Raw eggs hurtle toward earth. Our lunar descent vehicles promise soft landings. Of course, we lose a few good eggs along the way.
Big Red Dan was the first to go. Never even made it out of the living room. One short drop from shoulder height in his 12-straw craft, plus inner capsule, pushed his insides out all over our marble floor.
RIP, Big Red Dan. Test piloting always was a risky business, as Tom Wolfe proved in The Right Stuff.
Next to perish, Big Dan II. We have reason to believe he survived the drop from the first floor in his cup-on-cup capsule, landing softly on a jungle thicket below. But by the time Mission Control arrived for recovery, only his chute remained.
MIA, Big Dan II.
Then success. Big Dan III, AKA Dan’s Last Dance, pulled off three missions with nary a scratch: first floor; fifth floor; seventeenth floor. The balloon-in-chute design kept his craft steady in the buffeting winds as he drifted toward the gardens below.
This Captain’s Blog recounts just three capsule designs. The boys at Mission Control designed and built many more over a two-day period, most of them successful. Four balloons on a paper plate; a three-balloon suspension; a two-balloon suspension when balloon three failed… This last lodged out of bounds until a wind knocked it down. Hairline fracture despite a Saran-wrap jacket.
What to do when school is out and the world is shuttered? Establish Mission Control, run a week of Space Camp, and learn about soft landings before testing propulsion and ascent.