Pure water (H20) has a neutral pH of 7, which is neither acidic nor basic
By Stewart Bailey, Curator
Speed is life. This has been the simple dictum of combat pilots since the early days of World War I, for speed makes it possible to control when and where an air combat would take place or allow a pilot to flee and fight another day. Thus, as the clouds of war were gathering over Europe in the 1930s, aircraft designers in both England and Nazi Germany began to look to a new type of power plant that would take aircraft beyond the speeds governed by the limitations of piston engines. That power plant was the jet.
While both sides worked simultaneously on the problems of jet propulsion without knowledge of the other’s progress, both came to similar solutions around the same time. Dr. Frank Whittle in Britain was able to get his engine running in 1937, but it was Germans who were first to fly with the Heinkel He-178 in August 1939. From this aircraft, Heinkel developed the He-280, the world’s first jet fighter, but it never reached production, due to technical problems and lack of political support. Instead, an aircraft designed by Willi Messerschmitt, the Me-262 Schwalbe (Swallow) would take the honor of being the first jet in mass production and the first to fight in the air.
A radical design, it utilized two Junkers Jumo 004 turbine engines and first flew on jet power in July 1942. Pilots were ecstatic with its performance and commanding general of fighters, Adolf Galland, said “it flew as if being pushed by angels.” But the technology was new and there were many bugs to be worked out before Me-262 would be perfected. It would be nearly two years before it could be put into service, but it was not the fault of the aircraft. The wait was brought on by Hitler himself.
Driven by a desire for vengeance against the Allies, he decreed that the Me-262 should be used as a bomber. No matter that its speed would allow it to best the fighters escorting the Allied bombers destroying the German homeland; he wanted a fast bomber that could evade Allied interceptors. He cared not that it could carry little in the way of useful bomb load; all he wanted was to take the war to the enemy homeland. Many tried to dissuade him, but the Fuhrer would hear nothing of it. The Me-262 was to be a bomber and that was final. When he finally relented in mid-1944 and allowed every 20th aircraft off the production line to be built as a fighter, the war was already well on its way to being lost.
Often viewed by historians as a weapon that could have turned the tide of war in Germany’s favor, the introduction of the Me-262 changed air warfare forever. Its top speed was nearly 100 miles per hour faster than the best fighters the Allies had to offer and its armament of four 30mm cannons and 24 unguided rockets was devastating. So, it is no surprise that Evergreen wanted one for its collection, but of the 1,430 Me-262s built in World War II, only nine survived in museums and none were available. Then, this past spring came news that an exact reproduction, built by Legend Flyers of Everett, Washington was looking for a home.
Acquired in May by the Michael King Smith Foundation, the aircraft was delivered in two truckloads during the middle of June and assembled this week, in full view of the Museum’s visitors. A crew of four from Legend Flyers, including company president Bob Hammer worked on the project with the assistance of a number of Museum volunteers and staff. In the course of only three short days, they were able to assemble the aircraft like a large model kit and have it ready for public display. It was a marvel of organization and a joy to watch them work.
Now on display, “Yellow 5” is a non-flying reproduction of an Me-262, utilizing the same materials and construction techniques at the originals, built 65 years ago. (So accurate are Legend Flyers’ reproductions, that Messerschmitt supplied them Werke Numbers, as the last five machines off the production line.) It’s marked as an aircraft of Jadgeshwader 7 (11/JG-7) based at Brandenburg-Briest, flown by Leutnant Alfred Ambs in early 1945. While flying the Me-262, Ambs would become an ace, shooting down seven American B-17s and one P-51. It was in ”Yellow 5” that Ambs was shot down on March 24, 1945 while attacking a formation of B-17s. Caught by surprise by Earl “Squirrel” Lane, one of the Tuskegee Airmen, “Yellow 5” was riddled with bullets, one of which tore away Ambs’ oxygen mask. He bailed out at 17,000 and landed in a tree; breaking his kneecap and tearing ligaments in his leg. Luckily, Ambs had a chance to see “Yellow 5” before his death earlier this year, and was a key part of making sure its markings were correct.
With the addition of the Me-262, the Museum now has not only the biggest plane designed in World War II, but also the fastest. It stands as a tribute to those who pushed the envelope of flight, and ushered in the age of the jet.
For more on Legend Flyers and these amazing reproduction Me-262s, go to http://www.stormbirds.com/project/index.html.
By Amy Quick, Director of Membership
The short nights of June offer a magnificent array of beautiful astronomical alignments. Mars slips past Regulus, the brightest star of Leo, early in the month, with Venus moving past the twin stars of Gemini soon after. A partial lunar eclipse on the 26th of the month completes one of the best sky watching months of the year.
