Learning with a Tour Guide

In a past post, I wrote that museums would be the most fun if I'm with someone who understands the exhibits better than I. Today proved that theory correct.

I went to the Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama with my brother, an engineer who loves rockets. It was a delightful day. :)


I learned several things from him.  Here they are in no particular order:

  • Pluto has not yet traveled all the way around the sun since it was discovered.
  • The principle behind a rocket engine is simple. Just mix the fuel, ignite it if it's not hypergolic (self-igniting upon mixing), and direct the explosion so you attain thrust. It's just putting it into practice that's so complicated. 
  • One of those complications is the overheating and subsequent melting of the nozzle (engine bell; the cone shaped thing). The way they actively cool the nozzle is by constructing it out of many tubes which the liquid rocket propellant (either liquid oxygen or liquid kerosene in an F-1 engine) flows through before igniting in the combustion chamber.
  • A predecessor to the International Space Station was the American Skylab. It was fashioned out of the fuel tank of a stage from an unused Saturn V and was the largest station ever in orbit. (I entered a mockup; truly, it was massive.) After a time, it fell from orbit,  burned up a bit during re-entry, and scattered across the Australian outback. The country's government wasn't too happy about that and made America pay a fine for littering. XD
  • The holding tanks for the rocket fuel are cylindrically shaped with spherical ends because it's the best shape for supporting high amounts of pressure. There are no points under higher stress than others when a sphere is under pressure; all the pressure is evenly distributed. So if you want to hold more fuel than just a sphere could within a certain diameter, you stretch it into a cylinder.

That's all I can remember for now. My brain's kinda fried from the really full day.