Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Astronyms, part 3: Projects Mercury & Gemini and the X-15

This is part of this series of posts on the history of spacecraft naming.

NASA's naming of spacecraft is more varied - and perhaps more interesting - than the Soviety/Russiany names, largely because individual vessels are (sometimes) given unique names, not always in a very coordinated way. The early ones, especially, were left largely to the astronauts themselves to name. But they were also very much in the public eye, and so official, centralised control was perhaps inevitable. The broader program/class names are also interesting.

Mercury
(Space condom. In space service 31 January 1961 to 16 May 1963)
Mercury

NASA's first big wossname was Project Mercury, the attempt to put a human in space at all, in competition with the Soviet Vostoks, and ultimately building up to the Apollo moon landings. The name Mercury made good sense for these first rocket men, since it was all about speed, going ridiculously fast, even compared with the relatively new technology of supersonic flight that had wowed people in the preceding decade. It was a simple, reasonably neutral name for the first US spacecraft class, reflecting only a fairly common classical education in those who chose it.

The exact story of Project Mercury is perhaps best told in Tom Wolfe's 'The Right Stuff' (avoid the movie, read the book). But in summary, there were 7 dudes chosen to be America's first astronauts, known through the media as the Mercury Seven; one of them, Deke Slayton, was barred from actually flying any Mercury missions, only getting into space at the very end of the Apollo era. There were also two chimps, Ham and Enos, who I've previously argued should be considered as much real astronauts as the six of the Mercury Seven who went up with the same vehicles. So there were 8 piloted Mercury missions.

At this point, it's worth discussing how US rocket naming generally works, when there's a space condom on top. As mentioned, the class of vessel has a name (like Mercury) and each type of rocket gets a name (like Redstone or Atlas) and when one is placed on top of the other, they're given a composite name (like Mercury-Redstone or Mercury-Atlas). Then they'd also be given sequential numbers in the order in which they were launched, so that there was Mercury-Redstone 1, Mercury-Redstone 2, etc. It's a fairly sensible system. These were sometimes simplified for the public as Mercury 1, Mercury 2, etc, and there were also individual production numbers for each vessel and rocket, for internal logistics purposes. The names of the rockets are a whole extra branch of study, because most of the first ones were converted military explodey-boom attack rockets, and so named in the peculiar mix of hubris and misinformation that guides a lot of military naming, but later on space launches needed quite different kinds of rockets than military kabooming, so specialised new designs started emerging, and with that the freedom to explore new naming conventions. For today's set of rockets, assume everything is basically primarily a military design.

Then, as I say, the pilots got hold of their new Mercury capsules (or ships, as they preferred to call them [or condoms, as I prefer to call them]), and applied their pilot traditions, spawned largely during World War II, of custom naming their craft and painting the space condom equivalent of nose art on them. The names are now widely known, mostly through Wolfe's book I imagine, but you have to dig a little to find good pictures of the hull art. Wikipedia, for example, has all the 'mission insignia', as they call them, as separate drawings, but only a few photos where these are clearly visible on the actual spacecraft (for example, the painted 'crack' on Liberty Bell 7, below), which is a pity.
Look bottom left. Subtle but clever.

The complete list of piloted Mercuries includes (listed by formal mission name, unique vessel name and commander):
Mercury-Redstone 2. No unique name. Ham.
Mercury-Redstone 3. Freedom 7. Shepard.
Mercury-Redstone 4. Liberty Bell 7. Grissom.
Mercury-Atlas 5. No unique name. Enos.
Mercury-Atlas 6. Friendship 7. Glenn.
Mercury-Atlas 7. Aurora 7. Carpenter.
Mercury-Atlas 8. Sigma 7. Shirra.
Mercury-Atlas 9. Faith 7. Cooper.

Those unique names are probably the most personal ones any spacecraft have yet had, chosen directly by their one and only pilots, before there were any serious naming policies in place from higher management. Naturally, they weren't totally personal, since the pilots knew they'd be naming them in the public eye, but they still tell us a lot about what each guy felt was important. Oh, to breach the interspecies language barrier and learn what Ham and Enos might have named their vessels. Probably something like, "Rage! Anger! Fear! Everything smells like piss again! STOP FUCKING ELECTROCUTING MY COCK!" It's a bit long, but poetic, in its own way.

Anyway, Freedom 7 and Liberty Bell 7 are pretty nationalist (inasmuch as the US likes to claim the concept of freedom as its own) and Friendship 7 was also cleverly political, an early Cold War olive branch. Aurora 7 was a Saganesque attempt to capture the PB&J of space, but Carpenter's poor handling of the mission left him open to criticism as too artsy and not technical enough. Sigma 7 stood in direct contrast to that, a purely mathematical symbol, devoid of subjective beauty, to go with what Shirra intended as a serious engineering mission. As a Greek letter, it also stood by Slayton, after his cancelled mission, which he had intended to name Delta 7. And Faith 7 was somewhere between a statement of intent and a prayer, as it was aiming to stay in space as long as possible, managing a total flight time of over 34 hours, which was a lot back then, especially for a cramped one-man pod with no toilet. Finally, there was also the hypothetical name Freedom 7-II for a hypothetical 7th human flight to be flown by Shepard, which never happened. Coming from a combat pilot tradition, it wasn't at all surprising that he'd want to name it the same thing again (Chuck Yeager, for example, named all his planes Glamorous Glennis, after his wife), but I find the 7-II bit awkward and unsightly. You'll also notice that there were only 6 actual human-piloted Mercuries and only 6 human pilots, voiding the whole reason they'd added the number 7 to all their vessel names in the first place.

[EDIT: Apparently, Shepard was primarily responsible for starting the habit of unique vessel names, just because he got the first opportunity to, and the specific custom of ending all Mercury names in 7 came from the coincidence of Shepard's vessel being production number 7, which fitted into the growing media meme of the Mercury Seven.

Aurora 7
was intended to carry the spacey associations I mentioned above, but originally came to Carpenter because he'd lived as a child on the corner of Aurora Avenue and Seventh Street, Boulder, Colorado.]

All 8 piloted Mercuries were flown successfully, once each, though Liberty Bell 7 sank into the Atlantic unexpectedly, almost drowning Grissom.

