Although I really did find a way to make space ships the size of ocean tankers, big enough to take hundreds of us throughout the solar system, the only product of my entire career struggle working in so-called "rocket science," was that people wanted to hear the story.
My discovery was of how to make a massive space transporter, but it would travel slow. My colleages had found how to make a much faster rocket, but it would be small and frail. We were at odds because we did not realize that we were different, one trying to make the fastest space ship, the other trying to make the most massive transport. We struggled against each other. The real struggle was with the rest of us. The rest of us know we are the wrong species. Our schemes all cost far too much. And there seems to be no hope of any way to make a clear profit from space.
We would inhabit, occupy, move minor planets and other celestial objects.
These autobiographic stories actually happened, uses the real names and
real events, and is not sci-fi.
Cheek on a Megaton
Make no long term plans
Emory's Atomic bomb stories
Vomit in the Space Ship
NASA meeting on space and asteroids
First International Meeting On Killer Asteroids
The ice would burn
Bloody Fingernails in Space
seriously crazy rocket science meeting
Space Gas Stations Everywhere
Hazard meeting with Carl Sagan
Survival_Of The Lucky
Clear Cutting the Kuiper Belt Comets
space aliens 10 miles under ...
Meteor Bomb UFO's
The Iceship And The NASA Space Meeting
To Inhabit the Solar System
Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/11/15/zuppero_solar_system/
Zuppero's zingy tale of space travel and bonkers weaponry
Posted in Space, 15th November 2009 10:02 GMT
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Book review The best mad scientist autobiography this year, perhaps the only one, is Tony Zuppero's To Inhabit the Solar System. Better still, it's free and in time for holiday reading. It's a long but definitely not windy 391 pages.
In it, Zuppero confirms everything - bad, weird, insane, amusing or simply astonishing - you might have always suspected about US government crazy weapons and the world of aerospace.
"Tony Zuppero, one of [a few] would-be nuclear rocketeers, tells those stories as he recalls them, with sometimes alarming candor, humor, and disappointment," opined Steve Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists after linking to the memoir on his secrecy blog.
Zuppero's dream begins in 1968 with the scientist inspired by one of Freeman Dyson's well-traveled crackpot ideas - that of powering a spaceship to the nearest star at one per cent of the speed of light, using atomic bombs. (Sci-fi authors Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle famously employed one in their alien invasion novel, Footfall.)
Working for a government lab, Zuppero asks to view the classified plans, called Orion, for the Dyson space ship.
"I was scrutinizing the drawing [of the space ship]," he writes. "It showed a really dinky and clearly horribly inefficient atomic bomb propulsion device. Nothing like what Freeman Dyson drew... The design seemed to be really dumb, like something one of my fraternity brothers would draw up inbetween periods of getting drunk."
With the bloom only slightly off the rose, Zuppero visits a bunker full of thermonuclear bombs to see the basis for his dream's propulsion. But the bombs are way too big, he observes, and there's no way to get three million of them on a spaceship to the stars. Freeman Dyson should have seen the bomb room, Zuppero writes.
continue his work on the Orion rocket, Zuppero needs it justified by
to weapons analyses. A boss first asks if it's possible to tow an
nuclear reactor behind an airplane so it spews radioactivity over the
it be possible to blow up the entire
would be 5000 megatons or more, something the weapons shops of the
The technical dilemma was how to get it there fast. Using even more atomic bombs.
The reader immediately sees where this is going. Impractical.
Zuppero is blunt, often humorously so, immediately describing one of his bosses as a Nazi. The scientist is so frank because he is an "Aspie", he explains - "Autistic, Like Mongoloids and Other Weird People" according to one subchapter. Likening himself to Mr Spock, he concedes that he sometimes says things which are inappropriate.
In the context of the book, it is a bit of an understatement.
After this preamble, Zuppero is "fired" into a job on spy satellites, one meaningless to his undying goal, to design a rocket which can get out into the solar system.
To do this, Zuppero needs fuel and gas stations in space, and the answer to that is water. With a nuclear-heated steam rocket, he can travel the solar system, filling up at near Earth comets. He even provides a map of them.
