Carolina. He took off from Air Warfare Training Facilities of the Naval Air Station South Weymouth in Massachusetts. His aircraft was the fastest speeding air combat fighter of its time(1959) with amazing capability in altitude recognition and radar-compass-altitude orientation, giving the pilot a limitless freedom of maneuvers. Through the summary of all the technical geek talk from The Naval Aviation Museum Of United States(*2a) and the actual view from the F8-U cockpit we will understand the capability of this aircraft better.

    F8-U was named The Crusader, because no F8-U was ever shot down in war history. It was nicknamed The Last Gunfighter, because by the end of Vietnam War, the close air combat meaning two air crafts fighting with each other punch-to-punch, came to an end.

When we look at the F8-U cockpit and the pilot seat, it is quite obvious to figure out this design was the solution to a major air combat problem in World War II: A combat fighter is good at air combat, but cannot aim at ground or sea targets. A long range fighter is good at eliminating ground or sea targets, but it is vulnerable to air combat fighters. Only if one army ever happen to have a perfect fighter that can both defend itself from air and ground gunners and still can attack both of the air and ground gunners at the same time, this army would never lose a war. The solution with the innovation of The Crusader accomplished just that exactly. In Vietnam War, only two F8-U Crusaders attacking from right and left winger positions have shot down 18 MiGs together (*2b).

Betting on the Horse or on the Jockey

    "Boy, do I remember that lightning! Blue light blades several feet thick glided under my feet, it was so brightly dark that they weren't even shining. And when the thunder stroke underneath, I felt it resonating in my chest cavity that stopped my breathing and heart-beating for the moment that felt unending" -Lt. Col William Rankin

If betting on the winner is enough to be a daredevil, would you bet on the horse or on the jockey? You could have the fastest running horse in the world, but if the horse won't give a damn for its jockey, it wouldn't want to run fast. Although Lieutenant Rankin lost his horse, he still finished the race without it.

Rankin flying with his F8-U at an altitude of 47,000 feet(14,400 meters), he caught in an air turbulence during supersonic speeding. First he heard grinding noises coming from the jet engine. When Rankin forced the air craft to descend out of the turbulence, this caused the jet engine to have a power failure. The engine stopped working, and fire indication light turned on red color.

    Down from supersonic speeding to a halt at zero, it was a rapid deceleration on the velocity, and the problem was unrecoverable. The air turbulence didn't let the plane to fall, so Rankin didn't have a choice to make an emergency landing. Having lost complete control of his aircraft, like a flying leaf on the wind, he decided to eject with his parachute and only with a helmet on.(*3)

    1) Ejecting from the pilot seat into the air at 47,000 feet without any speed protective suit,
    2) Temperature is -50°C measured, and at lower air pressure conditions it feels even more freezing, without any air pressure protective suit,
    3) As Rankin was free falling from the sky every minute altitude was dropping 10,000 feet (10,000 ft/min.); that means to have his parachute opened in the air to be landed safely, he had about 90 seconds to pull the rip cord of the parachute before it was too late, considering the fact that the gravity force increases when the altitude decreases, without any gravity protective suit

Both by a good luck and a bad luck at the same time, he fell into a dark cloud:

    a) Good Luck - since the air pressure around the cloud slowed down the acceleration of his falling velocity, saving his life from death
    b) Bad Luck - his speedy falling body caused an additional air pressure on the dark clouds creating a lightning, bringing him closer to death

With his parachute he managed to land in a desolate field. He was deaf, and temporarily blinded. During the total three weeks of his recovery period at the hospital, he understood the crucial requirement of an astronaut suite, which during that time hasn't been developed yet.

Betting on the Balloon or on the Wind

    "i saw my mum
    in a nightmare
    my awakening cry reminded me
    how i cried on a joyful day of festivals
    watching helplessly after my balloon slipped through my fingers
    raising up slowly to the highest heights of the skies
    " (*4)- Orhan Veli Kanik(1914-1950), a Turkish poet

84 years before heroes making titles by diving, 3 heroes have made even a bigger title by climbing. The ultimate difference is their intention. Lt.William Rankin's heroism was an accident. Zenith's heroism was planned. Gaston Tissandier, Joseph Croce Spinelli and Theodore Sivel were three Frenchmen aiming to ascend in the sky for the sake of progression in air navigation, with their hydrogen filled hot air balloon Zenith which had a giant size of 3,000 mᶟ.

    1) Joseph Spinelli -was a journalist, interviewing his two companions, taking notes and assisting Sivel to keep the balloon ascending, was holding onto a spectroscope making sure that the balloon is not catching fire.
    2) Theodore Sivel -age 41, a former Navy officer, was the captain of Zenith, was the most experienced and the most knowledgeable about air navigation of all the three, was in control of compass, binoculars and obtaining the direction of the wind. Sivel was in charge of "where to".
    3) Gaston Tissandier -age 32, was a chemist, measuring barometer pressure, calculating wind speed, checking the temperature of the hot air balloon, but ultimately testing the effectiveness of Newton's law of universal gravitation in order to come up with a certain formula of Gravitational Force that would stay as it is wherever you go in the universe. He was also learning from Sivel about air navigation and the balloon physics. Tissandier was in charge of "how to".

The name Zenith is a technical term in astronomy, geophysics and meteorology stands for the opposite of Gravity that goes downwards on the -Y axis in linear geometry, while the Zenith going upwards on +Y axis ; if it was a compass, Zenith would indicate "N" when Gravity indicates "S". This was exactly the purpose of the three Frenchmen to reach the top of +Y axis and to come back down to Earth.

