A Bitter Pill to Swallow

Dr. Robert Duncan-Enzmann

This excerpt was written with pen and typewriter, around 1970. It talks of dreams and plans, and real engineering suppressed by powerful opposition.

Dreaming of Cake.

Years after the Orion was designed and scrapped, I led an abortive attempt to revive a solar-system-Orion using non-explosive coils and loops. Shortly afterward, the Orion test vehicles were cut up for scrap metal, and concurrently all discussion of such types of propulsion such as Nuclear-Pulse or ANP (aircraft nuclear propulsion) was – it seemed – kept out of sight and hearing and has continued to be under a ban by the media to this day.

The excuses for this action were knee-jerk reflexes such as cancer should be cured, slums cleared, world starvation halted, who would want to go so fast or so high, the environment would be catastrophically damaged, jobs will be lost, progress should be at a methodical scientific pace, sociological impact studies have to be worked out to the last detail, things should not be done just because it is possible to do them, man should live simply in a green world if a new system is built everything else suffers, engineers laid off can be used to train the underprivileged – and so on and on and on.

It was a bitter pill to swallow.

In retrospect, it really was the potentates of the so-called scientific community, the academicians, and their strong media support that were dragged kicking and screaming inch by agonized inch over mankind’s trail into the space age, because they were intrinsically evil. Were and are these self-appointed arbiters of ethics and technology really social vampires, vultures, and spiders? Human jackals feeding on humanistic and social carrion?

To be sure, they were dragged along the trail of technological progress, howling protest. They did, and still do, gang up whenever possible to cancel projects, smear or destroy individuals, bring down groups, obscure issues, divert energies into non-productive directions, misrepresent facts, and generally kick and slash out to destroy any technological progress they can manage to hinder. The Jewish contribution to the Apollo Project, Atlas-Centaur, by the over-aired, enormously overworked, underpaid, and underrecognized man Silverberg, was ignored by the media.

We Lose the Whole Cake.

Yes, it was bitter to swallow. In the decade from about 1950 to about 1960, workers in blue-collar production, in short, the middle class of the world, carried civilization to hitherto unprecedented levels of prosperity, health, and well-being. We, the middle class, emerged from the pre-WW II era of rural electrification, replacing oil lamps, good food and health for everyone, universal ownership of cars, good roads and highways, homes for almost everyone, and nice clothes (how well I remember the shabby depression) – we had our sights set ever higher. Like Guggenheim, Lindberg, and Goddard, we dreamed of and yearned for the next step: automatic highways and the North American Hydroelectric Project, which, if it existed, would mean all home-heating in North America today would be with dirt-cheap electricity.

We dreamed of rebuilding the centers of all major cities with gigantic underground malls and subway nets which could have served as fall-out and blast shelters but which would have solved the transportation problems of today, cleaned all cities, made production plants accessible to people in all parts of each urban-suburban net, integrated populations, and enormously increased prosperity.

My first ideas were of a drive taking advantage of the Lorentzian mass increase as particles are accelerated relative to the inertial continuum – or æther if that theory pleases you. Unfortunately, before the advent of fission power, there was no practical way to generate many megawatts of power without an atmosphere, and trying to store such quantities of power was, and still is, a blue-sky project – a dream that may or may not be realized in some future. After the advent of fission power, nuclear pulse power was vastly more efficient than any Lorentzian-type beam drive.

Orion-A and Orion-B, the nuclear pulse rockets intended for use in the Solar System, were truly magnificent engines. A manned trip to Mars with a crew of 150 and a return payload of 50 tons could have been carried out in 4 weeks. A manned trip to Pluto with a crew of 30 and a return payload of 10 tons could have been accomplished in about six weeks. In both cases, two weeks were allowed for exploration. Test vehicles were built and flown with conventional explosives as the drive. Each pulse contained the energy of about 100 pounds of dynamite.

Orion-B used shaped charge and therefore could use a flat plate as its pusher instead of a chamber. Simplistically the small nuclear pulses would have generated temperatures of 1,000,000°C for 1/1,000,000 of a second. Therefore, if one pulse were generated per second, the average plate temperature could be imagined to be on the order of 1000C. In reality, it was much lower because tamping material was built about the bomblets.