Mars, our next door neighbor named for the ancient Roman god of war, is the fourth planet from the sun. Mars is a bright reddish orange and owes its color to iron rich minerals in its soil. Aristotle was among the first known writers to describe observations of Mars, noting that, as it passed behind the Moon, it was farther away than was originally believed. In 1609, Mars was viewed by Galileo, who was first to see it via telescope.
Come learn more about this amazing planet, this Friday at the Museum.
Presentation – Mars 7:00 p.m. Evergreen Space Museum Presented By: John Cowens – NASA Ambassador to the Universe
For Kids – What Do Satellite Images Tell Us About Mars? 7:30 p.m. Evergreen Space Museum
Star Lab – Night Sky Orientation – 8:00 p.m. Evergreen Space Museum
Film – Hubble 3D – 9:00 p.m. Evergreen IMAX Theater
Star Gazing will occur in the parking lot behind the Space Museum when night falls – feel free to bring your lawn chairs, telescopes, or binoculars. Local astronomy groups will be on hand with their telescopes to help you find the wonders of the night sky.
By Kasey Richter, PR and Marketing Coordinator
One thing I’ve learned during my time at the Museum is how all-encompassing a person’s passion for aviation can be. Having had limited interaction with aviators throughout my life, it was a humbling experience to come into contact with the particular breed of person who lives for the thrill and the knowledge of the sky. No matter the aviator’s age, his or her eyes will light up when they walk through the Museum’s front doors at the sight of the massive Spruce Goose spreading its mighty wings over more than 100 unique aircraft.
Although it has a tendency to make me feel uneducated, one of my favorite things to do is walk around with visitors who have that true passion for aviation. They know intimate details of the various aircraft and engines that even after two years of working here, I would still need to double check with our curator on (who is one of these true aviation buffs who has yet to be stumped by any of the questions I’ve had).
Two weeks ago, I had the pleasure of hosting one of these special visitors. His name was Richard T. Nielsen and he was a lieutenant in the Air Force during World War II. He currently resides in the Friendship House, a Marquis Companies senior living facility that is specifically dedicated to people with Alzheimer’s.
Marquis has a special program (similar to that of the Make a Wish Foundation) that is designed to create opportunities that will inspire and bring joy to its residents during what can be some of the hardest times of their lives. One of Marquis’ wonderful staff members contacted me about hosting Richard for this program. She thought that Richard and his wife Mona (a resident of a different Marquis facility) would absolutely love to visit the Museum, and she hoped it would be a positive experience for both of them. The Museum staff thought it was a great idea as well.
So on March 26, Richard and Mona, along with a few Marquis staff members traveled out to the Museum to visit. Although I’ve walked around with many special visitors before, hosting Richard and the Marquis staff was one of the highlights of my experience here. We walked/wheeled through the entire facility until we reached the main event: the B-17 Flying Fortress. Richard had been a B-17 pilot, and had actually participated in one of the largest bombing raids of World War II while flying the Flying Fortress (if you would like to read an account he wrote of his mission, please click here). We made sure to take plenty of pictures of him in front of it, and the B-17 docents were absolutely thrilled to meet someone who loved the aircraft as much as they do.
At one point during his visit, I saw Richard in his wheelchair wave to a giggling toddler in her stroller. As I watched the two of them waving to each other for a few moments, it brought me back to the Museum’s mission statement: “To inspire and educate, to promote and preserve aviation and space history, and to honor the patriotic service of our veterans.” This Museum was built to honor people like Richard and the sacrifices he made for this country, as well as to inspire today’s youth to reach for the stars. It was in this moment with Richard and the little girl that I saw our mission statement take hold.
So although I was supposed to be creating a special experience for Richard and the Marquis staff, instead they created a special experience for me.
***A cute side note: Although Richard and Mona live in separate Marquis residences, a family member who owns a limo service picks Mona up each week to visit her husband at the Friendship House.
This interview took place with James Neihouse, director of photography and astronaut trainer for Hubble 3D, on April 3, 2010.
How did you get involved with IMAX?
I was lucky enough to work on my first IMAX film right out of film school. It was the IMAX Dome film OCEAN that was being made for the Ruben Fleet Space Theater in San Diego, Calif. I was working for a small production company in Santa Barbara that specialized in underwater film making. About two months after I graduated from Brooks Institute, a guy showed up on our door step with a honkin’ big camera and wanted to shoot an underwater film. As it turned out, it was Graeme Ferguson, one of the co-founders of IMAX. Well he wanted to dive occasionally to see what was being shot, this was before we had video assist capability on underwater cameras. He didn’t have much experience diving, so they brought me along on the shoots to keep an eye on him when he went in the water, and to be a grip, goofer and shark bait. I’ve been working on projects with Graeme ever since.