X-15
(Space plane. In space service 19 July 1963 to 22 August 1963)
X-15A

At the same time that NASA was rushing to get any white, English-speaking male into space with a Mercury condom before the Soviets could get a white, Russian-speaking male there first in a Vostok condom, there was a more mature US Air Force project (run in part by the non-space, aeronautics side of NASA, concurrently with Project Mercury, Project Gemini and the early missions of Project Apollo) to design a rocket-plane, capable of flying horizontally, landing on a runway and still breaching the boundary of space. This was the X-15, a beastly thing that was more rocket than airplane, with titchy wings and its internal space filled almost entirely with fuel and engine, with just a small bit left over for a cockpit. It could only just barely make it into space for a short time, even using a generous definition of 'space', but it served as a foundation for future space planes, which the US military felt would be useful in the same way that the Soviets initially felt they needed a manned Almaz in orbit, before fully automated satellites became trusted. The X-15 also opened up another research path for very fast conventional aircraft to follow along.

 X-15 follows the standard US military aviation coding system, where X marks it as an aircraft intended for experimental purposes and 15 marks it as the 15th distinct type used in that role. Strictly speaking, it should be the X-15A, with the A indicating that it's the first major variant of the X-15 type, but since the planned multistage X-15B variant never materialised, few people bother with the A. This is interesting enough, but it's really more of a bureaucratic code than a real name; unfortunately, that's the best we get from this very dry engineering project, mostly kept out of the public eye. Luckily, the X-15s had to be carried into the air by a B-52 motherplane, and the one used for that job most often had the magnificent name of Balls 8. NASA only recently retired Balls 8, which just goes to show how much people appreciate a good name.

Three X-15s were built, flying between them a total of 199 test flights. There were 13 flights between 8 pilots that the USAF deemed to have entered space, using a lower boundary of 80km, but only 2 flights in July and August of 1963, both piloted by Joe Walker, satisfied the more commonly accepted boundary of 100km, which also made him the first person to go into space twice and made the third-built X-15 the first piloted vessel to enter space more than once. Most of these flights, including Walker's proper two space flights, were made using the third X-15, though the first also made two "space" flights. Joe Engle, one of the other 8 pilots to get over 80km up, eventually became a shuttle pilot, while Neil Armstrong was another early X-15 pilot, making it up to 63km in his highest flight, before jumping over to the properly spacey side of NASA in time for Project Gemini.

X-15s 1 and 2 survived (number 2 was rebuilt and continued flying after a lesser crash) and are museum pieces today. X-15 number 3 was destroyed, killing pilot Michael Adams, when it broke up on the 12th flight above 80km, near the town of Johannesburg, California.


Gemini
(Space condom. In space service 23 March 1965 to 15 November 1966)
Gemini


Figuratively expanding the Project Mercury agenda and literally expanding the Mercury hull, the Gemini space condom was the same basic shape as the Mercury, but enlarged for two people and with a jettisonable Equipment Module to give it more rockets and stuff without vastly increasing the load the parachutes would have to return to the surface afterwards. Where Mercury could really just go up and then down again, Gemini could manoeuvre around a bit, dock with other spacecraft and even let a guy out for a spacewalk. In a lot of ways, the Gemini design was somewhere between the Voskhod and Soyuz designs (Or Voskhod was between Mercury and Gemini, depending how you look at it).

[EDIT: The preliminary name for this project was Mercury Mark II, which is pretty accurate, if a little uninspired. It was very quickly changed to Project Gemini instead.]

The name Gemini is almost too obvious, referring to the mythical space twins who mirror the pair of pilots aboard. But it rolls off the tongue well [EDIT: Depending how you pronounce it; I say gemi-nye, while others say gemi-knee]. All Geminis were launched on Titan II rockets, and so were officially numbered as Gemini-Titan 1, Gemini-Titan 2, etc, but are much more commonly referred to as Gemini I, Gemini II, etc., suddenly officially using Roman numerals that would confuse the later numbering scheme of Project Apollo. One interesting quirk was Gemini VI-A, which had been scheduled to launch on its own (as Gemini VI) and chase a target rocket, but that was cancelled when the target failed and it was instead launched after Gemini VII, meeting up together with it in orbit. Gemini IX also became Gemini IX-A due to rescheduling, but was still launched in the correct sequence.

Only one Gemini got a unique name, Gemini III, the first piloted one, which was called Molly Brown. This is insanely funny, if you recall that its commander, Gus Grissom, had almost been drowned by Liberty Bell 7, and if you're aware of the musical titled 'The Unsinkable Molly Brown', adapted into a book which was made into a movie, released the year before Gemini III launched. Molly Brown is was the only spacecraft so far named after a real person [EDIT: until the 2011 launch of Soyuz TMA-21, named Gagarin]. NASA management didn't see the funny side of this and issued a memo prohibiting further unique names. As a result, Gemini IV, which was going to be called American Eagle - far more serious and super nationalisty - was forced to go nameless, as were all further US spacecraft until Apollo 9. But that's a story for another time.

[EDIT: Gemini V was also planned to be named Ladybird at the time that the Molly Brown ban came into effect, named after Lady Bird Johnson, wife of former US President Lyndon Johnson.]

All 10 piloted Geminis flew successfully, once each.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

A History of vessels named Dauntless

[EDIT: I am no longer associating with the USS Dauntless NCC-74214, and so I am unlikely to keep this article updated any further.]

I am affiliated with these people. We've got us a little starship of the imagination, almost like Carl Sagan's. Except ours has quantum torpedoes of the imagination, which he'd probably frown upon. And I've made it clear in the past that I'm very interested in names and the naming of spacecraft in particular. So, in my capacity as Janitor, Third Class, I sat down the other night to do a namesake survey for our USS Dauntless, similar to the one done for the ships named Enterprise.

The idea is simple: List all the vessels that share the name Dauntless, saying a little about each. They needn't (and probably won't) have much in common, because what's in a name? But sometimes interesting trends can emerge from these surveys, and even if they don't, a little history never hurt anyone.

I've put all  but one thirteen of these Dauntlesses on the timeline at the right (click to embiggen, or download the complete version here), colour-coded in three groups: Black is anything from real world history, with grey for the same thing going by a different name. Blue is any good-guy Star Trek starship. Red is "other fictional," including a couple Star Trek bad-guy ships, a bunch of Star Wars ships, some Delta Green and Warhammer 40,000 ships, and a single anomaly from Pirates of the Caribbean. Thick lines indicate known history, while blobs and thin lines indicate uncertainty about dates. I have noticed a few errors in the chart, and if you're extra nice, I might just take the time to fix them.