Orion-C, the so-called Enzmann Starship, was designed to operate with between a minimum of 1 to a maximum of 6 pulses per second. Both fission and fusion pulses were considered, as well as hybrid fission-fusion splined pulses. The mass ratio was a cumbersome 1000-to-1. The fuel was carried in a great mass before the ship to act as a shield. The boilerplate ships were to be built in space by techniques familiar to the Zeppelin engineers of the early 20th century. It is interesting that on these great roomy starships, the atmosphere within them would have had a greater mass than their hulls and frames.

The Frosting is Gone

Opposition to Solar System Orion vehicles and interstellar probes was vehement. It had been expected that men would have landed on or orbited about every planet and moon in the solar system by 1980; however, before the first SALT treaty was even signed, surprisingly during the initial discussions, all research was halted on:

1) Nuclear pulse propulsion

2) Aircraft nuclear propulsion

3) All the larger snap reactors

4) all long-term life support systems for nuclear submarines (intended sub-rosa: for use in really long-term manned space expeditions)

5) Aerospace planes

6) High altitude, super high-velocity aircraft to follow the SX-70

What Cake?

It is many years since I have published anything concerning starships – over a generation. And it is over 40 years since I started to dream and plan engines for starships. My published designs are boiler-plate ships which some writers have called ‘the basketball on a stovepipe.’ It worked, but not very well. It was an engineer’s design based on technology available at the time and nothing more.

I was an engineer working on the problem of shrinking fission bombs to be packaged into five-inch and even smaller artillery shells. It is not classified, and it might interest the reader to know that fission bombs could have been packaged into 40 mm shells, 20 mm shells, and even 45 caliber projectiles. My first thoughts were of Lorentzian beams or possibly even gyranes, which would rectify linearly polarized angular momentum.

Yes, I designed nuclear devices, but my heart and my dreams were never really in it. They were in starship drives. I remember the morning when they announced: “An atomic bomb has been dropped on the munitions center at Hiroshima, Japan. The munitions factories, railway marshaling yards, and war workers’ homes have been flattened. The bomb was carried by a single B-29 and only could have weighed a few tons. It had the power of 10,000 tons of dynamite. The power has been taken out of the atom.”

I was in the American Navy at the time, on active duty in the Fleet Air Arm, CASU (Carrier Service Unit) 21. My thoughts on hearing of Hiroshima were not about the war. We knew it was over. My thoughts were about a coming space age. I regaled my companions on the isolated post with my thoughts as to why atomic power – “taking the power out of the atom” – would cause such a surge in technology that ships would not only go to the Moon in a very few years but that many, probably all of us there, would live to see star flight. It did not seem at all far-fetched to us.

We talked about it for several days. So much had happened in our time: rural electrification, radios had developed from great wet cell batteries and wire whiskers on galena crystals to magnificent radar systems with peanut tubes and megawatt magnetrons so small you could hold one in your hand. Over 2/3 of the men in our group had seen the transition in their towns from oil lamps and horses to electric lights and automobiles. I confess we were from rural Maine. And how well we all remember hoeing weeds in a cornfield 10 – 12 hours a day in the hot sun; the only harder job that makes the head hurt more at night is stoop-planting all day.

My first publications concerning starships were written over twenty years ago, originating from work toward shrinking the critical masses of fission bombs. My personal results indicated that under certain conditions, pinhead-size bomblets could be manufactured with masses much less than a gram. Similar results led many engineers, such as Everett, Ulam, and Winterberg, to the conclusion that it would be relatively easy to drive a spaceship by nuclear pulse propulsion.

To the best of my knowledge, Stanislaw Ulam was the first to publish the concept. I had the honor of meeting him. He was kind, helpful, and generous with information and ideas. True, my first publications concerned nuclear pulse propulsion, but again, this was not among my first thoughts concerning starship propulsion. But, as an applied engineering concept, it was practical. Lorentzian Beam Drives were not, and no one yet knows how to build a Gyrane.

The technology to build starships is here now and has been for at least twenty years (from the time of this writing ca 1970). The opposition of the so-called establishment toward starships, space in general, and literally any technological advances at all times has been one of implacable opposition.

Let Them Eat Cake.

Humankind is genetically driven to explore. We will, one day, overcome the vicious, irrational, selfish objections of the few and listen to the hearts of the many, and a starship will launch. Then, humanity will begin an evolution that will be as significant as that of the lungfish flopping out of the water and learning to walk.