Dr. Richard Holdaway’s Journeys Through Space & Time

The first of the College of Engineering six-part speaker series

On Nov. 7, 2019, Dr. Richard Holdaway started a six part series, which will go through March of next year, partnered with Embry-Riddle’s College of Engineering to cover the Global Space Program, the stars, planets, comets, asteroids, care of the Earth, climate change, and future space missions. Holdaway wanted to make sure his audience was not intimidated by these vast topics because he has discussed them with people of all ages. He encouraged his audience to bring their friends and families who would be interested in learning more about our world along with its involvement in the uncertainty of the known space.

The first of the series was titled The Space Programme & The “Right Stuff”: 500 BC to 2019 AD, which gave the opinion of when the origin story of the space race started. Some suggest it started with the Chinese according to Holdaway. He says “they realized something special about [bamboo] trees, they are almost hollow inside, but it is segmented with layers. If the trees were set [vertically upward] in a fire, the air inside the first segment would get very hot and eventually the diaphragm at the bottom would burst [realizing hot air from the bottom] which would make it shoot up into the sky. They then realized it could be turned into a weapon if a spear was attached to the bamboo and used to hunt. About 500 years after that, the Chinese started adding gunpowder to make it go a lot further.” 

Others say it was 1911 in Brussels with Ernest Solvay who united some of the most brilliant mathematicians, physicists, and chemists of the time to look at specific scientific questions and proceeded to meet annually after that. Collectively at the first meeting, they all believed the scientific community would be advanced enough in 50 years that humans could make it into space.

In the 1920’s rockets had begun to be designed and tested but had only made in a couple miles high. It was hypothesised that objects would need to be going at least five miles per second to get into orbit at about 4,000 to 22,000 miles above the surface of the Earth depending on what the purpose would be for.

Then after World War II, things within the space race started to escalate, satellites such as Sputnik and Explorer 1 was launched into orbit. About 49 years after the Brussels meeting, Yuri Gagarin was the first human in space and Holdaway praised the group for how accurate their prediction was. The Soviet Union and the United States were neck and neck during the space race until the Apollo Lunar Landing with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. Holdaway wanted it to be clear that the most vital tool in these astronauts’ tool belt was that they were highly trained engineers which saved them as they did things no one has ever done before.

Some more modern innovations were aircraft like Voyager 1 and 2 were made for long distance travel and still work in the present day. Then there was work with the International Space Station (ISS) and shuttle systems which had astronauts stay in space.

The most recent problems that are being worked on are cutting the cost of space flight, protecting the human race (whether that is going to another planet or defending against asteroids), and preventing errors in space. Technological innovations target these issues with hopes of safer and more efficient existence including within space travel.