Nov 232011

Voyager I

NASA launched the space probe Voyager I 2 days before my 4th birthday on Sept 5, 1977.  I can’t remember it very well,  because my house was adjusting to the birth of my new baby brother.  Later, I learned about the launches of Voyager I and II in grade school and was intrigued by the pictures it took of Jupiter and Saturn as it flew by!

Voyager I's Gold Plated Disk

It is also amazing that the probe will keep going on until it is stopped by something and it won’t even get within 1 light year of a star for 40,000 years.  In case someone or something finds the probe, a gold plated disk, containing information about Earth and humanity, has been included!  A twin probe, Voyager II was launched a few weeks earlier and is also traveling away from Earth.

Voyager I

Manufacturer: Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) United States

Launch Date: September 5, 1977

Dimensions: Small Car

Weight: 1,592 lb

Speed: 3.5 x the distance between the Earth and the Sun each year also known as Astronomical Units(AU)

Distance from Earth: 1.78×1010 km or 119 AU as of October 2011,

Nov 182011

Cierva C30 Autogiro

At some point  in 2001, I was playing a great game on my PC called Crimson Skies.  It was created by a company called Zipper Interactive.  The main character, Nathan Zachary, is a air pirate in an alternate history version of the 1930s.  Instead of a pirate ship, he flew around in a heavily armored and armed Zeppelin.  The airship had a hanger full of an airplanes to modify and fly in game missions.

One of the oddest planes was the Autogiro.  It was like something out of a science fiction story because it combined the body of a normal airplane and the spinning rotors of a helicopter.  Recently, I was very surprised to find out that these planes actually existed!

Patrolling the skies over Wembley Stadium (1935)

One of the autogiros was created by a Spanish civil engineer, pilot and aeronautical engineer named Juan De La Cierva.   De La Cierva, made many aircraft, but in 1933, he built the very unique Cierva C-30 autogrio.  One might look at the C-30 and see an early helicopter,  but his main goal was to create a safer aircraft.  If the engine shuts off, wind resistance will continue to spin the rotors providing lift and the craft will land gently like maple seed pod does.  Autogiro means “self rotation”.

At one point, these aircraft nearly became the first flying car due to their safety and ease of use, but De La Cierva’s sudden death in 1936 ensured that the idea would not catch on.


Cierva C-30 Autogyro

Manufacturer: A V Roe & Co Ltd (Avro), Lioré-et-Olivier and Focke-Wulf.

Years Manufactured: 1933-1936

Created by: Juan De La Cierva

Number Built: 148

Crew: 1 +1 passenger

Max Speed: 110 mph

Length: 19 ft

Height :11 ft

Weight 1,800 lbs loaded

Engine: One 7-cylinder air-cooled radial engine, 140 hp, drove both the front propellor and the top rotor.