Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Four-Score Wednesday: Air Wonder Stories, March 1930

(click on image on the left for a 150dpi jpg file of the cover)

Air Wonder Stories, Volume 1, Number 9, March 1930. Published February 10, 1930.

On the Cover This Month
is shown a scene from Edward E. Chappelow's story, "The Return of the Air Master." We see the Air Master's craft cutting a neat hole through the roof of a building and drawing up some of its contents by means of his gravity nullifying ray. The airship is surrounded by a haze of its own making.

Hell, what's special about that? Sometimes I'm surrounded by a haze of my own making, and no one's thrilled about that. Still, that description does make the Air Master sound like the Borg of his day.

The Aviation News of the Month column features this that you may have heard about a certain landmark then in the planning stages:

Skyscraper to Have Mooring Mast

The new Empire State Building, which will rise on the site of the old Waldorf Astoria on Fifth Avenue, in New York City, is to be equipped with a mooring mast for dirigibles. The new building is projected by a company headed by former Governor Smith, of New York, who was the Democratic candidate in the last presidential election.

According to aeronautical experts, a mooring mast atop a skyscraper is perfectly feasible. The 1,300-foot building will have to have special changes made in its steel structure, in order to withstand the strain of a 1,000-foot airship swinging in the wind. The plans for making a great building immediately accessible to an airship point the way to the city of the future, in which passengers will disembark from an air liner, and be at their destination in a very few minutes.

Yes, that spire was meant to be functional. Another item in the column turned out, sadly, to be even less in accord with eventual reality.

Goddard's Rocket to Explore Outer Space

R.L. Duffus, writing in the New York Times, describes Professor Goddard's plans for exploring some of the mysteries of outer space. Goddard plans to use a rocket twelve feet long and a foot and a half in diameter, which will be shot from a sixty-foot steel tower at Camp Devens Massachusetts.

The Goddard rocket is the first one known to make successful use of liquid fuel. The latest one is expected to go straight up for several miles and to return to the vicinity from which it was sent; the important test of the flight is the ability of the rocket to return intact. One rocket was released with a camera and a barometer, and the delicate instruments were not injured in the descent to earth. There is every reason to believe that a rocket could be sent thousands of miles into space and return without injury to its equipment. It may be possible to send one to the moon; but, according to the article, there would be no possibility of its returning to earth.

In its present form the Goddard rocket is a steel cylinder tapering toward the top and bearing a pointed cap. This cap is equipped with an automatic parachute, easily opened. When the rocket returns to earth it will be retarded by the parachute in exact proportion to the density of the atmosphere it strikes.

The speed which is expected to be attained is 8,000 feet a second, or about 5,500 miles an hour--a speed not only within the realm of possibility, but absolutely necessary for interplanetary exploration.

As though "possible" and "necessary" always go together. As it happened, the top speed reached by Robert H. Goddard's rockets was 550 MPH, with a top altitude of 9000 feet. (A vital part in the development of rocketry all the same, of course, but not nearly what Goddard had hoped.)

For some reason, I'm highly amused by the name of the regular letters column:

Or maybe I just had one too many bowls of Goofy Flakes this morning. Anyway, in that column this month appears the letter of one Henry L. Hasse, later a science fiction writer himself, with an interesting assessment of one of his future colleagues:

In your January issue you invite the opinions of your readers in regard to Edmond Hamilton's stories. Altogether, taking into consideration the stories of Hamilton's which I have read in your magazine and in others, I must agree with Mr. Jacoby that they are all alike. Every one of them has the same old plot worked over again. Still, do not by any means stop publishing his stories... for I know his stories make interesting reading even if they do have the same plot.

I guess that's the good old, good old same old, same old.

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