But first, let me discuss "my" USS Dauntless NCC-74214. It's essentially the fairly-official South African Trekkie fan club branch, represented by a purely abstract Defiant-class shooty-pew-pew starship, as seen most prominently in the series Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. There is no physical ship, nor even any permanent club house, it's just the assemblage of people - not even all in the same hemisphere - that makes up the 'ship'. (I have thought about building and donating a scale model of it, just so we have something pretty to look at, but one thing at a time.) There are blood-donation days and game days, and almost all the skeptics' events I attend also count as Dauntless events too, due to massive overlap between those two groups; it's all pretty informal, except for the uniforms.

I haven't seen any specifics about how exactly our ship is supposed to fit into the fictional timeline of Star Trek canon, though, and maybe that's intentional, keeping things focused on the real-world activities of the group. But one side-effect of drawing up a timeline like this is that it makes it much clearer when the ship should probably fit in. I'll save that for last, though. First, 33 44.5 other ships, briefly summed up. [EDIT: As a rough size comparison, I decided to list their lengths too, where available.]


1: Dauntless (21BBY)
Fictional - Star Wars
Class/Type: Venator-class Star Destroyer
Length: 1,137m
Operated by: Galactic Republic Navy
Service: 21BBY to 20 BBY
Known Commanders: Anakin Skywalker

Since I'm going in chronological order, we have to start a long time ago, in a a galaxy far, far away, where a fairly bland Star Destroyer Dauntless under the command of Anakin Skywalker (close personal friend of Jarjar Binks) won the Battle of Bothawui. I'm not overly fussed about Star Trek vs. Star Wars, and I kind of liked SW: The Clone Wars, but that's a relative 'like', meaning it wasn't as completely shit as the shitty new trilogy. I don't really like it enough to care about this ship and the battle it won.

2: Dauntless (19BBY)
Fictional - Star Wars
Class/Type: Imperial I-class Star Destroyer
Length: 1,600m
Operated by: Imperial Navy (Galactic Empire)
Service: 19BBY to 2 ABY
Known Commanders: Captain Orsk

Another Star Destroyer, this one is more of a classic, but its fate and specific history are left horribly in flux, as is the inevitable nature of interactive fiction. All we can say is that it fought the Rebel Alliance, to some extent. I never played X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter, but I hear it was good.

3: Dauntless (25ABY)
Fictional - Star Wars
Class/Type: Dauntless-class (?) Heavy Cruiser
Length: 1,200m?
Operated by: New Republic Defence Fleet and Galactic Alliance Navy (and Rebel Alliance?)
Service: 25ABY to 29ABY, possibly as early as 0ABY
Known Commanders: none

There's some uncertainty about this one. It might be the first of the whole Dauntless class, with a history of service with the Rebel Alliance going back at least as far as the Battle of Yavin. Or it might be some other Dauntless, which only appeared later and served in several battles against the Yuuzhan Vong, who were pretty tedious. I don't mind the Old Republic-era Star Wars stuff, but the post-Imperial stuff does tend to get bogged down in tedious pissing contests, trying to out-piss the awesomeness of the original trilogy. They may be better written than the new trilogy, but I've never achieved any level of caring for these stories either.

4: Dauntless (137ABY)
Fictional - Star Wars
Class/Type: Pellaeon-class Star Destroyer
Length: 1,600m
Operated by: Imperial Navy (Fel Empire), Sith Empire Navy
Service: 137ABY
Known Commanders: Captain Dorn, Admiral Tohri Challon, Captain Basile

Ignoring for a moment how little I know about the Legacy-era of Star Wars, I especially don't care about this ship, which appears to have been an elaborate McGuffin, brought into play and destroyed in hardly any time at all. Meh.

5: HMS Dauntless (Pirates of the Caribbean)
Fictional - Pirates of the Caribbean
Class/Type: First-rate ship of the line
Length: 51.8m
Operated by: Royal Navy (England?)
Service: 1670ish?
Known Commanders: Commodore James Norrington

[EDIT: I've just been informed that this ship is the one that inspired my Dauntless's name, hence our skull and crossed swords patch.]

Very pretty, but almost as fake as any starship, the vessel seen in 'Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl' (and a few minor spin-offs, but not any of the other movies) was made with a combination of sets perched atop a barge and CGI. It had no basis in real history, and it wasn't til 1804 that the British actually named any ship Dauntless. Unsurprisingly, this series of movies was full of creative anachronisms, largely because they refused to tie themselves down to any particular dates. I gather they were thinking early 1700s when they made the movies, which is why they call it a British ship (England and Scotland only formed the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707).

What the barge-set Dauntless really looked like.
But if the Dauntless was based in Port Royal, and Port Royal was an important place (as is implied in Curse of the Black Pearl), then 1707 is a bit late, and the upper estimate of 1750 is way off. The reason for this is that Port Royal suffered a large earthquake in 1692 (on 7 June, at 11:43 AM), which sunk a lot of the town, and its luck just never picked up again after that. Nearby Kingston would have been where the Dauntless delivered fancy-pants governors and their pretty-but-feisty unmarried daughters. This means the movie should more realistically have been set sometime between the English conquest of Jamaica in 1655 (which, interestingly, only happened because the invading force sent to take Hispaniola from the Spanish was too afraid to go home and admit they'd completely fucked that plan up) and the 1692 earthquake. This would then imply that the Dauntless should have been described as English, rather than British.

[EDIT: Adding Dauntless (1799).]

6: Dauntless (1799)
Fictional - Delta Green
Class/Type: Trade vessel
Length: Unknown
Operated by: Private (Britain)
Service: 1799
Known Commanders: Captain Paul Barrowclough

The roleplaying book 'Delta Green: Countdown' includes a mention of a document titled 'A Record of Events on the ship Dauntless, 1799', logging the exploration of the South Pacific by a trade vessel named Dauntless. Few details about the ship itself are given. I've represented it here with a photo of the modern replica of HMS Pickle (1799), just because I felt like it.


