La edición impresa de la revista puede conseguirse en el local institucional de Conida, pero nuestros amigos han tenido la gentileza de poner en su sitio web nuestro artículo Pedro Paulet, pionero peruano de la era espacial en formato pdf, lo que facilitará su descarga para nuestros lectores. Una gran idea para difundir, en particular entre los estudiantes, información veraz sobre la vida del sabio.
Que el ejemplo de Paulet sea nuestra guía.
ACTUALIZACIÓN: A continuación, ofrecemos la versión en inglés del referido artículo.
PEDRO PAULET, PERUVIAN PIONEER OF THE SPACE ERA
By: Álvaro Mejía S. (*)
In 1923, German scientist Hermann Oberth demonstrated that liquid fuel motors would be necessary for ships that would explore the space. On July 1927, he and other visionaries founded the German Spaceflight Society. Their high-priority was to develop a liquid fuel motor. Hardly three months later, a letter in El Comercio, a newspaper from Lima, surprised them: Peruvian scientist Pedro Paulet stated that, thirty years ago, he had invented a liquid fuel reaction motor and designed a spaceship. Germans would not take in declaring Paulet the space age’s pioneer.
Pedro Paulet was born in Arequipa, Peru, on July 2nd 1874. He received a rigorous French education in arts and sciences in French priest Hippolyte Duhamel’s school, where they instilled unconditional love to God and the Mother country.
Since a child, Paulet tried with Newton’s Third Law on action and reaction, launching homemade rockets. “In my native city, which is built with lava from an old nearby volcano, there is no fear of significant fires, because fireworks are commonly used at all parties there. Since I was a child I learned to make them, sometimes attached to its “guides” snoods holding objects”.
His vocation by astronomy was defined in 1890, when Harvard University put in Arequipa the one that would be the more important astronomical observatory on South Hemisphere, to see, in 1910, the passage of Halley comet.
In 1894, Peruvian government, who glided to modernize the country, granted him a scholarship, so he studied Engineering and Architecture at Sorbonne University, in France. There young Paulet invented the reaction motor and created a fuel on the base of Eugene Turpin’s melinite. In 1902, in Belgium, he finished the design of a spaceship, the Torpedo Airplane.
This one was a concept far beyond the helix airplanes, which Wright Brothers would fly since 1903. His spaceship would be driven by clusters of rocket motors like the one he had invented and would be equipped with a pivoting delta wing finished in end. Thanks to it, the spaceship could move in vertical, horizontal or diagonal way, according to what it would be required.
"And with this helix, that does not serve where air lacks, also the other elements of the glider had to disappear, having to be replaced by a “new form” that responds to its astronautical function, once dominated the gravitation thanks to rockets. Those functions and their well-known organs are: to perforate the dense or thin atmosphere by the best instrument of perforation than is “an end”; to maintain the freedom of action of the astronaut in a sealed chamber, with the most resistant form to the outer pressures, that are the spherical one, and to allow the easy handling of this outer end from the interior of this camera, as well as what we will call the metabolism of that bolide inhabited with any external atmosphere, adapting systems already well undergone, for example, in submergibles", he said.
Paulet returned to Peru in 1904, to manage the Arts and Offices School and to train the technicians which Peruvian engineers demanded to industrialize the country. Since his airplane project was not taken into account by the government, he resigned in 1910 and returned to Europe, where he raised a family and dedicated to private businesses.
In 1921, he returned to the diplomatic service in Europe. Being at Old Continent, Hermann Oberth published The Rockets to Interplanetary Space (1923), book in which he stated that liquid fuel motors were the unique able ones to drive a ship until leaving the terrestrial atmosphere and moving in the space.
In October 7th, 1927, three months after German Spaceflight Society’s creation, Paulet published a letter in El Comercio newspaper, giving technical details of his inventions of three decades back. Germans would take note on his inventions. Since 1928, he would be declared the aerospace pioneer in Max Valier and Alexander Scherschevsky’s books, both members of German Spaceflight Society, and in the bulletin of this one, titled Die Rakete (The Rocket). In 1931, French magazine Science et Vie will say that Oberth and automobiles industrialist Opel tried to use Paulet’s studies although without success.
Indeed, in 1929, Hermann Oberth, seconded by Scherschevsky, tried to construct a motor similar to Paulet’s to launch it in the opening of Fritz Lang’s science fiction film Woman in the Moon. He was not successful, but experts recognize that this motor was a model that other German liquid fuel motors followed.
Paulet even rejected a supply to construct military missiles for German army. By contrary, Wernher von Braun, who had joined to the German Spaceflight Society in 1929, did accept the unfortunate order and used Paulet’s motor in the lethal V2 missiles, launched in World War II. Paulet died in January 1945, some months before American army caught Von Braun and his team, who later would construct NASA’s Apollo XI, which would put Man on the Moon.
That was Paulet’s contribution to the space era, as American expert James Wyld would recognize in 1947: “Paulet’s device appears to have been the earliest example of a so-called bi-propellant rocket motor, in which the oxidizer and the hydrocarbon fuel are in separate tanks and are mixed only in the combustion chamber. His use of nitrogen peroxide as oxidizer also fore-shadowed certain modern propellants such as nitric acid, and the set-up of his test stand was quite similar to types used in later years”.
(*) Member of Peruvian Air Force’s Historical Aerospace Studies Institute. He has investigated Pedro Paulet’s biography in American and European archives. He prepares a film and a biographical book about him.