Early voyage to the moon. Some slight design issues here... (1)

Since the early days of human intelligence the dream of flying and the idea that we are not alone in this universe has possessed the human mind. In the second century AD the Greek writer Lucian describes a trip to the moon in his book Vera Historia, in which Lucian’s ship is caught in a storm and lifted into the sky by a waterspout. After 7 days and nights of spiralling upwards he lands on the moon and finds a cultivated land full of extraterrestrial inhabitants…

While history is laden with such fanciful accounts of human flight, imaginative engineers like the polymath Leonardo DaVinci conjured much more realistic designs. Most of early inspiration about human flight revolved around imitations from the biological world, especially birds. Brave ancient and medieval men fashioned feathered wings and met with the unsuccessful and often lethal consequences of jumping of towers, roofs and cliffs while flapping their makeshift wings vigorously. Over time the idea of strapping a pair of wings to your arms gave way to a more mechanical approach. Wings were now mounted to the back of the aviator and powered by a mechanism connected to the arms and feet. These devices have become to be known as ornithopters and Leonardo DaVinci designed a vast number of these, albeit with limited success, in the 15th century. In retrospect human flight by flapping was doomed from the start due to the low ratio of arm and back muscle power to body weight. Some of the more and less ambitious designs are shown in the Gallery below.

The modern airplane as we know it today has its origins in the research conducted by the British scientist, engineer, philosopher and Member of Parliament Sir George Cayley between 1799 and 1810. He build a series of whirling-arm apparatus to measure the lift and drag of different airfoil sections (i.e. the first wind-tunnel), which he mimicked from dissected wings of birds and fluid-dynamic profiles of fish and dolphins published in the paper On Aerial Navigation. His most famous work Sir George Cayley’s Governable Parachutes of 1852 provides a description of a glider with almost all the features that can be found on a modern airplane. In this paper Cayley proposed the first fixed wing concept for lift, a cruciform tail for stability and separate paddling mechanism (not very successful!) for propulsion. In 1853 Cayley built the first human-carrying glider launching it for several hundred yards from his home roof with his coachman as pilot. After barely surviving the abrupt crash landing his shaken coachmen terminated the employment…

Cayley's The Boy Carrier, 1853 (7)



Article largely based on [9]

[1] http://curvebank.calstatela.edu/swan/swan.htm

[2] http://www.explorecrete.com/mythology/images/icarus-daedalus.jpg

[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Leonardo_da_Vinci_helicopter.jpg

[4] http://wanderling.tripod.com/fly6.jpg

[5] http://wanderling.tripod.com/fly1.jpg

[6] http://www.flyingmachines.org/lilienEE.jpg

[7] http://www.ctie.monash.edu.au/hargrave/images/cayley_1849_triplane_500.jpg

[8] http://lh5.ggpht.com/_NNjxeW9ewEc/TNI8RSCNowI/AAAAAAAAPwE/hezLBePlC_E/tmpC426_thumb14.png

[9] Lock, G.D. (01. 2009). “Fluid Mechanics with a Historical Perspective”. University of Bath. Bath, UK

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