This puts him in contact with more interesting people, in particular the delightfully named Crazy Roger, a colonel in the US Air Force who pays Zuppero for an analysis based on his rocket idea.
Roger was head of Timber Wind, a special Strategic Defense Initiative project to build nuclear-powered rockets. The Federation of American Scientists uncovered Timber Wind in the early Nineties and the outcry over it - including a proposed test launch out of Vandenberg which, if it misfired, could potentially toss a nuclear reactor into New Zealand - eventually killed it.
It is retold in the chapter, "Crazy Roger's Secret Nuclear Rocket". In effect, this was a flying nuclear reactor, one that some assumed would be an orbiting radioactive garbage scow, raining down waste in places with unfortunate luck.
Even though space travel of the kind dreamed about decades ago had died, To Inhabit The Solar System is perfectly suited for movie-making, possibly as art house fare.
Replete with unusual characters and characterizations, good portions of it are laugh out loud funny, sometimes unintentionally so. One learns that being in space is a bummer, spaceships a bit like combined orbiting vomitoriums/outhouses.
"This is not sci-fi," Zuppero tells readers right off.
Zuppero presents the reader with a collection of photos of ice moons he thinks humans could inhabit but believes "we are still the wrong species": it's too expensive and "we're broke". In the end the dream passes him by, but he clearly had a hell of a time chasing it.
You can read To Inhabit The Solar System here (pdf) (http://www.neofuel.com/inhabit/inhabit.pdf).
Daniel Abraham, author
http://danielabraham.com/, wrote most of this about Anthony and his
An Aspie Story: To Inhabit the Solar System
Anthony Zuppero was recently diagnosed to
be an "Aspie", "on the Autistic spectrum" with Asperger's Syndrome. Now
a semi-retired rocket
scientist, with a PhD in solid state physics he had worked for the US Department of Energy national laboratories and large aerospace companies, and spearheaded teams investigating how humanity could not just visit the solar system but occupy it. He hyperfocused on the potential of near earth objects: neos.
With typical IQ above 130, Aspies hyperfocus. About 0.5% are Aspies: "different," are often irreverent, socially inappropriate, difficult to work with, charming, annoying, discover artistically elegant solutions -- quite like Spock of Star Trek. These symptoms have both served him and undermined his work.
Anthony hyperfocused on ways to harness the unexpected and abundant forms of water in the neo's. He discovered how to use small, nuclear-heated steam rockets to propel spaceships the size of supertankers. His spaceships would reach and colonize the nearly two dozen giant ice moons in the solar system. He envisioned humanity travelling a thousand people at a time between the planets in cheap, slowly spinninig ice-igloos. He would leverage the peculiar orbits of the abundant neo's to divert asteroids and comets from killer collisions with earth, using steam rockets and without nuclear warheads.
His speeches and presentations on his work consistently transfixed audiences who pestered him with incessant questions. But when he approached mainstream colleagues, his often poor reception perplexed him. Aspie interfered. His steam rockets were slow and cheap. Theirs were fast, flashy, technologically superior, and wildly unaffordable compared to his. Perplexed, he explained with precise detail to deaf ears how his could enable humanity to afford to inhabit the solar system. He accessed the White House, Congress, the Pentagon, directors of national laboratories. But he could not move these mere neurotypicals.
As is typical of people with Asperger's Syndrome, he went from step one to step ten, assuming that the neurotypicals listening were equally smart and would therefore see the logic of omitted steps. His work therefore sometimes sounded like mere fiction and speculation - the work of a crank instead of a professional scientist. Literally unaware of social cues, Anthony rigorously detailed the calculations, but apart from a few equally rigorous minds, he couldn't persuade neurotypicals and his NASA competitors to act.
Equally a modern Cassandra and a character from a Philip K. Dick novel, Anthony's autism gave him the ability to see and understand this narrow technical field in uncanny depth and simultaneously robbed him of the social skill to make his case. Unruffled, Aspies often work for their own satisfaction, like artists. Asperger's autism made him an excellent engineering and science visionary with a long and illustrious career, and afforded him a glimpse of a possible future in which mankind shrugged off gravity and mastered the whole solar system. The autism denied him the social skills to convince "neurotypicals" that the key to mankind's next great expansion were there before them.
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