Sit back in your
seat, and imagine pulling 3+ G's for 30 minutes continuously. Better yet
visualize strapping yourself into your craft, now take off vertically (after
and incredible blast) and climb out of a your own ball of fire. Now just
20 seconds after takeoff, roll over on your back and climb out at a 78 degree
angle for 110 miles, good for maybe an 8.0 but impressive all the same..
Don't forget to throttle back at 17,000 MPH or drop your main fuel tank somewhere
over the Indian Ocean. David Wolf has done these maneuvers twice (so far),
as a member of our American Space Shuttle Astronauts Corps. You probably
guessed that David competes in aerobatics, fly's the greatest biplane ever built,
and is the subject of our spaceman story.
David Wolf (BlackEagle) & his Uncle Ed Wolf (S2B Pitts)
I met David in
1991 on the ramp in Edna, Texas with his most charming uncle Ed Wolf, who is
also an avid aerobatic competitor from Indianapolis. David is a member
of the Houston Aerobatic Club, Chapter 25, and had just purchased his Black
Eagle with another Astronaut Curt Brown. Uncle Ed had a nice new Pitts
S2B that he had flown down from Indiana just for the occasion of what I believe
was David Wolfs' first or second aerobatic contest, flying in the Sportsman
category. These Wolf guys were immediately serious fun and more importantly
surrounded by a following of interesting, educated, attractive, and hard bodied
women. I was not complaining about unfair advantages yet, but this was
an incredible show of force. Unfortunately I was flying in the same category
as David, with the same kind of airplane as David, and was wondering how to
read a flimsy like just like David. Nobody told me the guy was an Astronaut,
and interestingly enough, I don't think anybody really cared. You see
quickly on the ramp in Edna, Texas that all men and women are equalized by the
heat and the contest environment alone.
By the way, some
more interesting trivia about Spacemen and Shuttle Launches. Did you know
that the pressure on the outside to the Shuttle hits 580 pounds per square foot
at 60 seconds after takeoff. You also hit your max G for the entire ride
in the first 60 seconds at about 4.5+ Gs, which gradually tapers off to 3 Gs
some 30 minutes later as I mentioned. Then of course the drop off is to
0 ZERO Gs for the remainder of your flight. The solid fuel boosters on
either side of your head are I would more closely compare to two sticks of dynamite
that have been ignited with one end cut off of the container. Even the
chemical formula for this solid fuel is very close to raw dynamite boosted with
lot of nitro. The thrust from these babies basically kick your butt and
your very heavy monoplane right through all the lower atmosphere. Until
these SRB's separate, I think most of us would just hold our breath. There
is no effective throttle control of an SRB ( Solid Rocket Booster ) either,
they have a three position switch ON, DUD / OFF, or GONE so you must pilot
the Shuttle with your stick and rudder regardless of the changing and unequal
thrust from each of your two dynamite sticks. Stand on the beach some
time where you can see the launch pad and the entire FIRE show; you too will
be proud and as patriotic as any normal American taxpayer. Unlike a Saturn
FIVE (V), this Lockheed gets right up and goes, with the acceleration of a fine
sports car. We stood there, mouths open, watching for an hour
altogether but did not loose site of the flames until the ship was 583 miles
away. This might be near something like Washington D.C. When you
attend a night launch, you can clearly observe each stage including the final
big fuel tank (ET) separations with the naked eye. The particular blast
put David is some kind of polar orbit, tracking up the east coast just offshore.
It also occurred to me watching the night launch that David must be really really
crazy to do this a second time.
Spacemen like Ron Jon's Surf Shop Wear !!
Having known David
for this many years, when the opportunity came up to attend his first night
launch, I immediately crossed off the U.S. National's and flew to Florida.
Back in about 1973 our College arranged a really swish event and had reserved
some block house space for the Engineering School students with Wherner Von
Braun for a night launch of a Saturn V (5). Apollo I think. Since
it took me 10 years to stop talking about that particular launch, imagine how
long it will take me to stop talking about this launch with our buddy David
on board ! In fact, everyone in the entire IAC and aerobatic community
should be talking about David on MIR from now until about January 15th or so.
The MIR Space Station has had a very long and not exactly uneventful mission.
