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I know this hasen't anything to do with strings or music, but i'm sure that this is music to a lot of ears! Did you all see the lauch this morning in Florida? It was awesome. Very beautiful and breathtaking. We finally made it over a two-year hump. Let's hope and pray for a safe return home, too.

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Here in Australia I was really looking forward to this. It was unfortunate the launch was delayed. I watched the unedited launch video on MSN, and I noted down the various speeds and heights as they were read out by the commentators on the broadcast. I hope I noted them down accurately - sometimes they only read out speed or height but not both. Here they are (the times I have noted are elapsed time from lift off):

Speed and height of Shuttle "Discovery":

38 seconds: 12,000 feet.

1 minute: Speed = 900 mph, height = 9 miles

1 minute 39 seconds: Speed = 2,000 mph, height = 18 miles

2 minutes 3 seconds: Rocket boosters seperate

2 minutes 19 seconds: Speed = 3,000 mph, height = 30 miles

3 minutes 10 seconds: Speed = 4,500 mph, height = 48 miles

3 minutes 56 seconds: Speed = 5,500 mph, height = 59 miles

4 minutes 45 seconds: Speed = 6,700 mph, height = 65 miles

7 minutes 45 seconds: Speed = 14,800 mph

8 minutes 9 seconds: Speed = 16,000 mph

8 minutes 45 seconds: External fuel tank jettisoned.

Those figures are amazing, but what is equally amazing is how the vehicle simply continues to accelerate...and accelerate. It took about 49 seconds to accelerate from 5,500 mph to 6,700 mph, but a similar 1,200 mph speed increase from 14,800 to 16,000 mph only took 24 seconds. It looks like the acceleration was fairly consistent up to about 65 miles in height, then it kicked into another gear altogether

I did some quick maths. At the speed it got to when the tank jettisoned, it is the equivalent of going from my house to my mother's house in 8.4 seconds - a trip that takes me 59 minutes by car in no traffic

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  • 2 weeks later...

Top Fuel Dragster Trivia

One TF dragster's 500-inch Hemi makes more horsepower than the first 8 rows at

the Daytona 500.

Under full throttle, a dragster engine consumes 1 1/2 gallons of nitro per

second, the same rate of fuel

consumption as a fully loaded 747 but with 4 times the energy volume.

A stock hemi will not produce enough power to drive the dragster's supercharger.

Even with nearly 3000 CFM of air being rammed in by the supercharger on

overdrive, the fuel mixture is

compressed into nearly-solid form before ignition. Cylinders run on the verge of

hydraulic lock.

Dual magnetos apply 44 amps to each spark plug. This is the output of an arc

welder in each cylinder.

At stoichiometric (exact) 1.7:1 air/fuel mixture (for nitro), the flame front of

nitromethane measures 7050

degrees F.

Nitromethane burns yellow. The spectacular white flame seen above the stacks at

night is raw burning

hydrogen, dissociated from atmospheric water vapor by the searing exhaust gases.

Spark plug electrodes are totally consumed during a pass. After ½ way, the

engine is dieseling from

compression - plus the glow of exhaust valves at 1400 degrees F. The engine can

only be shut down by cutting

the fuel flow.

If spark momentarily fails early in the run, unburned nitro builds up in those

cylinders and then explodes with a

force that can blow cylinder heads off the block in pieces or split the block in


To exceed 300 mph in 4.5 seconds dragsters must accelerate at an average of over

4G's. But in reaching 200

mph well before 1/2 track, launch acceleration is closer to 8G's.

If all the equipment is paid off, the crew worked for free, and for once NOTHING

BLOWS UP, each run costs

$1000.00 per second.

Dragsters reach over 300 miles per hour before you have completed reading this


Top Fuel Engines turn ONLY 540 revolutions from light to light!

The redline is actually quite high at 9500rpm

The current TF dragster elapsed time record is 4.477 seconds for the quarter

mile (06/02/01 Kenny Bernstein)

Putting all of this in perspective:

You are driving an average Lingenfelter powered "twin-turbo" Corvette. Over a

mile up the road, a Top Fuel

dragster is staged and ready to launch down a quarter mile strip as you pass.

You have the advantage of a

flying start, but you still run the 'Vette hard up through the gears and blast

across the starting line and past the

dragster at an honest 200 mph. At this moment, the dragster launches and starts

after you. You keep your foot

hard down, but you hear an incredibly brutal whine that sears your eardrums and

within seconds the dragster

catches and passes you. He beats you to the finish line, a quarter mile away

from where you passed him. That,

folks, is acceleration.

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Of course the now outlawed rocket dragster was even faster accelerating again with a 3.58 second quarter mile record. Pity about the nose and ear bleeds each time the pilot lit the fuse.

Surely the ultimate scary ride would have to have been Colonel Dr. John Paul Stapp and his rocket sled. In 1954 he went from rest to 632 miles per hour in 5 seconds, then decelerated to a complete stop again within 1.4 seconds. Ufortunately a side effect of the 40G force was that he was temporarily blinded. His eyeballs had fused themselves into his eyelids. Oh well, nobody forced him to do it.

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Yes this was all fantastic, but when you recall how much money went into this you should have second thoughts. Humankind has learned more about the universe from unmanned space probes than all the manned ventures including the lunar ventures. IMHO,we should support exploration but avoid waistful, awesome spectacles that mascarade as advancements of knowledge.

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