It was not long ago that I wrote about driving slowly and I should say that, most of the time I am OK with that. However, I am excited about an ongoing project to set a new land speed record. The current record, which is just over the speed of sound [about 760mph], was set way back in 1997 by Andy Green, a fighter pilot in the Royal Air Force.
But Andy is now back to make an attempt to beat his own record …
I would have thought that the next logical target speed might be 800mph. Or perhaps 900mph. But these guys want to go all the way to 1000mph!
The program is called Project Bloodhound. The plan is to make the record attempt at Hakskeen Pan in South Africa, which is not far from Verneuk Pan, where Malcolm Campbell made his 1929 record attempt. This will take place, all being well, late this year or in early 2016. The technical challenges are enormous, so it would be no surprise if these dates got pushed out.
To achieve this speed requires a bit more than tuning up a conventional car engine. The previous record used a jet engine to power the car to its full speed. Bloodhound does that too, but this is not enough. It has a rocket to give it the final push! So yes, this is rocket science.
There is the obvious question. Why are they doing this? Even though German major roads may have no speed limit, we are not likely to see a 1000mph BMW any time soon. There is no immediate technical benefit from developing this car, but the possibilities in spin-offs are enormous.
The key impetus behind the project, and one of two reasons why I am very interested in it, is summarized very well by their Mission Statement: “Create a unique, high-technology project, focused around a 1000 mph World Land Speed Record attempt. Share this Engineering Adventure with a global audience and inspire the next generation by bringing science, technology, engineering and mathematics to life in the most exciting way possible.” I think that this video does an even better job of explaining what Bloodhound is all about:
All the Project Bloodhound technology is completely open. Anyone can look at all the technical details and you are actually encouraged to do so. To say the website is comprehensive is an understatement.
To me, this makes it a very worthwhile endeavor. When I was a kid, we had the space race. With a manned trip to Mars looking way off [sadly], this project may well fill the gap and encourage a whole new generation of engineers and scientists. My other interest in the project is my stepson John is involved in the project. Like Andy, he is in the RAF and works in Air Traffic Control – maybe that gives a clue as to what his role may be on the project.
I have given a lot of thought to this project and wondered why it is necessary to subject a man to this level of danger to make the record setting “valid”. I am quite sure that, using modern drone technology, Andy could drive the car from the safety of a nearby bunker. What would be lost?
However, if you said to me that Neil Armstrong should not have set foot on the Moon – we should have sent a robot or a drone – I would have argued very strongly that putting a person on the Moon was the achievement. The same would/will go for Mars. [I will not investigate the issue that controlling a drone on the Moon would be challenging and, on Mars, impossible due to the radio time lag.]
So, when the time comes, I will be cheering Andy along. In the meantime, I must go and order my Project Bloodhound shirt, cap, scale model …