The best reason anyone could give for birth control whilst making love with a bull, particularly if you've enlisted the help of a known genius.

Minos, king of Crete, decides that he's going to make a sacrifice to Poseidon. He sets up for the sacrifice, but, being somewhat of a mooch, decides to ask Poseidon for a bull. I mean, this guy's king, no? He's got plenty of cow wandering Crete, but he asks the god of the sea for one--it's not as if there are vast bovine herds grazing on the kelp down there. Anyway, Poseidon sends a beautiful white bull out of the sea. Minos likes this bull so much that he decides that it'd be a shame to kill it, so he goes and gets one of his own cows to sacrifice.

Poseidon isn't too thrilled with this. It's bad form to ask the gods to provide their own sacrifices, but it's spectacularly bad form to decide to steal the sacrifice for yourself. These are Greek gods we're talking about, not piddly-assed dilettantes lounging around, delivering bulls like some obscenely obsessed UPS driver. Greek gods take revenge. And not in the Judeo-Christian tradition, striking people dead or causing the earth to swallow them. No, they're much nastier. Poseidon causes Minos's wife Pasiphaë to fall in love with the bull.

Now, this would have been embarrassing in and of itself, but Pasiphaë's got a friend named Daedalus who's sort of the Leonardo da Vinci of the day. Pasiphaë needs to convince the less than amorous bull to have his way with her, but she's not really his type, so she turns to Daedalus. Daedalus is always up for a challenge, so he built a Trojan cow she could climb inside. He was obviously a good enough artist to fool Poseidon's bull, because nine months later the queen gives birth.

Minos probably wasn't all that thrilled when he got his little bundle of joy, since the paternal resemblance was pretty strong and this was one of those times when you really didn't want to have daddy's eyes. But it was a member of the royal family and Minos couldn't just off the kid, so he went to the Oracle at Delphi who suggested that he get Daedalus to build a cage for the Minotaur. Daedalus designed the labyrinth, stuck the Minotaur in the middle, and Minos dropped helpless youngsters in every once in a while as Minotaur snacks.

This was kind of hard on the locals, so upon winning a war with Athens (the Athenians, under the command of their king Aegeus, had killed off Minos's son, Androgeus, and Minos had taken revenge with a little help from Zeus) the terms of peace included seven lovely maidens and seven lovely youths to be delivered every nine years and fed to Mr. Minotaur. Athens was less than happy about this particular arrangement.

Some years later Theseus, son of Aegeus through a series of complicated circumstances, decided that it was time to do something about this tribute. He joined the thirteen other lucky Athenians and sailed to Crete, where an amazing display of aquatic daring (He retrieved the signet ring of Minos from the bottom of the harbor with a little help from friendly dolphins and Nereids) convinced Minos's daughter Ariadne that he was something special. She went to Daedalus and asked him for a little help for Theseus. Daedalus, never one to miss an opportunity to show off by solving a problem, especially one he had created himself, suggested that she provide Theseus with a ball of string to help him find his way out of the labyrinth. She does him one better and provides not only string but a sword.

Theseus goes in and finds the Minotaur. The Minotaur, being unused to heroes with big swords, is easily finished off, and Theseus follow the string back out of the labyrinth where he is greeted by Ariadne, with whom he runs away with to live happily ever after by Greek mythology standards. Which means he abandons her on an island, she curses him, and Theseus's father jumps off a cliff and dies.

As a side note, when Minos finds out Daedalus's part in the slaying of the Minotaur, he imprisions Daedalus in the labyrinth with Daedalus's son, Icarus. But that's another story.

Q: Congratulations! You're the United States Air Force, and it's December 22, 1997. In accordance with the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty you've just destroyed the last Minuteman II nuclear missile silo in the world. What are you going to do next?

A: We're going to find some something to do with 450 disassembled Minuteman missiles we've suddenly got lying around!