7: HMS Dauntless (1804)
Real
Class/Type: Combatant-class Sloop
Length: 37m
Operated by: Royal Navy (Britain)
Service: 1804-1807
Known Commanders: Lieutenant Charles Jones, Lieutenant Christopher Strachey

Finally, a real ship that really existed. Built specifically for the Napoleonic wars, I have no pictures of this exact vessel, and the painting at left is just a rough approximation [EDIT: I have no idea why I didn't just crop out the Dauntless from the larger picture on its Wikipedia page, but there it is now, in mostly adequate detail]. The Dauntless mostly performed invasion defence and convoy escort duties, but was finally rogered in an attempt to run supplies up the Vistula river, when it ran aground and French artillery shot the shit out of it.

8: HMS Dauntless (1808)
Real
Class/Type: Cormorant-class Ship-Sloop
Length: 33m
Operated by: Royal Navy (Britain)
Service: 1808-1823
Known Commanders: Lieutenant Whitman, Lieutenant Daniel Barber, Captain Valentine Gardner, Captain George Cornish Gambier

Replacing the earlier HMS Dauntless, this newer vessel wasn't too different, as represented by the drawing of sister ship, HMS Blossom, at left. This Dauntless served more internationally, especially after the Napoleonic wars ended. It also seems to have been the first to visit Africa, though probably nowhere near South Africa.

9: HMS Dauntless (1847)
Real
Class/Type: Dauntless-class Steam Screw Frigate
Length: 66.9m
Operated by: Royal Navy (Britain)
Service: 1847-1878
Known Commanders: Captain Edward Pellew Halstead, Captain Alfred Phillips Ryder, Captain William Edmonstone, Captain Leopold George Heath, Captain James Willcox, Captain Sherard Osborn, Captain John Bourmaster Dickson, Captain James Newburgh Strange, Captain Edward Pelham Brenton Von Donop, Captain Charles Codrington Forsyth

A slightly disappointing experimental steam/sail hybrid, this HMS Dauntless saw combat in the Crimean War, before ending its career with a few decades of relatively tame utility duty. I'd also like to point out that from 1864 to 1865, it was commanded by Captain Strange.

[EDIT: Adding Dauntless (1855)] 

10: Dauntless (1855)
Real
Class/Type: Fishing schooner
Length: Approx. 25m
Operated by: Private owners
Service: 1855-1870
Known Commanders: Jas. G. Craig

A fishing vessel built for speed (I'm not sure why; for maximum freshness, I guess?), which operated along the New England coastline. This was apparently a dangerous line of work, made more dangerous by optimising the design for speed, and the Dauntless was lost with all hands under unknown circumstances. The image I have is a model made in the late 19th century, a full generation after the Dauntless was lost, but it is presumably a close enough representation of the original.

11: USS Dauntless (1861)
Real
Class/Type: Steam Tug
Length:Unknown, approx. 40-50m?
Operated by: United States Navy
Service: 1861-1862
Known Commanders: Acting Ensign Milton B. Muncy

The first American Dauntless, represented here by the steam tug Goliah, this Dauntless barely counts, because even though the United States bought it with that name in 1861, it only went into proper naval service in September 1862, renamed to USS Mignonette only 3 weeks later. As Mignonette, the boat was used as both a tug and a trade interdictor on the Mississippi and related waterways for over a decade.

[EDIT: Adding Dauntless (1867)]

12: Dauntless (1867)
Real
Class/Type: Racing barque
Length: 29.6m, later extended to 36.6m
Operated by: Various private owners
Service: 1867-1915
Known Commanders: Commodore James Gordon Bennett Jr., Samuel "Bully" Samuels

 Launched as L'Hirondelle in 1866, but known soon after as Dauntless to a series of subsequent wealthy owners, this vessel gained some fame as a trans-Atlantic racing yacht in the late 19th century. From the various paintings I've found of it, it looks like it was 90% made of sails. I've clipped the picture at left out of a really great painting of the Dauntless in action, departing New York, and I strongly recommend you follow the link above to admire the complete image.

[EDIT: Adding Dauntless (1899)]

13: Dauntless (1899)
Real
Class/Type: Steamboat
Length: 28.3m
Operated by: Various private owners
Service: 1899-1923
Known Commanders: Captain Matthew McDowell, Captain Mann

Part of the informal collection of trading vessels known as the Puget Sound Mosquito Fleet, many small, independent steamships that carried cargo among the coastal towns of Washington state in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It was built to replace a boat named Defiance, and then was itself sold and replaced by a second Defiance. It served with a few owners, in a manner that reminds me a little of the ad hoc trading style seen in such fiction as Firefly, EVE and Cabin Pressure, which all make it seem pretty fun. Dauntless carried on like that for over 20 years, until it was beached and broken in a storm.

14: USS Dauntless (SP-1002)
Real
Class/Type: Patrol Vessel
Length: 14m
Operated by: United States Navy
Service: 1917-1919
Known Commanders: none

The second third (?) smallest Dauntless, at only 14 meters long. It was originally built as a private motorboat for a Mr Barnes of Connecticut, who chose the name Dauntless for it not long before the US Navy leased it from him as a coastal patrol vessel during the First World War, watching the southern New England coast. The navy retained the name, adding the pennant SP-1002 to it. In 1919, the navy returned the boat to Barnes, but I have no information on what he did with it after that.

15: HMS Dauntless (D45)
Real
Class/Type: Danae-class Light Cruiser
Length: 144m
Operated by: Royal Navy (Britain)
Service: 1918-1946
Known Commanders: Captain C. Round-Turner

Launched too late for World War I, this Dauntless lasted until after World War II, but never saw any major combat. Instead, it was fairly accident prone, imitating its 1804 predecessor by running aground in 1928, and then colliding with HMS Emerald in 1941. This is the first Dauntless I can confirm visiting South Africa, first as part of a multi-port tour in 1923/24, and then again while stuck in dry dock in Simon's Town from November 1942 to January 1943. [EDIT: Also this old film footage.]

[EDIT: Adding the Dauntless (1930s).]

16: Dauntless (1930s)
Real
Class/Type: Self Righter Lifeboat
Length: 10.8m
Operated by: Royal National Lifeboat Institution
Service: Within 1930-1949
Known Commanders: none

This is a lifeboat in the heroic rescue sense, not the panicked escape sense, though it may still have been the smallest Dauntless, despite being a smidge longer than the SBD. It saved 43 lives. It was originally launched as the City of Nottingham, but was also re-named Margaret Rose and Dauntless at some points during its service, before retiring with the name City of Nottingham again. I would guess that at least one name change was associated with its 1936 move across the country from Hythe to Clovelly. It's been restored by some sailing club (as City of Nottingham), as seen in the photo above. We also have this old news reel footage.

