History of Space Flight
Spring Quarter 2013

Prof. James Schombert
Office: 461 Willamette, 6-5214
Office Hours: 9-10am MWF (or check my schedule and drop in during a blank time)
email: jschombe@uoregon.edu

Course Description:

The history of exploration is a series of examples of humankind breaking physical barriers using new technology. Whether it be the next valley, over the mountain range or across the ocean; it has been the development of the wheel, domestication of animals and the sailing vessel that has allowed the adventurer to explore. The last barrier to our civilization is the gravitational well of our planet that stands between us and outer space. Even Socrates (500 B.C.) was aware of the importance of space flight when he said ``Man must rise above the Earth - to the top of the atmosphere and beyond - for only thus will he fully understand the World in which he lives''.

This course will be a historical review of the people and technology involved in the exploration of outer space. While normally thought to be a recent enterprise, the history of space flight actually goes back to early rockets developed by Chinese scientists around 1000 B.C. The quest for space continues today with the construction of the International Space Station (ISS), our first permanent habitat in orbit. There will be a strong emphasis in the course to weave the scientific goals in context with the political climate of the times.

Of human endeavors, space flight differs from previous achievements since it deals with an environment which is so extremely hostile to the human body. Because of its perilous nature, the race for space is one of the few examples in human history where the need to explore drove the development of previously unknown technology. One of the objectives of this class will to be trace how our vision of space flight has changed over the years.

Another objective to the course is an examination of the types of people involved in the exploration of space. There are few other enterprises in recent history that involve such diverse personalities as space flight. The NASA mentality, the `Right Stuff', Apollo 13 disaster, John Glenn's return to space on the Space Shuttle are all examples of how space flight was much more than a simple technological achievement. The effects of space flight were complete unknowns to the human body and there are numerous examples of individual heroism.

Course Organization:

All lectures in this course will be delivered electronically. The lecture pages will be on the Web in HTML (hypertext mark-up language) format so that they are accessible from any computer, either at home or on campus. All students are required to obtain computer accounts on gladstone (or any Internet server of your choice) since all the course material is in Web format. The address for this course is abyss.uoregon.edu/~js/space.

We are using the computer network in this class for several reasons:

Even though the web notes replace the need for extensive blackboard notes, they do not replace your need to attend class. A great deal of material is discussed in lecture that is not in the web notes and will appear on the exams. Plus, difficult concepts in the web lectures will be clarified in class. So please attend.

Use the email system. Often professors only hear from students through office hours, and those students are usually the ones having trouble in the course. When you study or review your notes, send me questions by email. Also email me suggestions and comments about the course, particularly in the first few weeks in order to have an impact during the term.


Grading will consist of two essay exams and a 15-page term paper, each 1/3 of your total grade. The first exam will occur midway through the course, the second exam is on the last day of class (there is no final during finals week). Your term paper topic is due Feb 1st, the outline is due Feb 19th and the finished paper is due Mar 4th.

The essay exams consist of five questions of the "compare and contrast" type of inquiry. Your answers to be accurate and concise. In terms of grading, the following criteria are used:

With respect to the term paper, the grading is divided into three parts: content, style, organization. The content of the paper should contain enough information (and citations) to frame the issue you are addressing. The content should include observations, conclusions, and applications that go beyond mere description. The paper should exhibit logical reasoning and a clear goal. The style of the paper should demonstrate an understanding of the terminology and an engaging approach to the material. The organization of the paper should maintain a clear theme, well-constructed paragraphs and a logical progression to address the goal of the paper.

Here are some possible topics for your term paper:

moon probes
ion drive
solar sails
economic benefits
mining in space
space stations
animals in space
space colonization
hypersonic transport
space food
orion project
space elevator
missile defense
moon race
mercury 13


The textbook for this course is Furniss's `A History of Space Exploration'. The readings are as follows:

Lecture Chapter
Lectures 1-3
Lectures 5-7
Lectures 4,8
Lectures 10-13
Lectures 15
Lectures 15
Lectures 23
Lectures 21
Lectures 11,19
Lectures 20
Lectures 24
Lectures 24
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12

Academic Honesty:

A recent survey of UOregon upperclassmen has indicated that 91% admit to cheating on a written assignment or exam. Every effort will be made in this class to deter dishonesty through classroom procedures. You are all welcome to work in groups on Homework assignments, however exams must be based on individual work only (i.e. don't look at someone else's exam). It is degrading to impose draconian security measures to enforce honesty. Instead, we will use the honor system in this course and allow each of you to uphold your personal standards of conduct. For those of you who have failed to develop your own ethics, the University has designed the Student Conduct Program.


If you have a documented disability and anticipate needing accommodations in this course, please see me as soon as possible. And please request that the Counselor for Students with Disabilities (H. Gerdes, hgerdes@oregon) send a letter verifying your disability.