Aircraft (Encyclopedia of Science)
An aircraft is a machine used for traveling through the atmosphere. There are two types of aircraft: the first type are known as lighter-than-air crafts, which are supported by their own buoyancy or ability to float. The second are known as heavier-than-air crafts, which require the use of some sort of engine to propel them through the air.
Early theories of air travel
Humans have dreamed of flying like birds for centuries. A Chinese myth dating to at least 1500 B.C. tells of men flying through the air in a carriage driven by something very much like a modern propeller. The Greek legend of Daedalus and Icarus is closer to the image that early humans had of flight, however. According to that myth, Daedalus constructed a set of wings that he attached to his son, Icarus, as a means of escaping from the island of Crete. Icarus flew so high, however, that the wax holding the wings to his body melted, and he fell to his death.
For more than 20 centuries, humans repeated Daedalus' experiment, with ever more sophisticated attempts to duplicate the flight of birds. All such attempts failed, however, as inventors failed to recognize that the power generated by a single human could never be sufficient to lift a person off Earth's surface.
Successful flight was not possible until...
(The entire section is 1839 words.)
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