What is the most difficult thing (concept) to teach astronauts?
The astronauts pick up the technical aspects of the cameras really quickly – it’s what they do best. I think the most challenging part of our training process is getting them comfortable with the ascetics of filmmaking. Getting them used to the longer shot lengths that we like to have for IMAX is one of the toughest; I think that the thought of all the film going though the camera sort of intimidates them. We also have to get them to pay attention to how much they move the camera around; in space even IMAX cameras are weightless!
Describe the IMAX 3D cameras.
Well, the two strip camera is BIG and weighs about 260 pounds. It basically has two camera movements in one body and is about the size of a mini-bar refrigerator. Two rolls of film run through the camera at once. The camera uses two lenses to record the left and right “eye” images that are required to create the 3D effect.
The space cameras use a single strip of film, and record the left and right eye images side by side. These cameras were custom built for space flight, but we do use them on the ground, at least the ones designed for in cabin use. The 3D IMAX Cargo Bay Camera (ICBC-3D) is the real heavy weight of the group. In its shooting configuration it weighs up around 700 pounds. The film runs through these cameras at about 12’ per second, so the 5400’ of film we load into the ICBC-3D lasts only eight minutes, and it cannot be reloaded in space.
How does the cargo bay camera differ from the ones on the ground?
The ICBC-3D is enclosed in a special container that maintains a slight atmosphere. This atmosphere is required for the vacuum system that keeps the film flat during exposure. The IMAX frame is so large that it tends to buckle in the gate during exposure. While other cameras use a pressure plate to keep the film flat, with an IMAX frame we use the vacuum to suck the film flat against the pressure plate during exposure. The container has special two-way valves, called breather valves. These valves are calibrated to a specific pressure, about four psi for the ICBC-3D, and they allow the container to bleed down to that pressure during the ascent phase of the flight. During entry, they allow the increasing atmospheric pressure into the container so it doesn’t be come “vacuum sealed”. This is one reason why the camera cannot be reloaded in flight.
The camera “looks out” though a window in the container, that is a specially made pure quartz glass plate that is optically flat and about 18” by 20” in size – that’s 360 square inches of glass. All that glass is protected by a motorized door that is opened by the camera control computer operated by the astronauts on the flight deck. The door is sort of like a garage door, it runs up and down on little tracks.
The ICBC-3D control software is installed on a laptop and connected to the camera via an RS-422 connection. The software allows the astronauts to control focus, f/stop settings, lens changes, frame rate settings, run and stop the camera, as well as controlling the door. The computer also tracks the camera’s health, with temperature and voltage readings, motor counts on the stepper motors, container pressure, and film usage. All of this information is recorded to a file which can be down-linked through the shuttle’s computers.
Describe the set up day for the shuttle launch.
Setting up for a shuttle launch is not a single day process; it’s done in stages, beginning as much as six months prior to launch. We first have to determine where we want to put the cameras, then get permission from the engineers at NASA. Then some of those same engineers look over our hardware to make sure we’re not going to do any damage to the shuttle during launch. It’s a long process involving many meetings. Once we have all the approvals in place, we’re good to go. The specially built “launch boxes” are shipped to the space center first. Anything that is put on the launch pad, the best place for 3D, has to be installed at least a month in advance. Closer in to launch, the cameras and related support equipment is shipped in about a week to 10 days prior the launch. My crew and I assemble and check everything out ahead of going to the space center with the gear. We want to find any problems well ahead of time and before we’re out on a launch pad. About three days prior to launch we install all the cameras in their housings to do an end-to-end test. Our camera start signals originate from the launch control center and we like to have every thing hooked up, dress rehearsal style, at that time. About 30 hours prior to launch, we go out and load the cameras with film, install fresh batteries, and double and triple check everything. This is the last time we will see the cameras until after launch. I don’t like to load the film any sooner because of the heat in Florida. In the summer time, the inside of the camera housing can literally bake the film. Over the years I’ve developed a check list for each type of camera we shoot with. Some of the lists have more than 100 items on them and we follow the check lists religiously. It makes sleeping the night before launch much easier. Remember we don’t get second takes in this business! On launch day all we have to do is hope the weather cooperates, the shuttle launches and we can find our cameras after launch, and that they are in one piece.
What is your best astronaut training memory?
Apart from just having the honor to work with these incredible men and women, I guess I would say that my most memorable moments come when the crew and their families see the finished film for the first time. I have had more than one astronaut/cosmonaut tell me thank you for the movie because it takes me right back into space, it’s the next best thing to being there. After seeing Space Station 3D one cosmonaut gave me a big hug (I’d never been hugged by a Russian general before) and said “Thank you for taking me back to space, now I can go anytime! All I have to do is watch the movie!”