Ok, letís kick this piggy and see if it squeals. (Sorry my non-Yank friends, this thread is U.S. centric in nature)
As a kid this 1889 engraving by Adolf Vollmy of the 1833 Leonids meteor shower enthralled me. About a dozen times each year the Earth will pass through the trail of a returning comet (the most recent event, The Orionids, is debris from Halleyís Comet) and you can typically see between 5 and 60 meteors per hour depending upon which cometís path is being crossed.
However, maybe once every hundred years the path will be littered from a massive steam eruption on the comet with thousands of sand to pebble-sized stones that fall to Earth in the manner shown above. Sadly, nobody can tell you when the next such event will occur.
So why donít we just make it so???
∑ Most meteoroids are sand to pebble-sized stones that burn up due to friction between 70 and 40 miles above the planet.
∑ Whipping out a little Pythagoras
Given an Earth radius of 3963 miles and then adding 60 more miles to c we can solve for b. Thus a meteor burning at 60 miles above the earth would be visible on a perfectly smooth and clear horizon at 693 miles distant. Yet, most horizons arenít perfectly smooth or clear. So if we spread a debris field headed for Earth over say 100 miles diameter we can have some meteors higher in the sky at the 693 mile mark. Further since many will ignite nearer 70 miles above the epicenter, you will see some even higher still. Finally, if we shrink the stated range of good viewing to 600 miles radius, then we can ensure a viewer at that distance with a cloud free sky can see a good portion of the meteors.
Thus, the proposal: Is Project 4 Corners of Freedom worth running up somebodyís Flag Pole?
Just prior to the holiday season of 2010-2011, a Delta 2 rocket would send the 4 corners platform loaded with its 4 busting shells (Named: East, West, North, and South) to a height of 22000 miles above the equator at approximately 98 degrees West Longitude and park it in GeoStaionary Orbit above that point. The platforms mortars would be tilted northward to view the United States curving around the globe. There are two 10-day windows during the holiday period when the moon would be well below the horizon at 10 pm local time at the four various epicenters. (Nov. 28 to Dec. 8 and Dec. 28 to Jan. 7) When weather conditions are predicted to favor a coverage area, a 48-hour warning will be issued followed by a 24-hour confirmation that the Bursting shell for said area will the fired. However, only one shell should be fired any given nightÖ thus allowing for researchers, news media, and the interested to view all 4 events.
Thus, ground control would aim the platform in the proper direction and ignite the proper shells slow start launch system SS LS (this would minimize recoil and the need for extreme use of station-keeping Pitch/Yaw/Roll thrusters) to start it towards the proper epicenter. At the proper time to achieve a 100-mile spread at 70 miles above the epicenter, the SS LS would explode a small separation charge that would fling off the cover, and since the contents were pack at one atmosphere, said would hurl forth with gusto. If the timing and proper propellant loads are used in East and West, then the empty shells can go on to make nice fireballs over upper New England and North-West Washington/ Lower Alaska respectively. After the platformís Mortars are spent, it would fire a small rocket to make for a nice fireball over Hawaii.
PAYING FOR IT:
Iím going to pull a figure out of my ass of say $200 Million to get this bird in the air. This is based on the notion that a Delta 2 is going to cost nearer $100 Million than $55 Million, and that NASA would provide off the shelf hardware and support on the cheap to help build a make-do platform to last 2 months in space. The SS LS is the only parts that would have to be of special and accurate design.
Thus, since the greatest value of this venture is recreational (as in the Best Fire-Works Evar!), then four Corporate Sponsors should pay the Lionís Share of the tab and receive the goodwill due for hosting a region where they are a powerhouse. They would also have the honor of the bolide, or exploding Fireball, streaking towards Earth alternating between their corporate colors brighter than the full moon. With the number I pulled out my ass, I think it reasonable that they should pay $40 Million each (Since they will pay $1 Million for 10 seconds of Super-Bowl air time)
The bursting shells can be up to 3 feet in diameter and six feet long and would hold tons, however, I would start with a notion of two hundred pounds of debris for each shell
Figuring a 30-pound corporate fireball is a big plenty; my initial notion is to fill each bursting shell with an additional 170 pounds of debris. This would allow every state to pack two pounds of sand and pebble-sized sample of the minerals they are renowned for in each shell. In this way, the sky would be filled with every color of the rainbow. And of the remaining 70 pounds, 50 pounds of space would be sold to various Organizations with Outreach/Awareness budgets @ $1000 per ounce for a total of $800000. The other 20 pounds of space would be sold to minor corporate sponsors @ $122500 per ounce for a total of $39200000. Thus, filling out our $200 Million dollar budget.
Any savings in the 3000 pounds allotted for the platform could be doled out as more sand and pebble-sized debris in each of the shells.
As already noted, this is obvious and the reason Corporate America should pay for / reap the rewards for the feel-good event of the decade.
This is why NASA should offer everything they can on the cheap. The 10 PM event time will ensure that school age children can be part of this experience and thus weíll inspire a whole generation in a more visceral way than even watching Neil Armstrong on TV set foot on the moon did for their grandparents. Adults and Lawmakers will be more inclined to favor bigger budgets for NASA, and the awesomeness of the fireball will add traction to those who want the government to empower NASA to seek out and divert/destroy any 10-mile wide rocks that might be headed our way.
A small fraction of the budget will go to setting up a website that would illuminate all of the sponsors and State offerings with an emphasis on Americana.
Animated predictions will display what each of the various offerings should look like as it burns away 60 miles up. Example: A Native American Tribe in one of the regions might offer an ancient Arrowhead to honor their ancestors. Their peopleís story would be offered as a web page at the site. Their Flint Arrowhead will burn one color while another tribeís quartz arrowhead will burn another.
There may be some limited science concerns that can be planned upon for research, yet moreover, nearly anything we have shot into space for the first time has serendipitously offered up new knowledge or insights.
∑ What sorts of corporate wares would you like to see torched?
I fancy the Idea of an orange burning cardboard tube give way to hundreds of Blue-Green Daisy BBs
∑ What sorts of wares would you want what Outreach/Awareness Organizations to torch?
∑ What minerals should each state send?
∑ Should we go international and mix in a bit of Jade from China or Industrial Diamonds from South Africa?
∑ Who should be the regional powerhouses asked to sponsor the fireballs?
The Big Dog at NASAís JPL in charge of mission planning for anything dealing with meteor showers is David C, Agle. Should I fly this up his Flagpole and see if he will amuse us with some Cold Hard Numbers and some Cold Hard Facts about Feasibility???
ÖOr am I just really delusional at the moment???
NOTE: Simulposted @ INTPc