I miss one lousy newspaper…
December is a busy month. There are holidays to shop for, the tax year is wrapping up, family to visit, etc. This December has been so crammed with work and domestic concerns such that I missed a very important pair of newspaper articles from the beginning of the month.
I caught up on my ‘paper reading over Christmas and was astonished to find that, in my haste to read this month’s magazines, resolve a few corporate calamities, and clean the house for company, I had missed the latest Soviet space launch.
And it’s a big one. On December 1, the Soviets launched Sputnik 6, apparently a duplicate of their Sputnik 5 mission. It was a 5-ton spacecraft, almost assuredly a version of the capsule that will soon carry a man. Like before, the ship carried two dogs and other biological cargo. Significantly, our radars lost sight of the vehicle the next day suggesting it re-entered.
However, the Russians have not announced that they recovered the capsule. Since our rivals in the Space Race never miss an opportunity to trumpet their accomplishments, I think there’s a good chance that the landing was not entirely successful. It’s likely the capsule’s passengers did not survive the return trip.
Let’s have a moment of silence for our fallen Muttniks.
I find it interesting that the Soviets felt they needed to duplicate the (to all accounts) successful Sputnik 5 mission. It had seemed logical that a manned mission would be the next step Perhaps, and the failure of Sputnik 6 certainly points in this direction, the Soviet manned space program has some serious issues to iron out before a human pilot can attempt the journey.
Which means we might just beat the Communists to the punch.
Speaking of American flights, yet another Discoverer launched recently. On December 20, #19 soared into a polar orbit. As you know, the Discoverer is a capsule-return satellite designed to carry biological samples into orbit and then send them back to Earth..along with a few rolls of film with undeveloped photos of Soviet military bases. I haven’t heard anything about a failure, but nor have I heard about a successful re-entry. I don’t know if this mission was a dud or if it is testing the endurance of some longer-lived technologies. Since it’s a military mission (USAF), we may never know.
Happy New Year! Coming up shortly, I’ll have a review of 1961 F&SF as well as a wrap-up for December and a preview for January of the coming annum.