Since the MIR collision with a robotic supply vehicle, everyone is a little
more edgy. We are betting that when the truth finally comes out, that
David did not sleep for at least 3 days prior to this launch mainly because
of the senate hearings attempting to keep him safe on earth. Literally
just hours before launch, David was told he could go to MIR. Now what
most people don't know is that David moved to Siberia for almost two years to
learn Russian, and complete the Cosmonaut training programs in Star City Russia.
You want more stress? Consider these missions your entire lifetime goals
and then wait out the decision of some government committee for your boarding
pass and final fate to be handed down. David has been through his
fare share of stress before too, but how could any of this compare to the Sportsman
starting line in Edna? Whoa, now there is an anxiety attack !
down to the aerobatic contest hard points here, David got 1st place in that
contest back in 1991, and I got the coveted heavily sought after 2nd place trophy
(again). Since then, David's practice has been curtailed by some NASA
rules and regulations concerning the Astronauts and their hobbies, but I am
hoping that only practice can keep me ahead of him now. I imagine that
when he returns to earth again, the aerobatic bug will bite again. We
tried to morph my picture into a photo of his plane in flight so we could send
to him on MIR with some annoying note like, " .... Hey David
I think your plane is a little out of rig, and we need to talk about you wing
tip when you get back.....etc.". This article is followed by an astounding
biography that few of us in the IAC could ever measure up to. I read here
the makings of an over achiever, who can focus on a goal for a lifetime and
get there. Colossal talent and determination could easily hoist David
beyond all of us in aerobatic competition quickly and without equal.
Since this David's
second trip into orbit we have all discovered E-Mail, and via a roundabout process,
can communicate directly with MIR Space Station and David right now. David
is a great writer and speaker, and has been typing away up there in zero G telling
us about life, astronaut stuff, and biology in space. If you were in space
for 3 months, can you imagine what a spaceman would pay for a nice greasy hamburger
and fries? I have included three notes from David since launch for your
reading enjoyment and deep space cogitation. When he gets back here on
the Blue Planet, there are plenty more questions we need to ask him. Please
enjoy these excerpts we have collected so far:
Got your message. Call Ed Wolf (317 290 8773) for photo.
Tammy (my girlfriend has a few and he will put you in touch with her.
He would like hearing from you anyway. I could write a little piece or
help you out in some way with some parallels of space flight and
aerobatics or something. I'll send you something. Nice hearing from
you. Keep your wings rolling.
Progress Supply ship docking
It was almost eerie to see the robot ship loom in out of the darkness.
Slowly close in and perfectly position for rendezvous and docking.
The view from Anatoly's (our commander) tele-operated pilot station
was as seen by the cargo ship. Closing in on this amazing space
station. Its computer mind correcting for errors in the cross-hairs
on the docking target, just as Anatoly would have done himself. It
behaved almost human. Anatoly's hands were lightly poised on the
remote control sticks ready to manually take over at the first sign of
bad decision-making by the computer pilot. He and Pavel checked
approach speeds and positions from the console. In their minds they
had transported themselves and were sitting in the cargo ship, closing
in on MIR. As I watched their moves and words, how confidently they
worked together from training and experience, my few thoughts of what
happened to Mike Foale a few months ago were quenched. Thunk. It hit
pretty firmly - which is normal. No pressure sensations in my ears.
Docking mechanism properly engaged. The silence of tuned nerves was
broken by laughter and hand shakes. Supplies had arrived.
We each got a shoe-box sized bag of gifts. I love all of them.
Thanks. It was like an early Christmas. Lots of candy and fresh food
for dinner. Some real delicacies. Haven't been gone long but I know
I will be so it still felt great. Pavel and Anatoly have been here
for 2 months and the stuff really meant a lot. We all shared the
food. One of those nights to remember in orbit. Our favorite Russian
music, good friends, and food. And, we can fly and see the whole
earth. The laboratory is really coming together but more on that
After finally learning where to find critical items like the self
closing trash container liners, I think it is safe to say that I am
settling in up here. One of the things I am learning is that you don't
have to be a rocket scientist (even though that is what we are) to make
a real difference on MIR. Between operating a full time lab module and
pitching in on the daily ship's chores, I hardly have time to write my
letters home. Don't take that as a complaint. There's no place on earth
I would rather be.