17: SBD Dauntless
Real
Class/Type: Dive bomber and Scout Plane
Length: 10m
Operated by: United States Navy, United States Marine Corps, United States Army Air Force, Royal New Zealand Air Force, French Air Force, French Naval Aviation, Chilean Air force, Mexican Air Force, Moroccan Desert Police
Service: 1940-1959
Known Commanders: none*

While several starships might be capable of atmospheric flight, this is the only true aircraft I've included here, and it doesn't fit the single-ship format ideally, if only because 5,936 of them were built, meaning I could potentially list at least 5,936 'known commanders'. It's also really hard to be sure of the real service period for 6 thousand separate planes, and I'm sure several of them were given individual names by their crews too. The SBD bit stands for 'Scout Bomber, Douglas', indicating what it was and that it was a design of the Douglas Aircraft Company. SBDs flying from the USS Enterprise were among the defending aircraft during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour and Dauntlesses proved to be very effective against shipping, contributing significantly to several battles in the Pacific, most notably the Battle of Midway, where they sank all four Japanese carriers and two heavy cruisers. The Dauntless was retired from US service before World War II ended, but other air forces continued to use them into the 1950s. I believe there are still 4 flying today. Only 10 meters long and equipped with folding wings but with a fixed wingspan of 12.7m, there's possibly room for debate about which was really the smallest Dauntless. [EDIT: Here's a detailed video of a current museum piece.]

18: USS Dauntless (PG-61)
Real
Class/Type: Steam Yacht
Length: 78.6m
Operated by: United States Navy, various private owners
Service: 1942-1945, 1967-2003
Known Commanders: Fleet Admiral Ernest King

Originally the SS Delphine, launched in 1921, this yacht has changed hands several times, alternating names along the way. Bought by the US Navy in 1942, it became the third USS Dauntless, serving as some sort of floating office for Fleet Admiral King to coordinate US naval forces from. After the war, it returned to civilian hands and it became the SS Delphine again, until the Lundeberg Maryland Seamanship School bought it and change it to SS Dauntless, using it to train mechant seamen. Eventually it changed hands again and returned to the name SS Delphine. It's currently a bit of a floating history-tourist novelty, retaining much of its 1921 design. [EDIT: This cheesey promotional video for the Delphine's current charter tour service includes some footage from 1921 too.]

[EDIT: Adding HMS Dauntless (1943).]

19: HMS Dauntless (1943)
Fictional - Delta Green
Class/Type: Submarine
Length: Unknown
Operated by: Royal Navy (Britain)
Service: 1943
Known Commanders: none

Another fictional interlude, brought to you in a Delta Green short story by Dennis Detwiller, one of the brains behind DG. In the story, its role is limited to commando infiltration across the English Channel. Even ignoring the clash with the real D45, there has never been a submarine Dauntless, and the picture at left is of HMS Tuna, representing broadly a British Second World War sub. Royal Navy ship-naming is (usually) cleverly alphabetical, so if there had been a Dauntless, it would have been of the pre-First World War D-class, except those had numbers, not names, and certainly weren't still around in 1943. The second time they got around to D, it was 1960's Dreadnought, a one of a kind prototype sub, intended mainly to get US nuclear technology into the British fleet. I suppose, given the cloak and dagger nature of Delta Green, that calling this sub HMS Dauntless could have been an intentional misdirect, but more likely is that Detwiller just picked a name he liked. Given that the Dauntless (1799) was also his creation, he may just have a thing for the name.

20: HMS Dauntless (WRNS)
Real
Class/Type: Training Establishment
Length: A piece of string
Operated by: Royal Navy (Britain)
Service: 1947-1981
Known Commanders: none

It's hard to find many details about this land base, which in naval tradition was named as if it were a ship. I can find some general WRNS history, a lot of pictures of women standing around, and fucktonnes of pages of these same women apparently trying to get back in touch with each other for reunions and such, but very little in the way of details about the training establishment itself. [EDIT: Also, this old film of a dastardly, undemocratic monarchist visiting the place, where there are... more women standing!]


21: USCGC Dauntless (WMEC-624)
Real
Class/Type: Reliance-class Cutter
Length: 64.2m
Operated by: United States Coast Guard
Service: 1967-present
Known Commanders: none

One of two three Dauntlesses currently active under that name, this US Coast Guard cutter (which I understand is more like the USCG code word for "one of our ships" than a specific type of vessel) does a combination of border patrol and search and rescue duties. In 1986, it was the first rescue vessel on the scene of the Challenger disaster, though was obviously only of limited use there. It has had a giant gold marijuana leaf painted on the superstructure, supposedly because of its success as a drug interdictor. [EDIT: Also, a fan film with stills of all the hulls of the Reliance class.]

[EDIT: Adding RSS Dauntless (99).]

22: RSS Dauntless (99)
Real
Class/Type: Fearless-class patrol vessel
Length: 55m
Operated by: Republic of Singapore Navy
Service: 1997-present
Known Commanders: none

Singapore's kind of interesting. It's tiny, with a population of just over 5 million, and yet it has a pretty sizable navy, slightly larger than the South African Navy, which is backed by nearly 10 times the population. There are several official languages and even more unofficial ones spoken there, but English is the de facto 'main' official language, and so their vessel names are all English too, including RSS Dauntless. This Dauntless is a smallish combat vessel, of reasonable quality by modern standards, but I can't yet seem to find much about it's service history. It is still in service, though.

23: HMS Dauntless (D33)
Real
Class/Type: Type 45 Daring-class Air Defence Destroyer
Length: 152.4m
Operated by: Royal Navy (Britain)
Service: 2010-present
Known Commanders: Captain Richard Powell, Captain Will Warrender, Commander Adrian Fryer

The newest of the real Dauntlesses, this one's optimised for defending other ships from air attacks, which just aren't a common thing these days, and so it hasn't actually done much of anything yet, except loom menancingly towards Argentina over the Falklands/Malvinas, [EDIT: passing through Cape Town on the way. Also, have some footage of Dauntless launching into the River Clyde, where my grandmother, in her childhood, once watched many ships launching.]

