Was the discovery of flying machines by the Wright brothers a necessary prerequisite for using rockets to get into space/land on the moon?
I mean, I KNOW that’s how it happened. But it seems that one didn’t necessarily have to happen before the other in any particular order. After all, rockets, if I remember correctly, were a Chinese invention and had been used for hundreds of years for fireworks, right? And that seems to be more of a “massive thrust out the back pushing the rocket straight up” than the concept of shaping a wing to create lift.
So theoretically, could we have landed on the moon and still not have discovered the science behind normal airplane flying?
A very interesting question.
First, had the Wright Brothers not succeeded, or even started, at Kitty Hawk, there would have been others taking up the challenge. Heavier-than-air flight was being experimented with around the globe at the time.
However, going by this summary of the history of rocket development, rocketry was following a different historical path, and probably would not have been affected had the HTA experiments not taken place at all. Jet planes would probably have been developed as a consequence of the V2 flying bomb, perhaps. Just IMHO.
That is an interesting question.
I think knowledge of aircraft was required to get astronauts to the moon. Not so much for the trip there, but for the safe return. The research planes of the 40s and 50s tested the conditions of high-speed, high-altitude flight. Without that knowledge, it would have been very difficult to design a space capsule that would have shielded its occupant from the heat of re-entry.
Also, the aerodynamics of an ascending rocket are one thing, lift comes from the engine and the aerodynamics are for stability and control; but a descending capsule is a different matter. It has to keep the heat shield pointed forward, the velocity and deceleration from friction need to be figured, and the lift at those speeds must be known to calculate where the capsule will come down. I can’t imagine doing all that without someone figuring out how a wing works.
(Parachutes, by the way, predate aircraft by quite some time. The first parachute jump was made from a hot-air balloon in 1797.)
If conventional aircraft had not already been invented, they would have been an inevitable outgrowth of the research necessary to develop a manned lunar mission.