Because the crews before us were so busy fighting alligators it's now
up to us to return this remarkable ship into top shape. Unfortunately
for me, that means things like organizing and cleaning - tasks my mother
can attest to that I didn't always excel at back on earth. But she sure
be proud of me now. I spent most of today in the bathroom, organizing
and cleaning it, not using it. Yesterday, I spent the morning capturing
the water which accumulates as big wiggling, floating blobs on the heat
exchangers of our condensate recovery system.
My pet project is keeping the numerous ventilation filters clear - no
small order. I also have been put in charge of the local lost and
found. Because I helped stow the gear from the progress
supply ship, Pavel and Anatoly think I actually remember where I put
everything. But even if that were true, unlike on earth, up here things
don't necessarily stay where you put them. If you don't nail it down (up
here we use Velcro) there is literally no telling where something -
I am trying to fix our CD player but I'll be lucky to even get it back
together again. I also helped Pavel out with the up and down data link
through which much of our communications with the mission controllers
occurs. But, mainly, my time is spent in the laboratory module,
Priroda, which means "nature" in English. It's a capable lab. I really
enjoy the work and interacting with the researchers and operations teams
on earth. It keeps me so busy I can't imagine having yet another module
(would have been Spektor) full of experiments. I feel we have already
made some important observations. A great colleague of mine said that a
lab is a place with enough junk in it to do anything. We're there.
This ship literally wreaks of both history and character. It's a "fixer
upper" all right but one you would take a long trip with in a heartbeat.
The central command post (cockpit) has keys that look like worn ivory.
Leather shrouds serve where plastic would now be chosen. The metal
machining is recognizably Russian, and of the highest quality. It's
overall character brings forth the image of the "time machine" from
H.G. Well's classic. Signatures and instruction placards written by
the hands of over a decade of Cosmonauts who maintained and lived in
this true marvel of human achievement. Adapted over the years to the
unforeseen requirements of 0 gravity life. Tables with things on both
sides. A bicycle with no seat. A set of heavy tools held in place by
rubber bands. It sports a network of bungies and cables suited ideally
to gravity less locomotion and stowage. Spiderman would be envious.
I ate dinner with my eyes closed while listening to music recorded at a
Russian cafe on Tverskaya. Apparently it takes longer than 3 weeks to
get totally used to no gravity. I still look up at the gas analyzer on
the ceiling and wonder, for a moment, how I'll get up there to read it
and find myself momentarily surprised to discover that I can just fly on
up. I continue to try and put things "down" foolishly thinking it might
stay put. Naturally, it quickly gets lost. I get my hands too full, and
then, am a bit slow to simply let go and then sort it out. I also
forget to use the ceiling as a surface. The other morning Pavel was in
my path for several seconds before I remembered I could just float over
him to get where I was going. We show off to each other the intricacies
of body control, in the proper form, as dictated by current 0 gravity
style. These are competitions I invariably lose. I am still trying to
figure out how not to become upside down when putting my pants on. Don't
worry though. I have plenty of time to figure it out.
You may have
read about our internal "spacewalk" into the damaged Spektor
module that took place up here. Our objective was to increase the station's
electrical power by connecting the electronic control lines to command the
solar arrays on Spektor to track the sun. We spent 2 days meticulously
converting the central "docking node" into an airlock. This node is the
common pathway connecting all the modules of the station, including the
entrance to our emergency re-entry vehicle, the Soyuz. In order to enter
Spektor, we first had to evacuate this critical "docking node" to vacuum so
that the pressure was equalized on both sides of the Spektor hatch, allowing
it to be opened. I think you can figure out where I am going with this.
In the event
that we were unable to re-pressurize this "node", there would
be no way for any of us to get to the Soyuz emergency re-entry vehicle, not
to mention the fact that there would be no airlock available for the
cosmonauts to come back inside.
The Soyuz itself has two sections. I configured the section directly
attached to the docking node as a secondary airlock. Just like Mike Foale
before me, I entered the Soyuz vehicle and closed the hatch behind me (which
is connected to the docking node), before the cosmonauts depressurized the
node. Then I configured the valves, which control the pressure in this
area, so that they could be remotely controlled from inside the Soyuz
"descent module." This "descent module" section (of the Soyuz) is accessible
through yet another hatch.
