Monday, December 3, 2012

Rocket Launch Attempts and Their Many Uses

This post will review various space program "launch attempts" (e.g. rocket failures) in the context of the study of animation techniques, the history of the cold war, and as a short term anti-depressant.

A real test of a visual effects studio is its ability to both animate and light things like explosions, dust clouds and water, the classic effects animation topics.  There are a variety of reasons for this, and one of them is talent.  These types of phenomena come under the purview of the effects animator, a rare and usually undervalued skill.  The way to get around the talent problem, I have always found, is to use computational fluid dynamics to simulate the effect and thus substitute technology for talent.   For excellent real world examples of CFD animation and lighting, look no further than the space program launch attempts.  They are complicated, robust, generally show very interesting lighting (including internal lighting), happen in both night and day, and are well documented from several points of view simultaneously.   And best of all they are free, or almost free.

I have selected several sequences from a collection of such things that I bought years ago on DVD, an excellent collection of launch successes and failures from different points of view, with narration done by a member of a rocket club who seems to be knowledgeable about these launches.  Unfortunately, I can not remember the name of this rocket club that produced this collection, and I can not find them online, yet.  But when I do, I will post a link so that hopefully you can order your own copy should you wish to do so.

Continuing on the theme of animation technique, these launch attempts are excellent examples from the real world of both anticipation and follow-through.   We know that something bad is going to happen, we have to wait for it, and then when an explosion finally happens there is almost always a pause, then another explosion, bigger than the first, often flying debris, or a sense of falling, then another explosion.  This is part of what makes it interesting.  Compare and contrast this with a normal explosion as seen in a stupid movie (oops, I meant to say movie, not stupid movie, how silly of me) when an explosion just happens once, bang.   No, no, no.  What you want is an initial explosion, then another, then another, that sort of thing.  Second, notice the complexity and the additional layering of debris, often with very different momentum and physical characteristics than the initial or primary explosion.  E.g. the pieces that fly off a rocket and fall at their own rate.  This complexity adds authenticity.

A variety of launch attempts have been uploaded to Youtube and a few more are on the way.

Atlas Centaur Launch Attempt:

Moving on we now discuss the two related topics of the history of the cold war and of non-traditional anti-depressant technique.

During the cold war the Soviet Union was so presumptious as to attack our civilian space program, accusing it of being a transparent front for our military space program.  Years have passed and I have examined this charge and find that it is only 99% or so accurate: in fact our civilian space program was transparently a front for our military space program.  Our space program had several different purposes, of course, but first and foremost it was a deliberate way to take the high road on the competition for the hearts and minds of the people of the world in the context of the cold war between the two "civilizations".

Finally, in the larger context of finding ways to relieve the vast ennui and despair that afflicts so many of my friends (not me, of course), I find that watching rockets explode many times in a row is good for stress relief, similar to popping a lot of bubble wrap, for some unknown reason.   Its a short term relief, but it does seem to work both for me and for a few people I have tried it on.  Unfortunately to do that well, I have to get more examples online, and I will gradually do so.   (This is a continuation of a theme on non-traditional anti-depressant technology, which I first started in this post).

The Atlas rocket family on Wikipedia

The Atlas-Centaur on Wikipedia

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