24: UES Dauntless (CH-34)
Fictional - Star Trek
Class/Type: Pioneer-class Cruiser
Length: 191.8m
Operated by: United Earth Space Navy
Service: 2153-2157
Known Commanders: none

And here we have the first Trek-related Dauntless. Like most in that category, it's completely non-canon, but still interesting. This one and the CHM-70 below are both from Starfleet Museum, a site that's put a lot of effort into creating a hypothetical history of Star Trek's earliest ships. Unfortunately, most of it was done before Star Trek: Enterprise aired, contradicting most of their work. And while I really think the Museum's essays are brilliantly written, I'm not a huge fan of their ship designs. The essence of a starship has always been a mixture of fat sausagey bits and sleek saucer bits. Starfleet Museum assumed the sausagey bits would have come first, and so that's what most of their early designs (like this Pioneer class) look like. The designers for ST:ENT, on the other hand, assumed the saucer bits would come first and the sausages would only get added later, marking a huge contrast between this vessel and the NX class. Anyway, CH-34 was a cargo design converted to military purposes, which worked horribly, and so it was replaced quite soon. It served with the United Earth Space Navy, one of the proposed predecessors of Kirk's Starfleet, and which has been suggested would have existed in parallel with Archer's earlier Starfleet (which may also have been a sub-branch of the United Earth Space Probe Agency; horrible continuity plus fanfic really complicates the organisation charts).

Also, now that we're on Trek ships, I'll point your attention to the thin blue lines along the right edge of my timeline above. These, to help give a sense of perspective, mark the service periods of the various starships Enterprise: NX-01, NCC-1701, -A, -B, -C, -D and -E. What really surprised me, while adding that detail, is that the Enterprise-D had the shortest life of all, in spite of being the biggest and probably most interesting one.

25: Dauntless NX-08
Fictional - Star Trek
Class/Type: NX-class Explorer
Length: 225m
Operated by: United Earth Starfleet
Service: 2155-2165
Known Commanders: none

Here we start to see different fan fiction clashing. While CH-34 and NX-08 might have existed at the same time with the same name in different organisations, I think what's really going on is that this ship and the next one (CHM-70), and possibly even the one after that (NCC-37), are competing attempts to define the USS Dauntless NCC-01, the hypothesized first ship to be registered in the UFP Starfleet in 2161. The reason for this hypothesis is that the only fully canon Dauntless in Star Trek, the NX-01-A (see below) has that little -A dangling on the end, implying it's the second ship to use that name and registry number. This further implies that there should have been a USS Dauntless with a registry number ending in -01. But there's zero official confirmation of this, so people have just guessed. In this case, NX-08 presumably becomes NCC-01, when Earth becomes a founding member of the United Federation of Planets. These NCC-01 competitors also all agree that their candidate must have seen combat in the Earth-Romulan War, directly before the founding of the Federation.

[EDIT: Adding ISS Dauntless (Mirror Universe)]

25-A ISS Dauntless (Mirror Universe)
Fictional - Star Trek
Class/Type: NX-class Explorer
Length: 225m
Operated by: Terran Empire Starfleet
Service: 2155
Known Commanders: none

This one poses an interesting numbering challenge: Coming from an actual, published Star Trek novel, it's more canon than the NX-08 above, and yet the Mirror Universe, by definition, is not the "real" main timeline of Star Trek. We might guess that it could share the NX-08 registry number, in the same way that the Mirror version of Archer's Enterprise NX-01 was the ISS Enterprise NX-01, but bear in mind that the NX-08 is purely fan fiction, and the two Enterprises (NX-01 and NCC-1701) are the sole clear parallels between Mirror and normal universe vessels. We simply don't know much about the ISS Dauntless, except that it fought against Empress Hoshi.

26: UES Dauntless (CHM-70)
Fictional - Star Trek
Class/Type: Conqueror-class Cruiser
Length: 226.9
Operated by: United Earth Space Navy
Service: 2159-2170
Known Commanders: none

An improved replacement for the CH-34, designed to fight the Romulan War. Starfleet Museum explicitly calls this the ship that becomes NCC-01, and I feel their argument is most sound. It's easy, though, to allow all possibilities with the excuse of "parallel universes," and we can pretend there's one universe where there was a CHM-70 and one where there was an NX-08, or whatever else you like. This does mean you get a lot of shit, but you can always pick the universe (or set of similar universes) of your choice and just pretend the others don't exist.

27: USS Dauntless NCC-37 (2159)
Fictional - Star Trek
Class/Type: Adamant-class Explorer
Length: 219m
Operated by: UFP Starfleet
Service: 2159-2184
Known Commanders: none

This is a weird one, since it's positioned chronologically to compete for the NCC-01 registry number, and yet was given NCC-37 instead. I don't get it. It's a nice enough physical design, though, a sort of hybrid between the NX components and the eventual hull arrangement of the Constitution class that we all know and love, except upside down.

[EDIT: Adding USS Dauntless NCC-0837.]

28: USS Dauntless NCC-0837
Fictional - Star Trek
Class/Type: Destroyer
Length: Unknown
Operated by: UFP Starfleet
Service: 2247-2250
Known Commanders: none

Possibly intended to be of the same class as the USS Kelvin (just my own conjecture, hence using a picture of it, but not listing its canon stats), this Dauntless only seems to appear in the character history of Captain Jack Steele, commander of Alt.Starfleet.Rpg's USS Hood, and very little is made clear about it. However, it's AbramsTrek, so I don't give a shit about it.



29: USS Dauntless NCC-1697
Fictional - Star Trek
Class/Type: Pyotr Velikiy-class Explorer
Length: 250.3m
Operated by: UFP Starfleet
Service: 2259-2276
Known Commanders: Captain Diego Reyes

Another Starfleet Museum design, this one actually made it into some official Trek comics, making it the most canoniest of all the Starfleet Dauntlesses. It also fits in the timeline well and makes sense. As an equivalent of Kirk's Enterprise, it did similar things (fight klingons, fight romulans, argue with colonists), but it is slightly odd that a vessel 4 places behind the NCC-1701 in the registry would only be commissioned 14 years after it. But you really, really don't want to stare into the void of registry incongruities too deeply!

