Friday, November 23, 2012

The Airship Legacy - Part 12

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            At the close of the 1970s, it was becoming obvious to those in charge of ZGI, BAW and CAW that the jetliner would eventually become more practical form of passenger air travel, simply due to the increased speed of the jetliners. At a special industry meeting in Friedrichshafen in 1979, they all agreed that they should start pushing cargo shipping via airship, along with tourism and research, and move away from relying solely on passenger carrying like they had in the past.
            One of the biggest saviors of the British airship industry was the outbreak of the Iran War, and the expansion of the powers of the Central Security Police. Prior to this, the fascist government in the United Kingdom had been less than supportive of the airship industry, and had made repeated cuts to the research budget for BAW, and had been downsizing the British Naval Airship Corps. When Mosley and the BUF first took power, there had been serious discussion by the government of closing down the BAW. Mosley considered the airship an “un-British” invention, and supported early research into jet engines for civilian and military use. However, in 1969, as the powers of the Central Security Police began to expand, it was pointed out that the airship could be used to monitor the populace from the air, so Mosley and his cohorts let up on their anti-airship agenda, and ordered a whole new class of airship be built by the BAW for the Central Security Police.
By 1978, there had been serious talk of disbanding the Naval Airship Corps altogether, but these ideas were swept aside after war broke out in Iran. The military soon realized that the naval airships made ideal scouts for the army, as well as for launching fighter aircraft close to the enemy. And since the Iranians had no real air force to speak of, the airships were almost immune to enemy attack, except when landing and taking off. In 1981, the British government actually ordered the expansion of the airship corps, and the Royal Army also began use of airships to haul cargo and personnel to the battle zones.
The American airship program also benefited from the Iran War, with an expansion of the US Naval Airship Fleets, and 40 new cargo airships for the Army. This exposed a whole new generation to the importance of the Airship program for the military, and boosted the interests of many young boys who saw the airships flying overhead, just like it had in the 1930s. It also helped that President Bush was a big supporter of the airship program, and refused to fly by jet plane. The completion of the USS Eagle II in 1986 helped boost the image of the airship even further. The Eagle II was the most sophisticated airship when it was launched. The president could literally run the country from the air, thanks to satellite communication technology that had never made it’s way to the ship’s predecessor, which became a museum in 1987. The ship had modern radar, computers that could communicate with the nation’s budding military computer network, along with the ability for reporters to broadcast live from the ship. PanAm quickly converted this new model, called the Golden Eagle Class, for civilian use on the major transatlantic routes, replacing several older classes of Goodyear-Zeppelin airships.
-Anderson, Dr. Alexander. The Modern Zeppelin. New York: Colombia University Press: 2009.

BERLIN, APRIL 1- The Imperial Government has confirmed that the Imperial Rocket Force’s Warner von Braun A-21 Rocket launched this morning from Peenemunde and has started it’s 7 month journey from Earth to Mars. On board the rocket are cosmonauts Heinrich Frank (brother to German actress Anne Frank), Otto Reichmann, Adolf Mueller, and Rudolph Schultz. This first mission, if successful will be followed up within a year or so with a larger mission to establish a more permanent presence on the Red Planet.
            The 77-year-old Kaiser Louis Ferdinand I declared in a televised address this morning that “The sacrifices of the past decade, and all the misfortunes the IRF have suffered, have today been set to rights. Today our brave cosmonauts are headed towards Mars, and will become the first human beings to set foot on another planet. We should all feel proud that our Empire has been able to bring about the technical and scientific expertise to make this expedition possible. To the men and women of the IRF, know that the entire German nation salutes you this day.” Germans from all walks of life seem very interested in this feat of science. In schools across the nation, teachers have left behind their normal lessons and are talking about space exploration, and many class rooms have set up bulletin boards to monitor the progress of the Warner von Braun rocket, which will be reporting in regularly with the IRF Control Center in Peenemunde.
            In Washington, President King congratulated the Germans in an official statement released by the White House. “Germany has embarked on a brave and impressive journey today, the likes of which have not truly been seen since Christopher Columbus set out to cross the Atlantic. The United States congratulates the German people and especially the scientists at Peenemunde, and I can honestly say that I will be closely following all developments concerning mankind’s first expedition to another world with much interest, and I look forward to seeing images coming from the Red Planet in November when the Warner von Braun reaches it’s destination, and also look forward to the day when our own cosmonauts will make the same journey.”
“Germans Launch Mars Rocket!” The New York Times, April 2, 1984.

