48 Hours a Day

Chapter 288 - At Home In Foreign Lands

Chapter 288 At Home In Foreign Lands

The Apollo Training Camp quest was set in 1969. If the pretty blonde wasn’t lying, it meant there were fourteen years left before the inception of the Apollo Program. If his memory served him right, NASA hadn’t even existed yet back then. However, its predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) was established in 1915. When Zhang Heng followed the pretty blonde to the lab and saw other interns and the manager, Zhang Heng finally knew what kind of place Louis Flight Propulsion Laboratory (LFPL) was.

Being NACA’s third lab, it was originally named Aircraft Engine Propulsion Laboratory, set up to help America deal with their aviation gremlins since their engines lagged behind their counterparts. In 1949, World War II broke out. Warplanes equipped with European liquid-cooled engines far outperformed America’s air-cooled engines in speed and altitude, and experts soon realized that America lacked the required research labs to come out with better aircraft engines. Thus, in the year 1940, Congress approved funding for its construction at Ohio’s Cleveland Hopkins Airport.

And that was how the aircraft research facility started blooming in America. In 1948, it was renamed Louis Flight Propulsion Laboratory (LFPL) in commemoration of the late NACA’S director, George. W. Louis. Then, in the year 1999, it was again renamed to Glenn Research Center. It became one of NASA ‘s most important facilities for researching and developing rocket engines. Even though this transitional quest was created specifically for Zhang Heng, thanks to the bug detected by the system, it meant he wasn’t completely booted from the Apollo Training Camp quest. The game had granted him the identity of an MIT grad, and placed him at the Louis Flight Propulsion Laboratory fourteen years before the Apollo 11 project. If his suspicions were right, he would only be reinserted in the main quest after fourteen years had passed.

This outcome was definitely worse than completing the main mission in the still world. Over there, he could easily eliminate all the other players when time stopped, meaning he could complete the quest way earlier than expected. Since the system couldn’t tell if he was cheating or not, it decided to send him to a transitional quest to protect the other players.

LFPL was an important NACA research facility, its employees handpicked from the best and brightest engineers that America had to offer. After NACA’s dismissal, its top researchers were quickly recruited by NASA, whose focus had now shifted to Aerospace Technology. Although Zhang Heng didn’t carry any future space technology with him, it seemed like a good opportunity to start mastering some physics and aerospace engineering,

Even though he couldn’t speed up time and peek into his main quest, LFPL was built right beside Ohio’s Cleveland Hopkins Airport and he could at least hop onto an airplane and fly. At that time, the T-38 Talons used in the Apollo Program hadn’t yet been invented. In this era of the fifties, the T-33 Shooting Star was the best of its day. Introduced as a jet trainer, it was the similar aircraft that Zhang Heng encountered on the runway. Before taking to the skies, however, there was a problem he first needed to solve. The system had thrown him the identity of an MIT student and soon, he also discovered why LFPL actively recruited interns. It was all because NACA had embarked on a groundbreaking aerospace project. All that fuss was about the X-15 hypersonic aircraft, an experimental rocket-powered plane that accelerated up to a mind-bending Mach 6.72, six times faster than the speed of sound. The rocket engine enabled the aircraft to climb to an altitude of 107.8 kilometers, effectively passing the Karman Line into outer space. Remained unbroken in the 21st century, it still holds the record for the fastest piloted aircraft ever flown by a crew. In 1955, the X-15 Project officially broke ground, where LFPL played a huge role in its inception. Interns like Zhang Heng were supposed to assist the scientists and engineers working on the project. However, his qualification of a master’s degree was in name only, generously granted by the system. Once it was discovered that Zhang Heng knew nothing about physics and engineering, he would most probably be sent back to the university.

Even if things did go his way, who would be willing to teach him anything at such a busy time. He would be doomed to spend his days in the lab before he knew it, seeing the enormity of the project and the amount of work at hand. Before Zhang Heng could figure out a solution to this problem, the pretty blonde was already assigning the interns to their respective engineers. If the engineer wished for a particular assistant, they were welcome to choose as well. Zhang Heng saw two engineers picking interns that they had worked with before.

At the same time, the interns also told the pretty blonde what they wanted and waited for her to assign a task to them. To Zhang Heng’s surprise, he saw an Asian man amid the crowd.

In nineteen fifties America, it was rare to see Asians working in a top-tier research facility, especially one that ran such classified technology. Judging by his appearance, the person looked to be of Chinese descent. So, Zhang Heng decided to try his luck and greeted the person in Mandarin.

The person was taken aback when he heard the language. Clearly, he understood what Zhang Heng was saying. However, Zhang Heng had now been transformed by the system, making him look more like a European. That explained why the Chinese engineer was shocked to hear Zhang Heng speaking in perfect Mandarin. “Hello! Can I be your assistant?”

“What is your profession? I’m researching the general theory of three-dimensional flow in turbomachinery. Are you interested?”

“I’m studying economics, in my second year right now.”

Zhang Heng was actually embarrassed to tell him the truth. However, he knew that he would not be able to hide it forever, and instead of waiting until tasks were given, he figured that telling the truth now was in his best interest.

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The engineer was taken aback by Zhang Heng’s answer and was speechless for a long time. It seemed like one of those bad American jokes, or a subtle racist sentiment. After all, he had constantly experienced racism after studying there for so many years.

“I’m sorry. I have my own reasons for staying in the lab. If possible, I hope to learn a bit of engineering. If you think it’s too much trouble, I can always look for someone else.

Since they were conversing in Mandarin, no one around them could understand what they were saying. Hence, Zhang Heng wasn’t worried about eavesdroppers. He also knew the engineer would keep his secret indefinitely. Chinese expatriates often chose not to get themselves into trouble, thus keeping to themselves whenever they could. If, however, the engineer refused to take him in, surviving in this research center would become a massive challenge.

“Sure,” said the engineer.

Instantaneously, that single word uttered from his countryman washed him with the warmth of home. He felt right at home, at home in a foreign land.

So, with the newfound close-to-heart alliance forged, the engineer walked up to the pretty blonde, telling her he wanted Zhang Heng as his assistant. Apart from him, another MIT girl had also been assigned to the same engineer as well. Everything was soon set in stone, and when they were back at his lab, the engineer shook Zhang Heng’s hand vigorously.

“I forgot to introduce myself to you. My name is Wu Zhonghua. I’m Chinese.”

“I’m Zhang Heng.” It was one of those rare occasions where Zhang Heng revealed his true name. I’m Chinese as well.”

Note: Wu Zhonghua is the Qian Xuesen of Air China. Graduating from MIT, he worked at Louis Flight Propulsion Laboratory before introducing the general theory of three-dimensional flow in turbomachinery. Later, he gained recognition as a world-class scientist. Just like many other physicists of that era, he gave up his high-paying job abroad and used the excuse of traveling around Europe with his wife to return to his homeland. Both Wu Zhonghua and his wife were the pioneers of Air China.

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