30: USS Dauntless NCC-37 (2280s)
Fictional - Star Trek
Class/Type: Leonardo-class Corsair
Length: Unknown
Operated by: UFP Starfleet
Service: 2280s?
Known Commanders: none

Almost certainly worth ignoring. Its low registry number doesn't fit the time period very well, and it's already been used. As it happens, there seem to be a slew of these duplicated registry numbers used for the Leonardo class, but I can't find anything else about the class. I suspect someone realised they'd done something silly (for whatever reason) and re-wrote all their work, but only after it had contaminated other sites. The apparent close association with the Adamant-class NCC-37 makes me more inclined to disregard that one too.

31: USS Dauntless NCC-2012
Fictional - Star Trek
Class/Type: Indomitable-class Battleship
Length: 543.7m
Operated by: UFP Starfleet
Service: 2282-2283
Known Commanders: none

A weird attempt to mix Excelsior and Constitution components, the Indomitable class is the sort of over-the-top military ship that fans of Starfleet Battles and such games tend to favour, drawing good technical 3-views of them, but forgetting the fun and exploration that makes Star Trek different from other scifi shows. Anyway, as a result I can tell you lots about what this Dauntless could do, but nothing about what it actually did. At least it fits in the timeline well enough.

32: USS Dauntless NCC-3254
Fictional - Star Trek
Class/Type: Renner-class Corvette
Length: 220.3m
Operated by: UFP Starfleet
Service: 2285-2300ish
Known Commanders: none

Sort of like a dinky Miranda-class, the Renner is another vessel made up in a very technical yet uncreative way. We know almost nothing about the Dauntless or any of the rest of its class, but its loose decommissioning date means it could be said to fit in with the NCC-2379, suggesting it retired in or before 2296.

33: USS Dauntless NCC-2379
Fictional - Star Trek
Class/Type: Furious-class Cruiser
Length: 246.1m
Operated by: UFP Starfleet
Service: 2296-2351
Known Commanders: none

Another Starfleet Museum gem, I absolutely love the story of the Furious class. It illustrates exactly what's so great about fluffing up your ships' histories, instead of just giving the dry technical minimum, as in the case of the Indomitable and Renner classes. Unfortunately, there are still no details specifically about the Dauntless.

34: USS Dauntless NCC-71879
Fictional - Star Trek
Class/Type: Galaxy-class Explorer
Length: 641m
Operated by: UFP Starfleet
Service: 2365-2378
Known Commanders: Captain Leland Bell, Captain Robert Wright, Captain Jae Yi

I would argue this one is the second most canony Starfleet Dauntless, since comics and games rank about equal, except that the facts of games are fluid, slipping down many different trouser legs of time, depending on how well you play them. But the developers of Star Trek: Bridge Commander did at least put a lot of thought into the background of this vessel, so it has a good historical anchoring, and its final fate (blown up by rogue Cardassian vessels) is unavoidable (sorry). It's also interesting as its list of known commanders includes 'me' (and possibly also 'you', if you played the game).

35: CDS Dauntless
Fictional - Star Trek
Class/Type: Keldon-class Cruiser
Length: 371.9m
Operated by: Cardassian Central Command
Service: 2365ish? 2370s? (my version: 2371)

Known Commanders: none

An alien Dauntless seems almost out of place here, once you forget about the probable Sullustan-built one from 25ABY, but I have wondered how many ships, real or otherwise, I've left out here because their names are not in English, but would still translate best as 'dauntless'. Perhaps I'll check that later and add those. Anyway, this Dauntless has absolutely no fixed dates or events, but we know it must fit into the late 24th century. [EDIT: Looking more closely at Memory Alpha, we apparently know that the class only came into service in 2371, so it can't have appeared before then. There's also a statistically high chance, with the effects of the Dominion war, that it would have been lost or decommissioned by 2376.]

[EDIT 2: I decided to use this exact vessel in my current Maquis roleplaying game; take this info or leave it, I don't care. In Cardassian, its name is the Donodo. In early 2371, it was modified in an experimental bio-weapons configuration, with improved defences and its torpedo system replaced with a bio-weapon distributor. A test of the new arrangement against the Maquis-alligned planet of Salva II was foiled by the Maquis starship Hur'Un, which intercepted and destroyed the Donodo/Dauntless at the last minute, saving the civilian population below.]

36: USS Dauntless NCC-74658
Fictional - Star Trek
Class/Type: Intrepid-class Explorer
Length: 344m
Operated by: UFP Starfleet
Service: 2373-2374
Known Commanders: Captain Peter J. Koester

It turns out, there's a whole fanfic club going by the name Dauntless, part of a bigger fanfic club called 5th Fleet (no connection with my lot, far as I know) and this was their first lead ship, before they destroyed it (who hasn't done that?) and replaced it with the bigger Sovereign-class NCC-75310. At first, it bothered me seeing this name on this class, because Dauntless sounds so much rougher, cruder, something like that, than Voyager. But of course, Dauntless and Intrepid mean pretty much the same thing, and Voyager is the odd name out.


37: USS Dauntless NCC-74912
Fictional - Star Trek
Class/Type: Intrepid-class Explorer
Length: 344m
Operated by: UFP Starfleet
Service: 2373-2380
Known Commanders: Captain Timothy Barranco

Like the NX-08, this is a ship from the Pendragon continuity, but unlike the NX-08, they don't even pretend to be talking about anything like mainstream Trek history by this point in their timeline anymore.

38: USS Dauntless NX-01-A
Fictional - Star Trek
Class/Type: Dauntless-class Starship
Length: Approx. 150m?
Operated by: Arturis
Service: 2374
Known Commanders: Arturis

Just by seeing this, I've already spoiled an episode of ST:Voyager for you. Sorry. But it's very interesting, because it's the only Dauntless to appear on screen in any Star Trek, and as I mentioned under the NX-08, CHM-70 and NCC-37, it sparked a lot of speculation about real Starfleet ships going by this name, especially the NCC-01. Anyway, this is a one-event ship, but it made for a good episode, worth pretending you don't know the twist already.

39: USS Dauntless NCC-75310
Fictional - Star Trek
Class/Type: Sovereign-class Explorer
Length: 685m
Operated by: UFP Starfleet
Service: 2375-2385
Known Commanders: Captain Peter J. Koester, Captain Virgil D. Kane

This is the ship from the 5th Fleet continuity that replaced the NCC-74658. And it did more stuff. There's a lot of plot here, and the wiki summary isn't very summarised. Plus, I've just written 32 of these things and I'm bored now.