Ascending to Space via Balloon in 1875

    "Science, my lad, is made up of mistakes, but they are mistakes which it is useful to make, because they lead little by little to the truth" (*5)- Jules Verne

Zenith's ascend went well until 7,000 meters as Tissandier informed Sivel about the measurements, and Spinelli wrote down the dual conversations. But after 7,000 meters peak approaching closely to leave the Troposphere for Stratosphere, everyone began to have lack of oxygen, severe headaches, temporary blackouts and dizziness. The first physiological and health condition data has been collected at 4,500 meters when the blood pressures were low and pulses were high, just passing by the Cirrus clouds.

Sivel has prepared the balloon's safety precautions taking anti-freeze petroleum bags for sudden temperature decreases, carbonic acid tubes to fill up the balloon with pressure-balancers, and extra sand bags with additional saw dust carriages and spring balancers to control the landing of the balloon safely even in a windy weather.

    Every measuring equipment and safety tool was manual. There was nothing automatically working except the Air around them. At 7,500 meter peak they could see Africa-Russia-England all inside the size of a fingernail, and they were way above the Earth clouds, flying next to the Sun.

At 8,000 meter peak, Tissandier has read the Barometer and measured their distance from sea level; yet he was too weak and too sleepy to inform his companions. Already it wasn't very likely whether they were able to hear him or see him clearly. They were all having blackouts and ear buzzing. Tissandier's blood pressure dropped and he fainted on one corner of the basket. When he woke up after half'n hour, he noticed that the basket was covered with opal mist formed by a circle surrounding the balloon, the balloon was free-falling and keeping on rotating horizontally on X-axis.

    To slow down the fall Tissandier dropped sandbags. This was supposed to be Captain Sivel's responsibility. But Sivel was sleeping motionlessly. Then he took Spinelli's spectroscope to check whether the hot-air balloon is damaged or caught fire. Tissandier was unsure of what to do, he took Spinelli's notebook and continued on noting down scientific data observations.

It was 2:15 pm and the barometer wasn't readable. The thermometer indicated -8°C. The altitude was calculated at 7,100 meters. Tissandier continued on writing physiological observations that his companions were unconscious, bleeding from their mouths and ears. He kept on using each and every safety tool on his own without Captain Sivel's help, until the balloon stopped rotating and continued on climbing the sky on Y-axis safely. He decided to rest for a while to gain back his energy, when he noticed Captain Sivel waking up to tell him something.

    When Tissandier gained back his consciousness the balloon was rapidly skidding downwards in the sky, and the speed of the fall had been enormously increased. The lifeless bodies of his companions were being jolted rolling inside the basket from corner to corner. Barometers have recorded the highest peak of reached altitude at 8,600 meters in Troposphere. And the current peak was 6,000 meter, at 3:35 pm, at temperature -5°C. Tissandier went near Captain Sivel to find him dead, as the same condition with Spinelli ; swelled stomach, blackened face with blood-filled eyes, still bleeding ears and open mouth.

Aftermath of Zenith's catastrophic fall

Gaston Tissandier succeeded on landing the balloon safely, so that the highest sky climbing record was set at 8,600 meters(28,215 feet). Two weeks later working as an editor to the magazine La Nature, he published the report of this experiment. Spinelli and Sivel have been killed most likely during the second ascend of Zenith. Tissandier reconstituted the physiological notes to come up with the reason of their deaths. It was obviously due to anoxia.

    To compare with, Mount Everest's peak is 8,848 meters(29,029 ft.) above sea level, and the boundary between Stratosphere and Troposphere is at 9,800 meters high above 0° sea level.

    Through this report of the skyclimbing experiment from the La Nature magazine, it was announced to the Science World that it wasn't possible to ascend in the sky without oxygen tubes and air pressure protectors, just like how it is under the sea.

In 1930s, French astronomer Faye from the Paris Academy of Sciences, named Zenith as the pioneer of Space Studies in Europe, and he developed Gaston Tissandier's report from the Zenith's fall with the Belgian and Russian astronomers' experiments in this era, serving as a milestone to discover the nature of Atmosphere.

    During the first years of 1950s when the space exploration was being discussed in theory, balloon Zenith's name was given to the highest vertical point above an observer's horizon that can be seen and measured. For instance, if your height is 6'00'' and if there is an ant underneath your foot, for the ant to observe your Zenith point stays at 6 feet high from his horizon level.

The capital letter "Z" of Zenith has been given to the "N" indicating Earth compass of space shuttles, for there is neither North or South in space, but main direction indicator in space is "Z". Unless a space shuttle's compass shows "Z", it will never find its way. Unless a space shuttle is heading for Zenith, it will never reach its destination.

To find the way to the future, space science will be heading for Zenith.

Credits, Bibliography, External Links and Special Thanks

(*1) Metallica - Ride the Lightning
(*2) http://www.navalaviationmuseum.org/attractions/aircraft-exhibits/item/?item=f-8_crusader
(*2a -technical features at the bottom of the page and first three paragraphs)
(*2b -fourth paragraph)
(*3) http://www.weatherimagery.com/blog/ejects-into-thunderstorm/
(*4) poetry from Orhan Veli about the death of his mother, translated from Turkish
(*5) read more Jules Verne quotes by clicking this link

Credit for the diagram of Zenith's fall, and the La Nature article translated from French:
* http://sciences.gloubik.info/spip.php?article108

photographical and pictorial media credits :
* http://www.nybooks.com/
* navalaviationmuseum.org
* Banksy Girl With Balloon

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author avatar Delicia Powers
7th May 2016 (#)

Amazing history... and article!

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author avatar GV Rama Rao
23rd May 2016 (#)

Interesting article especially for those interested in flying, aviation and space.

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