Saturday, January 26, 2013

So, the first known rocket was a land shark (a.k.a. a ground rat)

Land shark - The condition in which a rocket, for whatever reason, fails to attain air flight and slides along the ground under power.
Credit: Harry Campbell/Smithsonian
The February 2013 issue of Smithsonian Magazine has a short article about the search for the first rocket: The History of Rocket Science - When was the first-ever rocket built? (The print title is The Little Bang - Researchers have now identified the first rocket ever built: the ground rat.) In his article, Jimmy Stamp, reports on the efforts of ex-rocketry curator Frank Winter's research on the origins of Chinese rocketry.

It is believed that gunpowder was accidentally invented in the 9th century by alchemists who were searching for the recipe for immortality. While blowing themselves up and thus demonstrating their failure on that account, they also eventually stumbled on the concept of propulsion. It appears that the first documented rocket was flown in the late 12th century. The ti lao shu (ground rat) was a bamboo chute filled with gunpowder that would merely zip around on the floor.

I think that, from now on, I'll refer to 'land shark' flights as 'ground rats'!

No comments:

Post a Comment