Okay, you caught me. This isn't a transcript of an actual exchange between some over-eager newscaster and some unnamed U. S. Air Force officer, but it is representative of the thought process in the USAF during the period of disarmament that followed the end of the Cold War. The Minuteman II missile, first delivered to the Air Force in 1966, was built to last - the missile's solid fuel has an effectively indefinite shelf life - and it occurred to some members of the defense community that, with a few modifications, the Minuteman II could be turned into an entirely serviceable and relatively affordable satellite launch platform. The project was considered by Air Force officials and deemed worthy of further study. This project to adapt the Minuteman II to serve as a satellite launch system was styled the Orbital/Suborbital Program (OSP).

Minotaur
The winner of the OSP contract was Orbital Sciences Corporation, a Virginia-based company with experience in both orbital and sub-orbital rocketry, most notably their Pegasus launch vehicle. The Air Force's decision to award Orbital the OSP contract was based in no small part on the very high success rate of the Pegasus vehicle, a slightly modified version of which formed the third and fourth stages of the proposed Minotaur launcher.

According to the Air Force, the Minotaur is capable of placing a 750-pound payload into a 400-nautical mile, sun-synchronous orbit; this is roughly 1.5 times the payload of the Pegasus launcher to a similar orbit. The Minotaur is used exclusively to loft payloads destined for Low Earth Orbit. Minotaur launches can be accommodated at the following locations: Vandenberg Air Force Base, California; Kodiak Island, Alaska; Wallops Island, Virginia; and Cape Canaveral, Florida. The Minuteman II Minotaur launchers come in two flavors: Minotaur I, incorporating a standard 50-inch payload fairing adapted from the Pegasus; and Minotaur II, which uses a 61-inch fairing for larger payloads.

The Minotaur achieved first flight in January of 2000. This was first use of a remaindered Minuteman ICBM for space launch purposes; this mission placed several small government and university satellites into orbit. The Minotaur currently (4/13/05) has a success rating of 100%.

Stage Data:
Stage 1 (Minuteman II M-55A1)
Stage 2 (Minuteman II SR-19)
  • Diameter: 52 inches
  • Length: 13.5 feet
  • Weight: 13,740 pounds
  • Thrust: ~ 60,000 pounds
Stage 3 (Pegasus XL Orion 50 XL)
  • Diameter: 50 inches
  • Length: 12.1 feet
  • Weight: 918 pounds
  • Thrust: ~ 44,171 pounds
Stage 4 (Pegasus XL Orion 38)
  • Diameter: 38 inches
  • Length: 4.4 feet
  • Weight: 278 pounds
  • Thrust: ~ 8,062 pounds

Minotaur IV
Based on the success of the Minuteman II-derived Minotaur satellite launch system, Orbital Sciences was tapped by the Air Force to adapt the soon-to-be retired Peacekeeper missile for the same purpose. The Minotaur IV is currently in research and development. It is expected to incorporate a 92 inch fairing and loft payloads of up to 1750 kilograms (3850 pounds) into orbit. Its inaugural payload is scheduled to be the Air Force's Space-Based Space Surveillance system; this payload is scheduled to launch in 2007.


Sources:
Federation of American Scientists: http://www.fas.org/nuke/guide/usa/icbm/lgm-30_2.htm
Orbital Sciences: http://www.orbital.com/SpaceLaunch/Minotaur/index.html http://www.orbital.com/NewsInfo/Publications/Minotaur_fact.pdf United States Air Force: http://www.losangeles.af.mil/SMC/PA/Fact_Sheets/minotaur_fs.htm

Min"o*taur (?), n. [L. Minotaurus, Gr. ; Mi`nos, the husband of Pasiphae + tay^ros a bull, the Minotaur being the offspring of Pasiphae and a bull: cf. F. minotaure.] Class. Myth.

A fabled monster, half man and half bull, confined in the labyrinth constructed by Daedalus in Crete.

 

© Webster 1913.

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