Here’s an end of March, real-world round-up for you before we plunge into the science fiction of April:
President Kennedy devoted a good deal of time to the civil war in Laos at his fifth press conference, March 23. This three-cornered fight between the nationalists (propped up by the United States), the Communist Pathet Lao (backed by the Soviets and the North Vietnamese), and the neutralists has been going on since the end of last year. The US Navy Seventh Fleet was recently dispatched to the region along with a contingent of troops. For a while, it looked as if we were looking at another Korea.
I’m happy to report that both Kennedy and Premier Khruschev have now proposed plans for peaceful solutions to the crisis that involve the invading North Vietnamese disarming and going home. I fervently hope that this means Southeast Asia won’t be the site of war in the 1960s.
Speaking of Kennedy and war, the President recently asked Congress for a significantly bigger defense package. This would see the United States armed with 1200 nuclear-tipped missiles by 1965!
On the dove-ish side of the coin, Kennedy also asked for an increase in the NASA budget for development of the mighty “Saturn C-2”, which would facilitate manned flights around the Moon by 1966.
On the subject of space, NASA pilot Joe Walker took the X-15 spaceplane to a record height of 31 miles above the Earth yesterday, more than five miles higher than anyone has flown the craft before. During a good portion of his 10-minute flight, the plane’s stubby wings and control surfaces had nothing to “bite” into, the atmosphere being so rarefied at that altitude. For all intents and purposes, it was a flight in space, down to the unwinking white stars that filled the daylight sky.
And he only got halfway to the rocketship’s expected maximum altitude!
Meanwhile, the Air Force failed to get into orbit the 22nd in their Discoverer series. These probes are ostensibly for orbiting and returning biological samples, but they really test components for their Samos spy satellites. There was supposed to be a monkey on this one, but I haven’t read any reports about it. Perhaps the fly-boys were merciful and just stuffed the spaceship with non-perishable hardware.
Now let’s look ahead at April. There will, of course, be the three magazines, IF, Analog, and Fantasy and Science Fiction, the monthly The Twilight Zone round-up, and perhaps a trip to the movies. I have Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Door Through Space on my bedside table, but it hasn’t gripped me yet. We’ll see.
We’ll also see more of our new regular columnist, Rosemary Benton, and along those lines, I’ve got another surprise for you ’round mid-month!