40: USS Dauntless NCC-80210
Fictional - Star Trek
Class/Type: Intrepid-class Explorer
Length: 344m
Operated by: UFP Starfleet
Service: 2379-2380
Known Commanders: Commander Aaron Wright, Captain Leza Astar

A third branch of fanfic produced an Intrepid-class USS Dauntless, this one supposedly incorporating technology brought home by the USS Voyager. Apparently Trekkies love them some Intrepids; the first Star Trek roleplaying game I was in, for example, started us out on the Miranda-class USS Saracen, which the GM soon decided to replace (by force, using fucking Q!) with an Intrepid-class USS Saracen-A, which lasted much longer. It was a good ship.

[EDIT: Adding USS Dauntless NCC-87007]

41: USS Dauntless NCC-87007
Fictional - Star Trek
Class/Type: Thunderbolt-class Escort Destroyer
Length: 172m
Operated by: UFP Starfleet
Service: 2424
Known Commanders: none

Another branch of fan-fiction, this time the Alt.Starfleet.Rpg roleplaying writing club, have a USS Dauntless listed among the ships they've created, though they don't seem to have made any use of this one yet. Instead, it's just filling out the Thunderbolt class's numbers. The Thunderbolt class seems to be a Defiant variant with everything that isn't a weapon removed and replaced with something that is a weapon, as if the Defiant wasn't already close enough to that extreme.

[EDIT: Adding XMS Dauntless (19017).]

42: XMS Dauntless (19017)
Fictional - Warhammer 40,000
Class/Type: Centaur-class Cruiser
Length: Unknown
Operated by: Imperial Navy (Imperium of Man)
Service: 19017
Known Commanders: none

A fan-fiction short story set in a very early part of the Warhammer 40,000 timeline (20,000 years early) happens to include a starship named the XMS Dauntless, presumed lost. It may or may not be of the same Centaur class as the illustration shows. Not much to mention here without spoiling the story. However, that happens to be a re-write by the same author of essentially the same story set in the Doom universe, where it was the British Trafalgar-class frigate HMS Dauntless that went missing in 2220. I've assumed the author intends for the latest version to take priority, but felt I should mention both.

43: Dauntless (Warhammer 40K)
Fictional - Warhammer 40,000
Class/Type: Dauntless-class Light Cruiser
Length: 4,500m
Operated by: Imperial Navy (Imperium of Man)
Service: 41st millennium?
Known Commanders: none

I'm not entirely certain if this ship is supposed to have existed as a single ship that the rest of the class is named after, or if the Imperial Navy uses a different system where the class name has nothing to do with any specific vessel. But let's assume there was an original Dauntless: We know nothing about it, except it's general shape (which at least makes it by far the largest Dauntless of all). Human ships in 40K serve for centuries, get junked and salvaged and rebuilt and recycled and modified almost endlessly. As such, I haven't even tried to add it to my pretty timeline.

44: Dauntless (unknown)
Fictional - The Lost Fleet
Class/Type: Battle Cruiser
Length: unknown
Operated by: Alliance Navy
Service: unknown
Known Commanders: Captain Tanya Desjani

I've been meaning to add this one for a long time, but initially couldn't find much information, and then someone loaned me the first novel from the series it's in, and I wanted to fully read that before adding anything here. But just that first book took me most of this year to get through, despite being quite readable, because of life. The author is an ex-Navy man, and there's a strong technical element to the story. It feels like there are three main threads to the story. There's the personal, character-driven thread, which starts off interesting but doesn't really seem to go anywhere; the character arc isn't bad, it just has a low amplitude; perhaps later books expand on this, I'll have to see. Then there's the strategic level thread, which is the actual plot-driver, and this reminded me strongly of the strategic side of Wing Commander: Armada (and if there's a better, more modern equivalent game, I'd love to know about it). Then there's the tactical level thread, with its heavy emphasis on how Einstein makes realistic space battles interestingly unintuitive.

Unfortunately, for such a realism-focused book, there's actually very little detail provided about this Dauntless. I can't tell you any of its technical specs, except maybe what kind of weapons it had and roughly what propulsion it had. We can say that it was pretty big, but not exactly how big. If the cover art I borrowed for the picture above is any indication, then I'd guesstimate that it could be anywhere between the size of an NX and the size of an Imperial I, roughly. There's just no obvious sense of scale. We can also say that it's supposed to be a very rough, unrefined design, something that was rushed out and not expected to last long. And we can say that it lead the Lost Fleet of the series title. Exactly when or where that happened, we have no idea. It's supposed to be sometime in the far future, but there are absolutely no clues about the specifics, which is why I've shunted it to the end of my timeline.

So let's return to my Dauntless and give it a proper entry here too:

USS Dauntless NCC-74214
Real
Class/Type: Defiant-class Escort
Length: 119.5m or 170.7m (I favour the smaller size)
Operated by: UFP Starfleet
Service: 2004-present, or late 24th century?
Known Commanders: Commodore Tom Donohoe, Rear Admiral Kim Donohoe, Commodore Owen Swart, Acting Captain James Hough

It's us! Obviously, as a currently-active group, we're sort of in service right now. But if we were going to insert ourselves somewhere in the future Trek timeline, where would we fit? That depends on which of the above ships we care to consider worth acknowledging. All the fanfic Dauntlesses are clearly their own thing, nothing to do with us, and would fuck things around horribly anyway. If we refuse to acknowledge anything that wasn't actually seen on screen, then we can effectively ignore every limit except for the introduction of the Defiant class into service, which ties us to an earliest commissioning year of 2371 (indicated by the grey block in the bottom left of my timeline). That would fit with our registry number, only 9 places past the USS Defiant NX-74205 itself, though as I say, registry numbers are not very reliable guides of chronology. I'd personally be inclined to count the Galaxy-class NCC-71879 as "canon enough", but that means we can't launch ours until after its destruction in 2378.

[EDIT: Recently, various official USS Dauntless emails and such have started refering to us fitting into the canon Trek timeline at some point after the events of Star Trek: Nemesis, i.e. 2381 onwards. This doesn't preclude a pre-2378 launch, clashing with NCC-71879, but does at least suggest we're kind of trying to avoid such a clash.]

Fortunately, that decision isn't up to me. I just write shit down.