            The entire world tuned in on November 2, 1984, when German cosmonaut Heinrich Frank became the first human being to set foot on the surface of Mars. The grainy image, suffering about a 10-minute delay, showed Frank and his other space explorers walk off the Mars Lander and make the first human footprints on Martian soil. As Frank walked forth from the craft and planted the German flag in the red soil of this new planet, he said “Like the countless explorers from centuries past, myself and my crewmates have come to Mars in search of it’s mysteries and secrets, its riches and resources, and above all, the chance to start a new way of life and enhance our understanding of this universe.” Millions of people from all over the planet watched as the cosmonauts explored the planet, and sent back daily video broadcasts that were carried on the air by not only the KDF in Germany, but by television stations in nearly every nation on Earth. Even in the United Kingdom, which was doing it’s best to play down the German’s achievement, had daily coverage. And just like when Rudolph Nollert stepped onto the surface of the moon twenty years before, a “space fever” swept through the West. In Germany, Britain, and the United States, every little boy (and many little girls) wanted to be a cosmonaut when they grew up.  When the three space explorers returned in early July 1985, they were greeted by their countrymen as heroes, and would tour Germany talking about Mars. The IRF would return to Mars in 1987 with a 35-person crew with the mission to set up a permanent settlement, which was named Von Braun Base.
            In 1989, the Germans would also join the United States on the moon with a permanent base called New Peenemunde. When the British launched the E-18 rocket and landed their first “astronauts” on the moon on June 11, 1990, it was decided that a formal agreement was needed to regulate moon exploration and territorial claims. In October of 1990, officials and scientists from the Untied States, Germany, and the United Kingdom met in Frankfurt to hammer out an agreement. On October 22, 1990, the Treaty of Frankfurt was signed, which divided up portions of the moon’s surface between the three countries, and left the rest under joint jurisdiction for the time being, with the option to give the remaining territory to one of the three countries or a new country in the future. At that point in time, there were nearly 2,000 Americans living on the moon, and nearly 450 Germans. The British would set up a permanent settlement in 1991.
            America would join the Germans on Mars in May of 1990, taking only 6 months to travel from Earth. The first American mission consisted of 50 cosmonauts, with orders to set up a permanent settlement on Mars. It had been six years since Germany had first traveled to the Red Planet, and there were nearly 500 Germans living on the surface when the 50 Americans arrived and founded New Philadelphia Base. Though the British would start a Mars Exploration Program, the unstable political climate of the 1990s would derail any attempt at placing the Union Jack on Mars, and when the BUF lost power at the end of that decade, funding for the British Space Agency was cut nearly in half, and it is unclear at this point whether or not the British will go to Mars anytime in the near future.
-Williams, Dr. Andrew, Space Exploration in the 21st Century. New York: Random House Publishing. 2003.
            In 1983, in the midst of soaring gas prices that seemed to have no end in sight, Ford Motor Company announced that they would have a viable non-gasoline powered car ready for production by 1985. And they delivered. In 1985, FMC released the Ford Independence, a hydrogen/electric powered car. And working investors, Ford sponsored the creation of  Hydron Fuel Company, to set up hydrogen fuel stations throughout the United States. Within 5 years, GMC would release it’s own hydrogen powered car, and HFC had stations nearly coast to coast.
            Most environmentalists agree that the development of alternative fuel cars was the single good by-product of the Iran War. And it’s hard to argue with them. Today, nearly half of all cars on the road in the United States are hydrogen powered, and the trend is catching on worldwide. Several experts believe that, barring any unforeseen events, hydrogen-powered vehicles will completely replace their gas-powered counterparts by 2030, or 2050 at the latest.
-“The Power of the Sun under the Hood,” American Automotive, May 2005

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