I then went
into this "descent module" section, and closed that hatch behind
me and brought up the life support and communication systems which supply
oxygen and remove carbon dioxide. Then I got serious. I opened up the
package of macadamia nuts I brought with me and sat there locked tight for
almost 8 hours. I learned an invaluable lesson. Next time, I will bring a
module is a lot like our old Apollo capsules. This is where we
keep our spacesuits at all times in the event we need to make an emergency
evacuation. During the EVA, all three of us have direct communications with
each other and the earth (through a Russian satellite). Each of us has a
backup airlock, and, everyone always has access to the re-entry vehicle at
all times, even if the node cannot be re-pressurized. Pretty tricky, huh.
is an amazing vehicle which comes straight out of Jules Verne. An
absolutely beautiful piece of hand craftsmanship. Very ooyootnie (cozy)
with wood grained control handles and those beautiful ivory keys again. As
I write, It waits, fueled and ready to bring us back to earth. One request:
please don't use my endorsement of the Soyuz as implying that I want to
cancel my return reservation. I'd still like to come home on the Shuttle.
I sure do
miss you guys.
Texas is really incredible, particularly Houston, with three or four Astronauts flying around all the time in our contests. While we are talking "spacemen" here, I should also mention Edward Tsang Lu from Hawaii who is trying to form an aerobatic chapter there now, and Curtis Brown a partner of David Wolf in the most awesome Christen Eagle ever built. There are also large numbers of NASA and NASA subcontractor employees flying upsidedown in Houston and Florida. David Reinhardt, Dan Bailey, Patty Hilliard, Bob O'Dell, and Dustin Hamm are all working on this cosmic stuff every day.
"Uncle Ed" Wolf
had a hand in finding the Christen Eagle for David, and apparently these guys
have an eye for style and a refined taste in their aerobatic equipment.
The Wolfs' and all these people I have named here, and in fact most of the people
you find today flying up-side-down are pretty eccentric but truly make the sport
worthwhile, fun, and rewarding for me too. Setting even higher standards
are these Pilot / Spacemen who offer encouragement to beginners, making every
gesture they can by giving airplane rides, and educating the masses to help
grow our sport. The entire aerobatic community can be proud of our sport
and what we do, in part because of WHO we have in this group. Another
important observation for the veteran or neophyte alike is that our real
HEROES don't fly unlimited all the time. David is flying intermediate because of the time he has had to practice mostly, but there are many people like David Wolf in every level of competition. David is one of my Heroes, and I don't have many.
God speed and
safe return SPACEMAN.
Born 1956, in
Indianapolis, Indiana. David enjoys sport aerobatic flying, scuba diving, handball,
running, and water skiing. His parents, Dr. And Mrs. Harry Wolf, reside in Indianapolis.
Graduated from North Central High School, Indianapolis, Indiana, in 1974; received a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from Purdue University in 1978, and a doctorate of medicine from Indiana university in 1982. He completed his medical internship (1983) at Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis, Indiana, and USAF flight surgeon primary training at Brooks Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas.
Special honors: recipient of the NASA Exceptional Engineering Achievement Medal (1990); NASA Inventor of the Year, 1992. Dr. Wolf graduated "with distinction" from the honors curriculum in Electrical Engineering at Purdue University and received an academic achievement award upon graduation from medical school. He received the Carl R. Ruddell scholarship award for research in medical ultrasonic signal and image processing. He is a member of Eta Kappa Knu and Phi Eta Sigma honorary societies. Dr. Wolf has received 11 U.S.. Patents and over 20 space act awards for 3-dimensional tissue engineering technologies earning the Texas state bar patent of the year in 1994. He has published over 40 technical papers.
As a research scientist at the Indianapolis Center for Advanced Research from 1980 to 1983, he developed digital signal and image processing techniques utilizing matched filter detection of high time-bandwidth product transmissions producing "state of the art" high resolution medical ultrasonic images to the 100 micron level. He also developed new doppler demodulation techniques extending the range velocity product limitation of conventional pulsed doppler systems. He is a USAF Senior Flight Surgeon in the Air National Guard (1982 to present) and is a member of the board of directors of the National Inventors Hall of Fame. He has logged over 2000 hours of flight time including air combat training as a weapons systems officer (f4 Phantom Jet), T-38 talon, and competition aerobatics (Pitts special and Christen Eagle).
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