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The "Blast Off" Engineers


The "Blast Off" Engineers
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 7 to 9
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   9.15

     challenging words:    astronautics, goddard, shockwaves, Tsiolkovsky, sonic, liquid-fuel, multistage, liftoff, supersonic, hypersonic, payload, physicist, russia, rockets, military, primarily
     content words:    Blast Off, Roger Bacon, Sir William Congreve, Ernst Mach, Konstantin E., Robert H., Reaching Extreme Altitudes, World War II, This V-2, War II

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The "Blast Off" Engineers
By Trista L. Pollard

10, 9, 8, engines roaring
7, 6, 5, energy building
4, 3, 2, boosters firing
1, rocket escaping
Blast Off!
Ship soaring
Exploring, orbiting, circling, monitoring
Waiting for the thrill of a lifetime!

2     The excitement of rockets soaring beyond the earth's atmosphere has been on the minds of scientists for centuries. History places the first rocket in the hands of the Chinese in A.D. 1000. These early scientists designed military weapons by stuffing gunpowder into sections of bamboo tubing. During the 13th century in Europe, Roger Bacon, a monk, invented an improved version of gunpowder. This gunpowder could be used to make rockets into projectiles that flew over a long range. In fact, rockets were used primarily as weapons. The only problem was they were not always reliable. Despite this minor issue, scientists continued to explore the possibility of building rockets.
3     During the 18th century, Sir William Congreve (1772-1828), an English artillery expert, built a 20-lb (9-kg) rocket that was capable of traveling up to 2 miles per hour (3 kilometers per hour). Austrian physicist Ernst Mach was the first scientist to discuss supersonic speeds and to predict that sonic booms were caused by shockwaves. Aircraft that fly at supersonic or hypersonic speeds fly five times or more than the speed of sound. Of course, when an aircraft is flying at this speed, the property of the air around it changes dramatically. The air's temperature can increase up to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit or 1,080 degrees Celsius, and the density and pressure around the aircraft also changes. Once the air over the wing of the aircraft accelerates above the speed of sound, a shock wave is produced. This shock wave then produces a loud sound called a sonic boom. Today, Mach numbers, the ratio between the speed of an object and the speed of sound, are used to describe supersonic and hypersonic speeds. An aircraft that is traveling at Mach 3 is traveling three times faster than the speed of sound.

Paragraphs 4 to 6:
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